May 27, 2021 - News

St. Paul's University Avenue aims to come back bigger after 2020's unrest

Two apartment buildings were built on Snelling Avenue, across from Allianz Field. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

People returning to University Avenue for the first time since last fall will notice not just a corridor recovering from last summer's riots, but one that is getting all kinds of new investment.

Flashback: Last summer's unrest resulted in damage to 280 St. Paul businesses, with University Avenue and the Midway neighborhood at the heart of the destruction.

What's happened since: The We Love Midway fundraising campaign has given out or committed more than $1 million in grants to small businesses for repairs and reopening, said Chad Kulas, executive director of the Midway Chamber of Commerce.

  • Lloyd's Pharmacy, burned a year ago, is building a new store on Snelling Avenue.
  • Displaced local restaurants like Bolé Ethiopian Cuisine, Peking Garden and Thien's Cajun (now King Cajun) have reopened in new spots in the area.
  • Turf Club has concerts booked for early July. And its owner, First Avenue's Dayna Frank, talked about the night the club went up in flames on the Axios Re:Cap podcast yesterday.

🏗 What's next: University was a hot corridor for development before the unrest, and that momentum has not slowed.

What they're saying: Kulas said the business community was emboldened to stick around after seeing money and support flow in from the community.

  • "Those business owners that saw their places burned down at first had to really think, 'Am I gonna do this again?' They could see the community has my back, and they want to be here for me. "

Yes, but: The biggest question mark about the corridor's recovery is the Midway Shopping Center just north of Allianz Field, which is controlled by Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire.

  • That complex has been desolate since the riots and the city has ordered the buildings to be demolished by June 18, according to Frederick Melo of the Pioneer Press.
  • McGuire and developer Mortenson had previously floated two retail-apartment towers on the site, but Melo says they've been silent since then.

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