Construction on the long-awaited Downtown Highway 41 Project is anticipated to take place on Highway 61 from mid-to-late August 2022 until about November and on Highway 41 from spring to fall of 2023.

According to Nicole Krause, senior project communications specialist with Bolton & Menk, Inc., Highway 41 is estimated to start up in April, but it “depends on weather, too, because spring can be finicky,” and will last until about October. The project is now in the bidding stage to find the right contractor for the job. According to a construction email from the project’s communications, the city will select a contractor in early August if favorable bids are received.

“The goal of the project is to obviously address the roadway condition and also help prepare these roadways for future growth and promote revitalization of the downtown area,” Krause said. “We’re going from two lanes in each direction to one lane, and that seems a little bit counterintuitive maybe to people… but by reducing the lanes and by adding in those turn lanes at intersections, you’re not going to get caught behind someone trying to turn left or right anymore.”

According to the project’s communications, an open house will take place in mid-August to provide more information on the schedule, closures and detours for the 2022 construction on Highway 61 and 2023 construction on Highway 41, as well as the new “paseo” parking lots.

Krause describes paseos as, “basically a fancy name for a decorative walk and parking area.”

“There’s going to be two locations, one between Fifth Street and Fourth Street and then one from Third Street to Second Street,” Krause said.

THE BUSINESSES

“We’re working through the best way to help those businesses downtown and make sure we can still get people down there,” Krause said. “I think the general sentiment has been very collaborative with the (Chaska Downtown Business Alliance) and trying to think through solutions to getting people in the downtown area.”

“I’m concerned about the impact on my business while it’s occurring and I’m excited about how good it’ll be for my business, and for Chaska generally when it’s done,” said Dan Keyport, owner of Dolce Vita Wine Shop and CBDA president. “I kind of have mixed emotions on the whole thing.”

But other businesses worry that the efforts to make downtown accessible will not be enough.

“It’s an outstanding effort by the staff with the city, and I really appreciate their efforts, but it’s not going to work,” said Mike Webb, owner of Dunn Brothers Coffee on Second Street in Downtown Chaska. “I’m gonna close, I’m not even going to try.”

Preliminary staging plans presented at the open house in February showed the Highway 41 bridge, a main flow of traffic into downtown, as being closed for an extended period of time. According to Krause, “that has the possibility to be refined based on the contractor.”

When the bridge closes, Webb estimates his business will drop by 85% to 95%. Dunn Brothers Coffee has been around for 15 years and, according to Webb, his business has survived six city construction projects, six bridge closings due to the river flooding and made it through COVID-19.

“We succeeded when we probably should have failed,” Webb said. “And I mean, honestly, the only thing that’s going to shut me down technically is a decision made by elected officials in the City of Chaska and I haven’t heard from any of them.”

Being a former elected official himself, Webb was hopeful for some outreach from city officials regarding the impact of construction on downtown businesses. He has only heard from staff.

“I give Matt Podhradsky and his crew a ton of credit because they’ve been the face and they’ve been forward, while I haven’t heard, seen or been contacted by any elected official, and I used to be an elected official,” Webb said. “It’s not how I would do things.”

While the options for businesses like Dunn Brothers are limited, Keyport will focus on taking advantage of various means of selling his products.

“Actually the pandemic was a good primer for me in developing the ability to deliver and curbside pickup,” Keyport said. “One of the things I really am trying to do during this upcoming road construction this summer, and of course next summer, as well, is really stress and expand upon and advertise and advocate for my delivery services.”

Dolce Vita Wine Shop can be found on Drizly, the alcohol delivery app. Business from curbside and deliveries make up about 10% of Dolce Vita Wine Shop’s business.

“We’re developing an outstanding downtown place to do business after every business down here that’s already here fails,” Webb said. “When they get everything just perfect it’s going to be perfect for the next generation of business owners.”

For more information, visit the project’s website for more maps and materials from the previous open house.

Events