Merchants cope with Cedar project

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2012 - 10:41 PM

Road construction has been plodding along for a second summer, but most say it's been more an inconvenience than a business killer.

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Traffic going every direction at the intersection of Cedar Ave. South and Co. Rd 42 in Apple Valley backed up during construction on 6/27/12.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Businesses along the latest stretch of Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley to undergo bus rapid transit construction appear to be bearing up fairly well with the disruptions caused by the project that's due to wrap in November.

"They're biding their time," said Apple Valley Chamber President Ed Kearney. He said most merchants he has spoken to tell him their business is off about 10 percent to 15 percent, a decline they expect to be temporary.

Kearney said he sometimes gets calls from business owners seeking help for "little stuff" related to the construction work. Not long ago he got a call from a restaurant that had discovered a road workers' outhouse parked near the restaurant's entrance just as that day's lunch-hour rush was about to begin. He said project supervisors from the city and Dakota County have responded promptly to get such problems resolved.

The chamber has worked with the county and city on a campaign to inform businesses about the project since its early stages. The goal is to remake Cedar into a rapid busway, rebuilding the road so that it has shoulders wide enough to accommodate buses.

An earlier phase was south of County Road 42. The current phase starts at 42 and extends north along Cedar for several blocks. Lanes are restricted, going down to just one lane for one brief stretch going south. Traffic on some side streets also is backed up because some work is taking place on those roads.

In general, the traffic moves, but sometimes very slowly on the busy commercial strip that's lined with big-box retailers, restaurants, gas stations and medical and dental offices. A marketing brochure from Brixmor, the New York-based owners of Southport Centre near Cedar and 42, says 76,800 cars pass by the center every day.

"It's a mess," said Carol Ryan, whose Ryan Real Estate Co. is in a small office building at 147th Street and Cedar. She said the biggest trouble spot is the intersection of Cedar and 42, where construction has narrowed the county road to just one lane each way.

Ryan said it recently took her more than 90 minutes to drive from her office to Eden Prairie for a business appointment. Clients also have told her about problems they've encountered reaching her office, like the husband and wife who ran into snarled traffic driving from Woodbury to drop off an earnest-money deposit on a new home. "They told me it would have been better to put it in the mail," Ryan said.

Other businesses in the construction zone said they haven't noticed much of an impact. Some patients of Metro Dentalcare have said the road work has made them late for appointments, but usually only by about 10 minutes, said Julie Lynch, patient services representative for the clinic near Cedar and 149th Street. Lynch said she hasn't noticed any problems driving to and from work, but that might be because her hours don't coincide with the rush-hour peaks.

The owners of Southport Centre haven't heard any complaints from tenants, said Stacy Slater, senior vice president of investment management at Brixmor. She said the retail center at Cedar and 42 hasn't lost any tenants and recently added a new one, a Mattress Firm outlet that moved into space vacated by Blockbuster Video. The center, whose tenants include Cub, Wendy's and Walgreen's, is 95 percent occupied, she said.

Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282

  • TRAFFIC UPDATES For the latest information on the Cedar Avenue bus rapid transit construction project, go to startribune.com/a1453.
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