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Little Mekong is flowing through University Ave

When you’re driving or walking through University Ave, it’s easy to confuse the upcoming light rail transit line for a hazard zone from a really bad dream. The photo above is what the street looked like back in August. It’s definitely looking a lot better these days as construction workers are pounding away to hopefully finish sometime before hell freezes over (literally).

From some of the best Vietnamese restaurants to some of the best Hmong art hubs, the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) is at the fore front of a new branding development with Southeast Asian ties, coining it Little Mekong (of the major Mekong River that runs through southern China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia). With Little Mekong, AEDA hopes to boost local investment opportunities for small business owners and drive the local economy.

At last year’s public hearing on the branding idea, not everyone was too ‘welcoming’ to the idea of giving such a diverse area a specific ethnic face, but the local businesses thinks it’s the best thing that could happen to them. With other mini Chinatowns and Little Italys booming across the nation, what would the hold back be about? And if Southeast Asians are getting a stake in it all, what role would the Lao Minnesotans take? Not to brag the beloved river that we hold dearest to our hearts, but Laos is the only country that the Mekong River flows through the most.

There are plenty of restaurants, insurance agents and social service agencies lined up. But what if Lao Minnesotans were given the first community area to build the next Lao Renaissance movement, what would we do? A Lao dance studio, a bookstore cafe or maybe a textile weaving shop? It’s time to bust out the master plan of your dreams and find it’s place along Little Mekong.

AEDA’s plan for Little Mekong:

Public hearing on branding project in August 2010:

The Metropolitan Council’s progress with the central corridor light rail transit:

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