Hennepin County is planning to reconstruct Lyndale Avenue between Franklin and 31st avenues in 2027. What the street will look like right now is anyone’s guess, but there are two groups vying for different designs for different end goals. One group wants to retain on-street parking and the other wants dedicated bike and bus lanes for safer streets.

A public meeting is scheduled for June 11 where the Hennepin County planning team will share “road section concepts.” A full design concept will not be shared. The County is scheduled to publish a final or “preferred” design by early 2025.

The Lyndale Avenue divide

The divide on how to redesign Lyndale Avenue is reminiscent of Hennepin Avenue’s redesign process in 2022. As the Hennepin Avenue redesign went through the community engagement process and approval with the City Council, small businesses expressed concern that a street redesigned with a full-time bus lane, and therefore less parking, would harm business overall. With similar concerns, Lyndale Avenue business owners are organizing under the name Vibrant Lyndale to try to persuade officials with Hennepin County to not take away parking in its redesign of the street.

“There's a mix of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents on the street. And every one of us had the same consensus on how we felt about the street, and what we needed as businesses,” Andrea Corbin, a Vibrant Lyndale founder said. Corbin and others with Vibrant Lyndale argue that if Hennepin County removes parking on Lyndale Avenue, it will be difficult to run a business.

“We need a police presence, we need safety on our streets, we need access, and we need quiet enjoyment,” Corbin continued. Corbin describes quiet enjoyment as a space where customers feel welcome. Less graffiti, encampments, crime, and trash.

“It's about making our city inspiring,” Corbin said.

Corbin opened Flower Bar at 2736 Lyndale Ave. S in 2022, so she came to the area aware of the neighborhood’s character.

“We have a passion for a dense city,” Corbin said. “We chose to be on the street for a reason. We've got heart for that.”

On the other side of the proverbial street, Livable Lyndale, a group made up of local residents and sustainable transportation advocates via Move Minnesota, wants Hennepin County to include a dedicated bus lane and a protected bike lane going both ways down Lyndale Avenue.

“We’re not transportation engineers,” Julie Johnson, senior community organizer with Move Minnesota said at its March 2 median rally on Lyndale Avenue at 27th Street. “But what’s great about Lyndale is it’s exceptionally wide, so there is a lot more space than a typical corridor.”

Supporters of Livable Lyndale attend a rally on March 2 showing support for a street design with a full-time bus lane and a protected bike lane. The median the rally attendees are standing on were installed by Hennepin County in 2022 to make Lyndale Avenue safer for pedestrians. Photo by Melody Hoffmann

If drivers having easy access to parking around businesses is Vibrant Lyndale’s motivator, street safety is Livable Lyndale’s. The section of Lyndale Avenue that is planned for reconstruction went through a 4-to-3 lane conversion last year due to pedestrian safety issues, including pedestrian deaths. The Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street intersection had the highest number of pedestrian-car crashes over ten years and remains a high-injury intersection, according to the City of Minneapolis Vision Zero Department.

“This road is not safe whether you are in a car, or on your feet, or on a bike, or on a bus,” Johnson said. “So no matter what, safety is a huge problem on this road.”

Johnson also said several U.S. cities that have prioritized bus and bike infrastructure along business corridors have seen business “boosted.” The study, “Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business,” published by PeopleforBikes and Alliance for Biking & Walking, compiles bike lane success stories like how local business went up 49% after a protected bike lane went in on 9th Avenue in New York, compared to 3% elsewhere in the area.

According to a review of numerous academic studies, the economic impact on local businesses after bicycle and pedestrian improvements is “positive or non-significant” on retail and food service businesses” with bicycle facilities possibly having negative economic effects if a business is auto-centric.

“The results are similar regardless of whether vehicular parking or travel lanes are removed or reduced to make room for the active travel facilities,” a summary of the article reads.

Real-life outcomes remain mixed. While the above-mentioned “Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business”  study found 66% of businesses on San Francisco’s Valencia Street increased sales after bicycle and pedestrian improvements went in on the street, anecdotal evidence shared by Valencia business owners reflect a different reality.

Do people who visit Lyndale businesses need all of this parking?

When news of the Lyndale Avenue redesign hit, a small business asked its customers about it. Urban Tails, a locally-owned pet supply store at 2106 Lyndale Ave. S, sent out a survey to its customers about their transportation habits. No one at the store actually knew how many customers drove, walked, or biked to the store.

“Let’s just see,” Urban Tails manager Jessica Swartout said. As she rattled off the survey results, she said the results felt representative of the store’s clientele.

“I think that I knew that we had a good chunk of folks walking and biking or taking public transit,” Swartout said. “But definitely the majority of folks are driving here. Or they're shopping online.”

The survey also asked how important parking is in considering a parking trip. More people said it was “somewhat important” or “not important” than said it was “very important” or “important.” In other words, even though more people drive there than not, finding parking isn’t a huge concern for Urban Tails’ customer base.

Swartout said the store’s delivery service had room to grow and was already a popular option for people who didn’t want to drive to the store for their pet supplies.

“I have faith that we are adaptable,” Swartout said in regards to the future of Lyndale Avenue’s street design. “We will figure it out.”

Support during construction

Before Lyndale Avenue is redesigned, it will have to go through its construction phase.

“Everybody wants the construction to be short,” Nate Broadbridge, co-owner of SK Coffee, at 2401 Lyndale Ave., said. Broadbridge said he appreciated the efforts of both Livable Lyndale and Vibrant Lyndale. His concern was how Hennepin County would support businesses during construction.

“I am super nervous about the construction,” Broadbridge said.  

Street construction can negatively impact small businesses. The Linden Hills neighborhood is addressing this directly with a public campaign to walk, bike, or roll to 43rd Street and Upton Avenue during a major construction project.

Like Urban Tails, SK Coffee has customers that take all forms of transportation. From being there “days on end” Broadbridge said people who drive tend to buy “big ticket items” like bags of coffee. The people walking in tend to buy a cup of coffee and a pastry.

“The foot traffic keeps the lights on, so to speak. The driving traffic provides the depth of sale,” Broadbridge said.

Broadbridge said he hopes Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis can collaborate and come up with creative solutions during construction.

“During construction, if the entirety of Lyndale is torn up, how do people get to our store? Could they put parking on 24th?” Broadbridge asked, adding, “I love the bike lanes on both sides, we have a bike rack right in front of our place.”

Broadbride made it clear during our conversation that having no parking around his business would be tough.

The future of Lyndale Avenue

Community members will get a first glance at Lyndale Avenue “section concepts,” as designed by Hennepin County on June 11 at SpringHouse Ministry Center, 610 W. 28th St. This information is not on the Hennepin County website as of this article’s publication.