By CHAD KULAS,
Midway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
As we fully embrace the fall season, two statements about the rebuild of University Avenue appear true: 1) Progress has been made; and 2) We still have a lot to do.
Going up and down University Ave., one still sees the boarded-up buildings and rubble in need of a clean-up. This unfortunately causes a perception the corridor isn’t open for business and is unsafe. For some building owners, they have chosen to keep plywood on their windows in case there is another incident. Would another act of social injustice occur? What happens if some cannot accept the election results?
Those feelings are a good reminder plywood on windows does not equate to a closed business. Some plywood has been kept up because of the artwork and positive messaging displayed. Others have kept the plywood up because they are in the process of getting their windows replaced.
But progress has also been made. The Midway Chamber hosted a walking tour along University Ave. recently and noticed new glass getting installed on a newly reopened Furniture Barn. At another walking tour earlier in September, we saw rubble getting removed from the former Sports Dome site.
As time goes on, we are also hearing more definite plans from businesses seeking to reopen – in both their previous space or a new site if they are unable to rebuild.
At least four funds have been established to support those businesses and nonprofits facing damage. The Neighbors United Funding Collaborative is accepting applications until December and will award grants up to $50,000. Businesses can learn more at midwayunited.org.
African Economic Development Solutions raised $320,000 for a rebuild fund and awarded 30 businesses in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, ranging from around $4,000 to $40,000. Asian Economic Development Association also raised funds, sending grants mostly either $5,000 or $10,000 to over 20 businesses.
The Midway Chamber has partnered with the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance and has given out over $430,000 to impacted businesses, with over $1 million committed.
For many businesses, they needed time to think about next steps. Some have found new homes, while others continue their search. If one of your favorite businesses isn’t open yet (or you can’t tell) reach out to them and let them know you care and hope they return. The support from our community has been what’s kept many dreams alive as they work to rebuild.
It is our hope the Midway will fully come back and work for more of our residents than ever before.