At tonight’s Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association Zoning and Planning Committee Meeting, members told developer, TOLD Development, and architect, ESG Architects, that the design was too suburban for urban Lyndale Avenue. While many voiced their support of Trader Joe’s coming to the neighborhood, there were concerns about the percentage of the site allocated to parking, the lack of density of the project, and the orientation of the doors to the parking lot instead of the 27th/Lyndale intersection.
This was an initial meeting for TOLD with the neighborhood. They will be meeting with the City on their plans in the upcoming week. Until tonight, very little was known about what was being proposed, why this site, and what it means for the existing properties and tenants. Tonight’s meeting pretty much laid it all out there.
Build a new 14,000 square foot Trader Joe’s grocery and liquor store on the SW corner of 27th Street and Lyndale Avenue in the Wedge area of Minneapolis. This is just outside of Lyn-Lake and the core of Uptown. Currently the site is home to four buildings that are owned by two different parties.
One owner, the Geurts family, has been an owner since 1967. They own the Sunnyside Up Cafe/Coin Laundry building, the building that’s home to the La Société du Thé and a tee-shirt shop (formerly the Calhoun Vacuum shop), and the building that’s home to Planet Soccer. The Geurts also own the Sunnyside Up Cafe (now closed) and Coin Laundry. Apparently they want to create an estate for their kids and will retain ownership in the site.
The other owner is Art Materials, which also we were told is planning on moving to a nearby site so they have more parking. They have been looking for some time, it was said.
The four buildings will all be demolished. None were believed to be historic, though a review is in process.
The parking lot would have 52 parking stalls, two points of ingress and egress, and large drive aisles in part because large delivery trucks must navigate through the parking lot per City code. TOLD believes that the parking will work better than how St. Louis Park did at first because in St. Louis Park, the demand for the store was far greater than what it could handle because it was such a destination. Trader Joe’s wants to be a neighborhood store and so it’s believed that by continuing to expand into Bloomington and Uptown/Lyn-Lake/Wedge, that they will better serve all of their customers by better distributing their customer base.
The 14,000 square foot store is comparable in size to others in the Twin Cities, where stores range from 13,000 square feet in St. Louis Park to 16,000 square feet in Hopkins, to 14,000 square feet in St. Paul.
The liquor and grocery store components would be accessed off of a shared vestibule on the southeast corner of the building, adjacent the parking lot. Windows facing the parking lot and along Lyndale would provide some transparency between the building and the outside. Exterior materials include brick, glass, an ornamental metals. It was said that the side facing 27th Street would have a similar look to the Lake Street elevation.
Members of the committee raised concerns primarily about the surface parking lot dominating the site. They suggested underground parking. Other concerns included how the building was oriented to the parking lot, that there was little presence at the 27th/Lyndale corner, and that there could be traffic issues relating to left-turners on north-bound Lyndale turning into the parking lot, similar to that of the Wedge Co-op.
Why this site
As I suspected, TOLD confirmed that this site was selected because of (archaic) liquor store licensing restrictions that require a 2,000′ buffer between liquor stores, a 300′ buffer between churches and liquor stores, and being adjacent 5 acres of commercial property that’s zoned C2. Earlier attempts, I might add, to locate the Trader Joe’s down the block from Hum’s Liquor between 22nd Street and 24th Street, failed after there seemed to be little support to get the State to essentially override the City’s distance requirements. Other sites that were considered ultimately were not going to meet these requirements.
This site would have to be rezoned to allow a liquor store, a request that will be critically analyzed by Council Member Meg Tuthill and others. Tuthill’s staff said that she wouldn’t comment on quasi-judicial issues (variances, conditional use permits, site plan approvals, etc) but would comment on legislative issues (rezonings) by saying that the property is not currently zoned C2 and that a rezoning study was recently conducted for this area and didn’t suggest rezoning the property. Therefore any consideration of a rezoning should address what has changed between then and now that would reach a different conclusion.
What does this mean for the existing tenants?
With Art Materials moving elsewhere and Sunnyside Up Cafe already closed, it would mean that over four businesses would need to relocate or close. Any second floor tenants (residents or businesses) would also be impacted. Coin Laundry, which is owned by the property owner who is pushing this deal, would likely close I would think. The other tenants are on month-to-month leases and would need to relocate or close.
No word yet on what they’ll do.