By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For some business owners along University Avenue, the opening of the METRO Green Line this weekend brings a sigh of relief. While some celebrate, however, others are packing up.

Years of construction meant fewer customers and even less money. Although much has developed around the rail line, some store owners are preparing to sell.

For 27 years, the Best Steak House at University and Victoria has been a familiar stop for many and everyone knows its owner — Mike Hatzistamoulous. But when construction on the green line began, business slowed.

“I was down about 20 percent,” Hatzistamoulous said.

Hatzistamoulous says the first sight of test trains brought many of his old customers back and even some new ones have stumbled in.

“Some as construction was over, it popped right back up — plus 20 on top of it,” he said.

Metro Transit says 121 new businesses and housing units have popped up within a half mile of the green line.

Approximately $2.5 billion worth of new construction and redevelopment projects since engineering began some five years ago.

Since 1985, Gilbert Marty has owned his second hand store along University. Now, he says light rail sends passengers right by his second hand store – drivers, too.

“There are no cars stopping. That’s the thing. They use to stop and shop. They can’t do it. Where are they going to park?” Marty said.

Before construction, he made a living. Now, empty store has forced him to put the building up for sale.

“I use to have five to 10 people in here all day long shopping,” Marty said. “I think I had one customer early this morning. I think he spent $2. I can barely eat on that.”

According to Metro Transit, during the period of heavy construction along the green line, 128 businesses opened and 90 closed. Twenty-seven moved off the corridor and 25 moved within the corridor.

The 11-mile route will hopefully breathe new life into old businesses and introduce new ones to the masses.

“I’m looking forward to see all those people, to see what University is all about. University is a very beautiful street with a lot of things to offer — like a good restaurant like here,” Hatzistamoulous said.

The Metropolitan Council says developers are showing interest in being a part of this opportunity they call the Green Line.

The grand opening is Saturday and Metro Transit hopes people do come out for free rides to help support businesses along University Avenue.


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