A new campaign hopes to help bring business back to Lexington Avenue, in the midst of an unexpectedly long road project.
Construction started in April 2022 along Lexington Avenue, spanning about a mile from County Road E to I-694 in the cities of Arden Hills and Shoreview.
The road work was supposed to be done by the end of last summer but is now expected to stretch through this summer.
The project supervisor with Ramsey County told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they hit delays due to private utility conflicts that had to be addressed before construction could continue.
Businesses along the corridor said the lane closures and congestion have kept customers away.
“It’s been tough. It’s been a challenge,” said Andrew Linn, co-owner of In Motion Fitness in Arden Hills. “We lost half our membership because they just couldn’t get to the gym or if they got to the gym, they couldn’t leave because of traffic.”
Linn said construction over the last year hurt his business just as much as COVID-19 restrictions did back in 2020.
“The impact here was real. We lost a lot of money and made a lot of cuts to what we were doing. We wanted to expand and have another gym by now,” Linn said. “Yes, people will eventually come back, but we’re missing a large chunk of money we’ll never get back.”
The Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce said they started hearing concerns from businesses as soon as the road construction began.
“There’s about 75 businesses along this corridor that were directly impacted by this,” said Chamber President John Connelly.
He noted, the road work this spring and summer is not expected to be as much of a headache for drivers but there are fears customers still may not come back.
“Sometimes they get out of that behavior and say, ‘I’m not going to go down this road because I know it’s under construction.’ Well, it’s a lot more open now,” Connelly said. “Our goal is to invite people back to the corridor so these businesses can prosper and thrive.”
They recently launched a ‘Back to Lexington’ campaign, which will feature digital billboards, signs outside businesses, social media posts and a new website to promote weekly reasons for people to return to Lexington Avenue.
“We’re asking them to come back to the corridor,” Connelly said. “Last week, we pushed St. Patrick’s Day programming. Now, we’re posting ideas for spring break and Easter, such as visiting Lexington Floral for their Easter decor and flowers or going to Easter brunch at a nearby restaurant. We need to keep the messaging out there.”
Businesses hope people will return to doing business in the area sooner than later.
“If you’re waiting for the roads to be perfect for you to go get your ice cream or go get your shoes fixed or go get your flowers or go get your workout in, if you wait too long, those businesses just won’t be around anymore for you to visit,” Linn said.
The reconstruction of Lexington Avenue is expected to make the roadway safer and more efficient, by adding a center median, turn lanes and better sidewalks.
Project coordinators told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS single lane traffic will be necessary for six to eight weeks in May and June, with short term closures at the rail crossing just north of County Road E, I-694 and Red Fox Road.
They anticipate construction lasting from mid-April through August 1st at the latest.