Relief on Lyndale

Dan Campo is excited. 

The Lyndale Avenue Bridge over Minnehaha Creek is about to reopen after being closed for nearly nine months and Campo’s ready to see business back at South Lyndale Liquors. 

“The bridge opening — it couldn’t happen sooner.” Campo said. “I’m just so looking forward to it.” 

Campo, along with other local business owners, took a hit when construction began on the bridge last winter and on the road in the spring. Now, he’s ecstatic that regular traffic will be in the area again. 

While Lyndale from West 54th to the creek is already open, the bridge is set to open Oct. 15. 

Pam Volk, store manager at Walgreens, estimated she was down 30 percent during construction. Campo said the same. 

But although construction brought business down for local businesses, owners all agreed it could’ve been worse. It was the Hennepin County workers and neighborhood and business organizations, they said, that lessened the impact of construction and kept owners in the loop. 

Matt Perry, president of the Nicollet East Harriet Business Association, has been involved with the Lyndale project for years, both north and south of the creek. 

For the project, Perry helped mitigate concerns between citizens and businesses and the county.

“Matt literally would walk the construction project from one end to the other,” Campo said. “Gave me a little confidence.” 

Although he owns his own computer repair business, Perry poured hours into volunteering on the project and made sure he was visible throughout. 

Perry said the project involved multiple layers of government, as well as neighborhood organizations and businesses. 

For all these groups, Perry said there wasn’t a single entity that could communicate between all these groups. 

Perry, as well as Jen Borger, coordinator and infrastructure specialist for NEHBA, worked with businesses and neighborhoods, including county employees. 

Don Shaffer, project engineer for the reconstruction of Lyndale and the bridge, said the effort of the contractors and county, as well as the communication between all the groups, helped the project complete on time. 

“Very few projects we get go this smoothly,” Shaffer said. 

Owner and community members praised Shaffer, along with project coordinator, Rick Simning, for their work during construction. 

Campo recounted a time during construction when dirt filled his parking lot. He needed it cleared so he started to sweep. 

Immediately, he said, Simning grabbed a broom himself and swept with him. 

“If you can’t get somebody else to do it right, do it yourself sometimes,” Simning said. 

The reconstruction of Lyndale south of the bridge is part of a full-scale reconstruction of Lyndale from West 31st Street down to West 56th street. 

Shaffer said the piece of the project north of Lyndale began about four years ago and finished in 2010. 

Borger, who worked to keep businesses informed about construction and potential problems, said how businesses fared during construction south of the creek depended on the type of business. 

“It’s been as little as an inconvenience for some … and for others it’s been down 40 or 50 percent.” 

Karen Cossette, owner of Lehman’s Garage between 54th and 55th street, said a lot of her business comes directly from insurance companies, so it wasn’t terribly affected, but that foot traffic slowed down.

For other businesses, like Borger mentioned, it was more difficult. 

Campo said he took a pay cut during construction so his employees didn’t have to.

“Who am I to cut their salaries and not do that?” Campo said. 

He said he knew almost five years ago about the construction and took steps to prepare it. 

In the summer of 2009, they expanded the store, said Mitch Zavada, wine buyer and manager at the liquor store. 

With the expansion, Campo increased his supply of wine and estimated he had more than 2,000 beers in stock. 

Jennifer Jackson-King, who co-owns Prima, an Italian restaurant along Lyndale, said during construction her business saw “peaks and valleys.”

The 14-year owner estimated they lost about 20 percent of their business during construction. 

“At times when you look out the window at Lyndale, it’s a sea of nothing,” Jackson-King said.

She listed a couple factors that helped maintain business during construction, like regular emails she would send to her customers updating them on construction and deals. 

She said the weekly business meeting they hosted at Prima that business owners, community members and county employees attended, were crucial to keep owners informed but Jackson-King pointed to her loyal customer base as the reason they fared well during construction. 

“I feel being in this neighborhood, having the regular customers, they were extremely supportive,” Jackson-King said. “I don’t know, if we were somewhere else, if we would make it.”

Now that construction is finishing up south of the creek and the bridge is expected to be opened by mid-October, businesses are ready to get back to full service.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, is “Experience 54th and Lyndale.” Businesses and community members are celebrating the reopening of the bridge and the completion of the project.  

Campo’s having a wine sale, while other businesses, like Nokomis Chiropractic, are giving free massages, according to the Kenny neighborhood website.

As the bridge reopening nears, Campo said it feels like things are getting back to normal for him and his employees.

“It’s like we’re just coming back from a bad vacation,” Campo said. “Everybody’s looking forward to be home.”