Small businesses operating near the Central Corridor light-rail line can now apply for up to $20,000 in interest-free, forgivable loans, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Council, announced Friday.
Eligible companies must be independent, for-profit businesses with four or fewer locations, less than $2 million in annual sales, and a focus on retail services, including restaurants. They must be located along the Central Corridor light-rail line or within a block of construction and have been at their current location for at least a year.
Interested businesses can learn more about the program and download an application here.
The loans for the St. Paul businesses will be administered by the Neighborhood Development Center in that city, and businesses in Minneapolis will get loans through the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers. In 2010, a $1.5 million loan fund was formed by the two cities, as was the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative-a group of local and national organizations that want to help the light-rail line achieve its potential. The groups boosted the fund to $4 million in April.
"The next three years will be challenging for businesses on [the] Central Corridor, and this expanded forgivable-loan program is one way we're helping them survive during construction and thrive when the line opens," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said in a statement. "But the important thing that we can all do right now is shop along [the] Central Corridor."
Not everyone is in favor of the terms of the recently announced loan program, according to a report by Finance & Commerce. Minneapolis attorney Tom DeVincke, who represents clients who sued the project's planners, told the newspaper that some of the requirements of the new loan program are "antithetical" and "contradictory."
The attorney is referring to requirements that businesses must certify that they continue to meet the loan criteria and must continue to operate along the light-rail line for at least five years in order for their loans to be fully forgiven. And he reportedly disagrees with the loan application process, which requests data about the businesses' credit risk and the "public worthiness" of granting them loans.
The 11-mile Central Corridor light-rail line, which will be built primarily along University and Washington Avenues, will include 18 new stations and will connect five major activity centers in the Twin Cities: downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, the Midway area, the state capitol complex, and downtown St. Paul. Plans indicate that it will share five existing stations with the Hiawatha light-rail line in Minneapolis.