Community asks county for help following another car crash

A car crashed into Tori 44 for the third time this year on Dec. 15. The cause of the accident is unknown, but it’s a common problem at the Penn and 44th intersection where nearly a dozen incidents have occurred over the past year.  Photo by Cirien Saadeh

A car crashed into Tori 44 for the third time this year on Dec. 15. The cause of the accident is unknown, but it’s a common problem at the Penn and 44th intersection where nearly a dozen incidents have occurred over the past year. Photo by Cirien Saadeh

By Cirien Saadeh | Staff Reporter

For the third time in less than a year, a car has crashed into Tori 44, the ramen restaurant in Victory neighborhood that opened in April 2018.

That intersection, at Penn and 44th, has seen a slew of incidents over the past few years with The Goddess of Glass, Tom’s Barbershop, and several others all hit by passing cars.

While nobody has been hurt in any of these incidents, Victory Neighborhood Association (ViNA) Board Chair Brandon Knez worries that the worst is yet to come. Knez lives in Victory neighborhood and has a lot of experience at that intersection. His barber, the ViNA office, and The Warren, where neighborhood meetings are held, are all there.

"There isn't much signage. There isn't much in the way of barriers. There is just a really, fairly-good curve, right there before the 44th and Penn stoplight," said Knez. "In the old days, before the reconstruction a few years back, there was a stoplight you could see from Victory and that would slow you down."

Community members, and elected officials like Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham, contend that the intersection needs to be fixed by the county.

Outside of The Goddess of Glass, drivers are reminded to slow down as they take the street’s sharp curves.  Photo by Cirien Saadeh.

Outside of The Goddess of Glass, drivers are reminded to slow down as they take the street’s sharp curves. Photo by Cirien Saadeh.

“Both Penn and 44th are county roads, which means I don’t have direct jurisdiction over either of those roads. My office has been reaching out, asking questions, trying to figure out what our options are,” said Cunningham. “Unfortunately we have not made a whole lot of progress in that area, but we hope for more with the incoming commissioner. I hope that they will understand this is a racial and geographic equity issue. And the reason why is because we deserve the fundamental safety of being able to stand on a sidewalk or patronize a business, without being afraid of a car flying out of nowhere and harming or killing us. We deserve that basic level of safety.”

North News attempted to reach Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins for this story but has not yet received a response.

Cunningham and ViNA, as well as other community members and local business owners are asking for additional enforcement and barriers to protect sidewalks and local businesses. Their hope is to protect both pedestrians and small businesses who struggle to survive because of the vehicular accidents.

“Safety would be putting up the stop light again, placing ballasts or large blocks as barricades to keep our businesses safe,” said Jason Dorweiler, owner of Tori 44 and recent transplant to the Victory neighborhood. ew

Just a few days following the incident at Tori 44, another incident occurred when a vehicle, involved in a two-car chase, crashed into a home near Penn and 42nd. The accident caused a significant amount of structural damage to the home and has displaced the family for a month or more.

According to Connie Beckers, owner of The Goddess of Glass, incidents like the one that occurred at her shop in April 2017 make it very difficult for businesses to survive in the neighborhood. While Beckers’ shop was not hit directly by a car, a light pole outside her shop was hit by a car, which caused her to lose power and meant she had to turn away three classes worth of paying customers for the day.

“They definitely weren’t happy,” said Beckers.

This is echoed by Dorweiler who says the extent of the damages to Tori 44, for just the last incident, is tens of thousands of dollars or more, plus the loss of business and hours for employees, many of whom live in the neighborhood. They also had to comp all the meals sold during their brunch service, when the incident occurred, and toss out their entire line of food.

Dorweiler says that despite the accidents, he has no plans to abandon Victory neighborhood.

“We want to build up this area and get some new businesses out here to support and enhance what’s already here,” said Dorweiler.

This is a developing story. North News will keep you updated as it unfolds.


Cirien Saadeh