Midway community rallies to support St. Paul businesses evicted after civil unrest

[anvplayer video=”4955567″ station=”998122″]

A grassroots collective in St. Paul is calling for more community input after learning several minority-owned businesses have been evicted following the unrest earlier this summer.

Members of Midway Rise-Up hosted a pop-up event Friday on the outskirts of the Midway Shopping Center property to stand in solidarity with the businesses of a complex that sits beside Allianz Field.

Property owner Rick Birdoff confirmed to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he terminated the leases of the stores after looting and fires during the riots in May caused severe damage to the structure.

"I had a right to do that," Birdoff said over the phone. "The building is in an unsafe condition."

The lease terminations are a gut punch to the handful of locally-owned shops, including two restaurants.

"It came as a surprise to me," said St. Paul council member Mitra Jalali, who represents the neighborhood. "We were really disappointed. It felt like a hurt on top of everything we’d already experienced."

Jalali said she’s heard from several stores who wanted to reopen in the Midway Shopping Center, arguing their respective spaces did not take on as much damage as others did.

Community members said they feel like the decision is a move to push the longtime tenants out while making way for new development.

"If we’re not careful, what’s going to end up happening is we’re going to have these high-rise buildings, residential-use buildings that are pushing out the families," said Aiyana Sol Machado, who helped organize Midway Rise-Up.

Machado said the group is fueled by youth voices.

"They’re the ones that are going to be raising the next generation of families here, what do they want to see?" she said.

The collective is planning more pop-up events in the future.

The shopping center will be demolished, according to Birdoff. He said he has welcomed the locally-owned businesses back into the future, brand-new space once it is finished.

"I told tenants we want them to come back," he said. "We will have ground floor for retail. But it’s not happening in two or three months."