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Business Owners Concerned Over Loss Of Parking In Downtown St. Paul After Latest Vote On Bike Lane Additions

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's a clash between small business and big city development.

This week, the St. Paul city council voted unanimously to add bike lanes on 9th and 10th street.

Despite objections from business owners in the area who say taking away street parking -- on top of COVID-19 -- could be a recipe for closures.

"It was an opportunity to be in a downtown neighborhood with lots of people moving in and lots of excitement," said Jordan Smith, owner of Black Sheep Pizza.

Smith opened up the location on the corner of 10th and Robert Street in downtown St. Paul nine years ago.

Now he's second guessing that decision.

"Had I known that it was going to be no street parking and surrounded by one ways that is a much different restaurant location than what we purchased," Smith said.

The St. Paul city council voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with adding bike lanes on 9th and 10 street in St. Paul taking away much of the already limited street parking from several businesses.

"I feel a little bit defeated," said Carol Hunn-Gregory, who owns Keys Café just around the corner from Black Sheep Pizza, "I wouldn't have bought the space."

"Why would you take away a whole city block of parking and then expect business owners to thrive?" Hunn-Gregory said.

Neighboring business owners at Sawadtee say the move could severely impact businesses already dealing with the fallout from COVID-19.

"I would say 90 plus percent park on that street," said Sawadtee owner Cyndy Harrison. "We're hearing how important the curbside pickup is and the decisions by the city and the county are effectively eliminating our curbside."

Subsidized parking spots in nearby ramps are being discussed. But in a time when business is already tough, these owners are apprehensive.

"It makes it an almost impossible environment to run a small restaurant," Smith said.

"Somebody isn't going to park in a ramp to come pickup food and leave," Harrison said.

"All we're asking for is just some more parking," Hunn-Gregory said.

But like with COVID-19 this hurdle will force them to get creative to survive.

"As my mother says 'it's not a problem it's an opportunity' so I have to look for the opportunities," Hunn-Gregory said.

"This piece didn't work out but we're there for the long haul so we'll figure it out," Smith said.

Work on the project is set to begin this fall.

Mayor Melvin Carter's team says it is aware of the concerns and values feedback, and that concerns will be considered in the city's COVID-19 response.

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