How To Mitigate Grand Avenue’s Parking Problem

The curious case of Cupcake.

It’s two years old now, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time I meander past Grand and Milton. This is old news. Now, we have a doggy spa. Three parking spaces. That’s the difference between cupcakes and family-friendly self-service dog shampooing.

The successful University Avenue retailer was looking to expand on Grand Avenue. The problem: the City of St. Paul required 10 stalls. Cupcake only had 7. The City granted a variance, but the neighborhood group filed a lawsuit. There was some local political infighting and some back-and-forth, but at the end of the day, none of it mattered. Cupcake decided to abandon Grand Avenue for the Mall of America.

All the drama erupted over 3 parking spaces.


Space is a premium and that makes land acquisition difficult and expensive. This makes adding off-street parking difficult. But, what if I told you I could find over 100 additional parking spaces within a 3 minute walk of the location.


The red square above is Bubbly Paws. The red lines indicate prohibited on-street parking.


Many of our neighborhood streets adjacent to commercial corridors have restricted on-street parking. At best, we’re not making the best use of a public right-of-way. At worst, we’re stifling the ability for places (like Cupcake) to operate within our neighborhoods. What we’ve done is say that they are required to have a certain amount of parking spaces while there is a huge unused resource at the City’s disposal.

Besides the benefit of not requiring off-street parking (nobody wants more parking lots), having vehicles park on both sides of the street slows down traffic and can discourage people from using side streets as a through-street.

What we’re taking about is a win-win-win: fewer parking lots, more businesses and slower traffic.

St. Paul is a city. Emphasis on city. It’s about time it started acting like it. The area surrounding Grand Avenue is a dense, walkable neighborhood with a compact commercial node, existing mid-size apartment buildings and access to transit and bike lanes. There is no better place to not require more parking lots. Instead, let’s utilize on-street parking and slow down traffic in the process.

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Note: I don’t believe Grand Avenue has a genuine parking problem, but yes – it is more difficult to find a spot during peak periods. That, and you might just have to walk an extra block or two. Grand Avenue is a successful, worthwhile place precisely because it doesn’t have convenient parking. Furthermore, St. Paul needs to consider removing parking minimums all together.

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