EDA, Chamber learn how one city survived construction

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

St. Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke spoke to members of the New Prague Economic Development Authority and the New Prague Chamber of Commerce on what efforts were made in his city during a five-month long construction project in 2009. New Prague’s Main Street will undergo a similar project next summer. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

"Own it!"

That was the simple message St. Peter city administrator Todd Prafke told members of the New Prague Economic Development Authority and the New Prague Chamber of Commerce when the two held a joint meeting Wednesday, April 17, in the New Prague City Hall.

The meeting was held to discuss ways to assist local businesses that will be affected by the 2020 Main Street Project, which will see a total reconstruction of Main Street next summer. The street will be torn up, underground utilities will be replaced and a new street and sidewalk will be put in place during the project, which will take place over several months.

"You’ve got to own it. It’s going to happen, you’ve got to make sure you’re doing what you can to support the project and support the businesses that are being affected."

St. Peter went through a smilier project in 2009, when a 17-block stretch of Highway 169 - Minnesota Avenue - through St. Peter’s downtown area was closed for five months. During that time, the city assisted local businesses as they worked to survive the project.

"We created a positive approach, and the business owners bought into it," said Ed Lee, Director of the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce. At the time of the project, Lee was publisher of the St. Peter Herald newspaper.

The project came together quickly in St. Peter, since it was part of the Obama stimulus package during the economic downturn of that time.

"We had less than a year of planning, but it was a shovelready project and we were able to expedite it. And despite the rough economy, we did not lose a single business due to the project," Prafke said.

Lee said they don’t have a boiler plate answer for New Prague’s downtown.

"We don’t have all the answers. This is a disruptive project, but communication played a big part of it," he said.

That is both communication between the city and business owners and between the city and local residents.

"We wanted to communicate to the residents that the businesses were open and they were accessible," Prafke said. "The city and the chamber put together a good plan. They made sure there were northbound and southbound detours that were marked and there was signage for each business on that detour.

There were 50 businesses located directly on.....

To see more on this story pick up the April 25, 2019 print edition of The New Prague Times. 

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