Aug 2, 2022 - Business

Dinkytown businesses caught off guard by new safety program and road closures

Illustrated collage including elements of road infrastructure
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After crews installed road barriers on heavily trafficked streets in Dinkytown last week, local businesses are questioning whether the effort to combat crime will help more than hurt.

What’s happening: In an effort to deter crime in the area, the city of Minneapolis has shut down parts of 5th Street SE and 14th Avenue SE to car traffic from Thursday afternoons to Sunday mornings.

  • The closures went into effect July 28 and will run for three consecutive weeks, ending Aug. 14.

Why it matters: Violent crime has spiked in the University of Minnesota neighborhood, and tensions between the university, the city, parents, local businesses and residents are running high with no clear solutions in sight.

Yes, but: Businesses were told about the closures on July 27, only a day before the blockades went up, Dinkytown Business Alliance director Chris Lautenschlager told Axios.

  • “We knew they were considering it, but there was no date attached. There was no input from businesses until they said ‘we’re doing this,’” he said.
  • Most of the crime has happened after midnight, leaving businesses to wonder why the roads had to be blocked off all day, he added.

What they’re saying: “This knocks out a lot of business from us, and we’re not even open during high-crime hours. It took us so long to get back to normal, and this feels like an extra slap in the face,” Al’s Breakfast owner Alison Kirwin told Axios.

  • Several customers already said they won’t visit Crisp & Green during the closures due to lack of parking, general manager Lexy Race told KSTP last week.

The other side: The project, which is part of a new partnership between the university and the city to address safety in the area, was approved and implemented in just under a week, the university confirmed.

  • But representatives did go door-to-door on Monday after the barricades were approved to engage with businesses, university community relations director Tina Erazmus told Axios.
  • Ideally, the closures will “relieve some of the burden of officers” so they can better patrol campus and surrounding neighborhoods, she added.

Zoom out: This isn’t the first time the city has attempted to combat crime with road blockades. Several streets in the Mill District shut down indefinitely last month following Fourth of July shootings.

  • The Minneapolis Police Department did not respond to Axios' requests about whether crime has since decreased in the area.

What’s next: The university will decide the success of the program based on emergency response call data, city and university police feedback, and input from local businesses and residents.

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