Next stop, Little Mekong?

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Foodies in the know flock to University Avenue in St. Paul for its barbecue pork, roast duck and steaming bowls of Vietnamese pho.

But do most people view the neighborhood as a destination?

Small-business advocates are working on an Asian-themed brand for the intersection of University and Western avenues. “Little Mekong” is the concept bandied about by the Asian Economic Development Association, in deference to the Southeast Asian river that ties together so many of the communities who work and live along this strip.

“We want to attract visitors to the area,” said AEDA’s executive director, Va-Megn Thoj. “There’s a perception that the area is not safe, that it’s unwelcome and dirty. The businesses and residents both have a role to address that perception.”

Past efforts to market the area’s Asian influences by such groups as University United have not been successful. But with Central Corridor light-rail construction beginning next year in the area, Thoj says brand development will better position the community for tourists and customers during the disruption.

The branding plan is still in the works, and AEDA wants public input. A community open house to gather ideas will be held 6 p.m. Thursday at Kings Crossing community room, 500 N. Dale St.

More information about the event can be found here.

MPR photo by Bill Alkofer