City Considers Consolidating Businesses into Distribution Districts

On April 1, the Saint Paul City Council will consider a proposal to divide the city into corporate distribution districts in order to reduce wear and tear on city streets.  The first phase of the program assigns food distributors to specific neighborhoods of Saint Paul.

The resolution, if passed, would give exclusive access of a neighborhood district to a corporate entity, which would receive deliveries at a central location. This would reduce the number of delivery trucks tearing up the roads and waking up neighbors in the early morning hours.

A spokesman for Yum! Brands, Inc states, “We’ve been eyeing the Midway Shopping area for years. We fully plan to be a partner with the city in negotiating our stake in that neighborhood.”

Yum! Brands, Inc operates the licensed brands of fast food companies such as Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut.

HT Hackney, an eastern US grocery distribution company, has long been interested in expanding to Highland Park.

“We see a great need for this revolutionary idea of centralizing how people receive their grocery items. We really feel that we can take the old Ford plant site and develop a consumer driven distribution site that is unlike any other in this country,” says a spokesman for the company.

The “brand” of Highland Park is groceries, per Councilmember Candice Candy.  “Not only will street wear and tear be reduced, but neighborhood pride will be improved.  School children have really gotten behind this idea and have discussed updating their school team mascots.  One suggestion was Highland Park Potatoes.”

A 2013 aerial of the old Ford Plant site shows an area ripe for a grocery distribution center.

A 2013 aerial of the old Ford Plant site shows an area ripe for a grocery distribution center.

The mayor endorses the Highland Park children’s enthusiasm.  “Great proposals come from 8 year olds and from 80 year olds,” he said.  With the city divided up into distribution districts, “we can really cut down on how many delivery trucks enter our great city.”

Lenny McLeonard, resident of Merriam Park, says, “This is the best idea I’ve heard yet from our mayor. When I moved to the city, I never expected the level of noise and traffic that I’ve experienced. There is no reason for these businesses to be scattered throughout the city like this, sending 7 or 8 delivery trucks per day past our houses. Centralizing the shipments only makes sense.”

However, Tina Van der Ness sees things differently. Van der Ness owns In Your Face, a pizza pie shop in the Hamline Midway neighborhood.

“This proposal would not allow me to receive important deliveries to my business. I would have to find a place that sells the specific ingredients that I want, but they do not appear to be available in the proposed food distribution districts. Meanwhile, the Pizza Hut/KFC/Taco Bell conglomerate down the street would get deliveries right to their front door. How am I supposed to compete?”

Como Park resident Sam Shipley doesn’t understand how this will reduce wear and tear on city streets. “Sure, the large delivery trucks will only be going to specific sites versus all over the city, but the amount of small businesses scattered throughout the city will be reduced, so people will be driving all over the place to get groceries and to eat out. Gone will be the days when you could just walk a few blocks and visit your local grocery or restaurant to meet most all of your needs.”

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office dismissed any notion that this would hurt the neighborhood character. “The city does not have the money to constantly maintain the streets we have. This will help relieve the taxpayer burdens for maintenance.  There will be less wear and tear, preserving our streets for longer amounts of time.  If we’re going to be the most livable city in the world, we need to do our share in protecting our assets.”

In recent years, the city has been under public scrutiny for the condition of citywide streets. The next phase of the program will likely be clothing distribution districts. The mayor, along with the Public Works department, hopes that these districts will offset some of the cost of street maintenance.

Monica Millsap Rasmussen

About Monica Millsap Rasmussen

I was inspired years ago by beatnik, Joe Gould, and the stories he would hear from people he met on the street. Always a dream of mine to be the sort of person who could elicit entertaining stories from strangers, I now have that opportunity. I am looking forward to introducing readers to new lives.