Evan Ramstad, Star Tribune digital business editor, looks at how Minnesota works, explaining what’s behind the headlines and meeting with people who keep the wheel turning.

Coming along the Green Line: A Night Market

Posted by: Evan Ramstad Updated: May 15, 2014 - 6:15 PM

With just four weeks to go before the start of the Green Line light rail service from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, the press coverage is already rolling. MPR earlier this week about signal adjustments to speed up travel time on the line. Just today, media all around town reported about a survey that found $2.5 billion in business investments along the route and our Best of Minnesota section refers to the Mears Park summer concerts as the "best excuse" to take the line.

One of the lesser-noticed, at least so far, projects we're keeping an eye on is a plan by the Asian Economic Development Association to start a night market in St. Paul's Little Mekong district on University Ave. near the intersection with Western Ave.

Travelers to Asian countries are familiar with night markets. They're common in cities like Hong Kong, Seoul, Bangkok, Manila, Ho Chi Minh, and even in smaller places like Luang Prabang, Laos. In Minnesota terms, a night market is a kind of like crossing the State Fair with a farmer's market and a tent sale. It's an open-air bazaar of  stalls where people sell handicrafts, artwork, jewelry, trinkets and freshly-made food, lots of food.

The AEDA for several weeks has been taking applications for its night market, which at around 50 stalls will be pretty small compared to its Asian counterparts, that will debut on Saturday, June 14, the opening day of the Green Line. They've already lined up sellers of southeast Asian handbags and other crafts and several food vendors. And they're lining up music acts and entertainment, too.

"We’re never going to replicate the night markets in China or Thailand but we’re hoping it’s a draw for people," says Theresa Swaney, a spokeswoman for AEDA.

The plan is to run the night market every third Saturday through the summer. Shoppers could, for instance, spend an hour or two in the market, then take the light rail into downtown St. Paul to restaurants and bars there or, going in the other direction, to the area around the University of Minnesota or on into downtown Minneapolis for more entertainment options.

Developing the market is part of a broader change in strategy for AEDA, which formed in part to promote businesses along University that were disrupted by the building of the light rail line. The non-profit group in January broadened its scope by hiring two business counselors to help entrepreneurs on the east side of the metro area with planning and fund-raising.

AEDA is looking at night markets that have been run in places like Chicago and Philadelphia for ideas about making the concept work for the Twin Cities. "Diversity is what’s important to differentiate this night market from a farmers’ market," Swaney said. "And that includes a diversity of people who will be selling at it."

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