Trader Joe’s on Lyndale: Suburban Box in City?

Featured, Real Estate — By on December 15, 2011 12:33 am

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.

The Proposal
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.

Trader Joe's site plan - Minneapolis

The proposed Trader Joe's site plan shows a new 14,000 Sq Ft grocery store and liquor store at 27th and Lyndale in The Wedge with a large surface parking lot to the south.

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.

Trader Joe's rendering - Minneapolis

A rendering looking NW at Trader Joe's on Lyndale Avenue just south of 27th Street in the Lyn-Lake/Uptown area of Minneapolis.

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.

Thatcher Imboden

How cities work and change, how they are the product of their inhabitants and outside forces, and the resulting livability keep me thinking and dreaming about the future. I work in transit oriented development and have a background in urban real estate development. I am Past President of an Uptown business organization, grew up in Uptown, was on an Uptown neighborhood association Board, and am an Uptown and Lyn-Lake historian.

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  1. Cedar Phillips says:

    While I don’t mind the idea of Trader Joe’s in the neighborhood, this design — and the demolition of the existing buildings — is TERRIBLE for the neighborhood. I happen to like the existing buildings, anyway, but if they HAVE to tear down and build new, this design is about the worst they could do. Ultra-suburban, and incredibly inappropriate for the location.

    • Thatcher Imboden says:

      My personal opinion is that the only way to make this more suburban is if the building was located on the south side of the site and the lot on the north. The next way to make it more urban is to do what they did. Next would be to add doors at the intersection. Granted, it’s not a ton different than the Wedge Co-op in regard to a mostly single-story building with a fair amount of parking, the Wedge was the result of taking an inline site and eventually buying additional land, thus giving them the corner. Had they built new on a corner lot, I think they would have had a much stronger presence at 22nd.

  2. Nathaniel says:

    I agree that the design is far too suburban for urban Lyndale Avenue (I would prefer to not see another CB2-style development in dense Uptown). I agree (which is odd) with members of the committee on this issue – the surface parking lot dominates the site (the proposal has it taking up approx. 1 and a half of it). Plus, it’s interesting to see how the liquor license ordinances are already having an effect on the urban environment of Uptown. Great job reporting on this. Uptown is a better place because of it.

  3. Jon says:

    I don’t think tearing these buildings down is the best idea for the long run.

  4. Sean Ryan says:

    One of the big issues with this proposal (and there are many) is this structure seems to have only one use in mind, structurally and design mind-set. Groceries stores come and go.

    • Nathaniel says:

      Sean – I think you’re absolutely right. In fact, this Trader Joe’s proposal might as well be a Walgreens or CVS building. I very much welcome Trader Joe’s to Uptown, but not in this building.

  5. Janne says:

    Ugh. This is horrific. Not only is the parking lot/ building orientation problematic, in the true spirit of NIMBY, if it happens, it will ruin MY routine walk to my routine weekend brunch.

    Is there any action someone not living in that council ward can take to let the City know this is not acceptable?

    • Jl says:

      Yes, contact Meg Tuthill. I believe she must support a re-zoning for the project to more forward so this project certainly has the opportunity for resident impact to change the design.

      This project is downright dangerous for pedestrians! Can you imagine someone trying to make a left on lyndale, not looking and people walking down the sidewalk…. I shudder to think of all the near pedestrian fatalities this will create on what should be a nice, walkable and accessible commercial street. It will drive foot traffic off of lyndale.

      • Thatcher Imboden says:

        Once their land use application goes in, you can contact their planner. I believe that is Becca Farrar to register your concerns. Those comments will be passed on to the Planning Commission to consider. The Planning Commission, in my sole opinion, will have limited ability to stop the project because I don’t think that the plans for the area would really prevent this from going in. I think they can make modifications to the site plan, which could include relocating doors, discussing exterior materials, requiring more windows potentially, etc. The key will be the rezoning, though I still don’t know that preventing the rezoning is realistic. Plus, one must ask themselves if they are really against the rezoning because of the merits of the rezoning or if it’s just the tool to stop this project as it currently is designed.

        I suppose community organization to encourage TJs to have a more urban store could be beneficial…?

        • Alex says:

          I think Tuthill’s comment on the distinction between quasi-judicial actions and legislative actions is really key here. Basically for the quasi-judicial actions (variances, CUPs, etc) they need to evaluate the statutory validity of the request. For legislative actions (rezoning) they can consider constituent feedback. You’re absolutely right that the comp plan and small area plans have supported C2 zoning for this site, so staff probably won’t be able to find a reason for denial. But since rezoning is legislative, the council can act against staff recommendation with no other basis than that it’s unpopular.

          Thanks for the great reporting on this, btw.

    • Eric says:

      “It will ruin MY routine walk to my routine weekend brunch.”

      That’s the whitest white person complaint ever.

  6. CARAG Resident says:

    I liked Uptown better when it was a neighborhood in Minneapolis, not a suburb of Edina.

  7. aj says:

    My main concern is the infrastructure. Not once has anyone mentioned how the roads and sidewalks will fair with this new development, accompanied by the mega-apartment buildings that are rising faster than a shooting star. I am pretty sure that the sewage systems, electrical, streets, etc. are going to weaken fast if this type of development continues, which could potentially result in a higher income tax.

    • Thatcher Imboden says:

      Infrastructure is a good concern AJ. The sewage plants generally should be fine because anytime you change a property so that the sewage waste is estimated to increase, the Metropolitan Council (who manages waste water) charges an impact fee. A new restaurant going into a brand new building may have to pay $30,000 – $100,000 for that new sewage wastewater if there was nothing there before. Each one of those new apartments comes with a sewer fee as well. It’s supposed to be used to ensure that there is adequate capacity. Your water bill also comes with a sewer fee, if I recall correctly.

      As for streets, our road system rarely gets expanded since we are landlocked, so there generally isn’t any impact beyond additional use. That would put additional wear and tear on the roads, but generally new development is always accompanied by higher property values, those properties will pay an increased property tax and that tax should be going to cover the additional services that property needs and the impacts of it.

      And the electricity grid should be improved by the Xcel, as it’s my understanding that in exchange for having the monopoly on being the electricity provider they are to ensure there is enough power available to satisfy demand. Typically, these projects will improve the grid by removing overhead wires and sometimes adding redundancies that don’t currently exist. The project I’m involved with (Mozaic) added new transformers for multiple properties, buried electrical lines, and will conclude by adding a redundancy loop that will help to reduce outages at adjacent properties.

      Usually, the thing that seems to not change is our transit system. But that’s always a debate on whether you can get improved transit before you have the growth. In Uptown, despite advocating, we didn’t get the SW LRT line to come through Uptown where there’s lots of growth and we’re a major regional destination. One reason is because the data didn’t reflect all the new growth and used a very low future growth number, along with horrible assumptions about whether people would walk to a LRT station if there was a bus stop nearby. Despite pointing that all out, we were told it wouldn’t make a difference and no one in their right mind would spend $600 million more for 1,000 more riders a day. But in reality, it would have likely been far more riders extra per day. So at this point, reasonable growth (which I believe we are seeing) is the only way we’ll position Uptown/Lyn-Lake regionally as a place that really needs improved transit…even if it’s improved bus service.

    • Anders says:

      Generally, the incremental cost of local services (roads, utilities, etc.) decreases with an increase in users who are paying in (via fees and property [not income] tax). This is the reason that suburbs, with their low densities and greater physical separation between buildings, are much less efficient than cities. I wouldn’t worry about the impact of apartment buildings on infrastructure. What’s making our streets crumble and transit system languish is a decade of state budget cuts, not the overdue growth we’ve seen.
      Speaking of suburbs, though, this TJ’s plan is awful at the moment. A real urbanist’s nightmare. But the increased property taxes generated at the property should compensate for any additional strain on infrastructure at least.

  8. LHENA-Wedge Resident says:

    I do not support this proposal and Meg should not support rezoning.
    Taller and multi-purpose building with basement parking would be a better fit.
    Also, homes behind the parking lot become exposed to the street and parking lot.

  9. MARK says:

    The existing building should not be tore down!!!! They add character to the neighborhood.

  10. Eric says:

    I live one block away from the proposed building site and I have to say that I’m surprised to find out that my neighborhood is TOO HIPSTER AND TOO YUPPY FOR TRADER JOE’S! That should open up a gateway to another dimension or herald the coming of Cthulu.
    We’re a few blocks from a Rainbow foods. A couple blocks down the road we have a strip mall with a Subway. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll take being over to walk to get a jar of Wasabi Mayo over worrying about the delicate sensibilities of weirdos that think everything needs to be an old brownstone.

  11. Christian says:

    I like Trader Joe’s, but I’m really unhappy they’re moving so close to the Wedge. The Wedge is a good co-op and community steward, and while they can be expensive, that extra money goes back to good causes, like local farmers and manufacturers. TJ’s competitive pricing and four-block distance from the Wedge will leach a portion of their customers away. That’s a bullying technique more appropriate to Walmart or CVS. Why not open in a more residential area that has no grocery competitors?

    • Eric says:

      Exactly. This is why there should be only one gas station per town.

    • Cedar Phillips says:

      I think Trader Joe’s and the Wedge serve different demographics and serve different needs. While I prefer supporting local stores over national chains, I think there is room in the neighborhood for both. And four blocks away is not that close, especially for those who walk to get their groceries. I have many, many problems with this store — mostly the hideously ugly design and super-sized parking lot, as well as the demolition of a stretch of historic (even if not officially “historic”) buildings — but I think Trader Joe’s itself can be beneficial to the area. I just wish they had put some effort into a better design! Realistically, though, they probably know what they’re up against; local controversies (and Meg Tuthill’s public comments) certainly send the message that local leaders are more concerned about ample parking spaces than they are about appropriate neighborhood design or livability issues. This is Minneapolis, and the car still remains king.

    • Kelly says:

      Read the article, zoning laws prevent them from opening just about anywhere else in the city. Why wouldn’t you want to be on a busy street with lots of drive by traffic. Look at it from the business standpoint. I’m not a TJ shopper, but they should be able to open a business wherever they want to. Don’t shop there if you don’t like them.

    • I agree that I think Trader Joes is just too close to the Wedge. I rather see trader joes further south near 50th and Penn or near France. I would hate to see the Wedge lose business.

  12. guy says:

    Trader Joe is a perfect fit for the the 27th and Lyndale intersection. The neighborhood with the increased density needs more amenities and options. This is not like getting a Pawn America, this is a very positive development project.

  13. Russ says:

    Finally a welcome change to the high priced Wedge. I support this much needed grocery addition to the neighborhood. A convenient surface parking lot that is well lighted and landscaped would be a pleasant change to the existing structures on the site.

  14. bryce says:

    I agree!

  15. Jon says:

    I’m just saying that is it really wants to be in the community, it can occupy an empty lot.

    • Anders says:

      I’m with you. Unfortunately, liquor laws are such that if TJ’s wants to open in this part of Minneapolis, this is about the only spot. Instead of applying for a probably-inappropriate rezoning to C2 so they can open their liquor store, maybe TJ’s should lobby for a change to the distancing ordinances… 2,000 feet regardless of local residential/jobs density makes no sense.

  16. Gordon says:

    I do not understand the opposition to this proposed store. The neighborhood some of you are trying to “preserve” has a few quaint properties but is mostly rundown and unattractive. A nice, new upscale grocery store would enhance the area, and increase nearby property values. Residents should welcome a company that wants to spend money to improve the area.

    • Cedar Phillips says:

      I guess I’m not seeing the same neighborhood that you see. I think TJ’s will be a good fit for the neighborhood, but I do have a major problem with the suburban design. There’s no reason that TJ’s can’t design something that fits in better with the neighborhood. For those who prefer brand-new, bland, auto-centric suburban design, you can find that in any number of other Twin Cities communities. Why would we want to move one of our few more truly “urban” neighborhoods in that direction? That said, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the aesthetics of the larger Lyn-Lake/Uptown/Lyndale area, but demolishing what remains of its history is not the way to do it. In other words, my opposition is to the design and the massive parking lot, not to the concept of a Trader Joe’s store itself. I think the design will be detrimental to the neighborhood and to the Lyndale commercial corridor. They can do better than this.

    • Rita says:

      Given what the homeowners in the “rundown and unattractive” Wedge are paying in property taxes on the “quaint” Victorian homes – I think we’ll take a pass on the increased property values or the attitude that we, the poor benighted residents don’t know what is good for us. I suppose that our difference of opinion on this one is what makes decisions regarding good design so difficult – you see shiny, pretty and upscale, I see suburban, tacky, and ugly, you see run down and shabby, I see beautiful 19th century workmanship.You do not understand why people have an issue with the proposed store because you don’t understand, value or appreciate why people live in a neighborhood like the Wedge in the first place. I certainly don’t think you get that for many of us it sure isn’t economic necessity and that your lecture on “urban renewal” isn’t appreciated. Similarly, I don’t get the suburbs. It all just means that good people can have different taste and values.

  17. Jon says:

    I think Trader Joe’s should be required to include parking either on top or underneath the store. Reason should be to preserve the atmosphere that made people move to this area in the first place.

  18. Tom Moore says:

    respected, successful, popular store wants to build a shiny, new building right in our neighborhood? and the only, popular store they are replacing is moving three blocks away into its own, better space (with more parking)? sounds good to me. let’s hope that no one holds this up over relatively petty and/or minor issues.

    • Tom Moore says:

      and, yes, they could do better with the design. and they probably will improve upon it. would prefer to see a two-story store – maybe have the liquor store upstairs and the grocery downstairs? something like that.

      and we need to add left-turn lanes – and bicycle lanes – up and down lyndale and hennepin (not just for cars but for the sake of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders, too). would be ok with one, wide car lane each way on those streets if it meant a bicycle lane and left turn lanes the entire stretch. am guessing that traffic would move slower… but would also have less back-ups as you wouldn’t have to wait for cars turning left.

  19. Rita says:

    Neither the Wedge nor surrounding neighborhoods are underserved vis a vis supermarkets – the Wedge, Kowalski’s and Lund’s (locally owned)and Rainbow (Mid-Western ownership) are all in close proximity. Personally, I can walk to all four. Trader Joe’s (German conglomerate owned)is being built as a destination for many shoppers in all of Southwest Minneapolis – not to serve the community it is being built in. Hence the parking lot, the cars and the impending traffic issues. All that being said, it would be much more palatable if they would a leas4t bury the ugly lot under the building.

  20. Xan says:

    That is hideous. Place make it go away.

  21. Matt Brillhart says:

    For those that don’t understand the opposition (guy, Russ, Gordon, Tom) I think you misunderstand just what we’re opposed to. I would love to walk to Trader Joe’s, they’ve got some good, reasonably-priced food. They would actually be the closest store to me, so yeah my trips to Rainbow and The Wedge would be less frequent. Personally, I don’t really mind losing the current buildings either. The laundromat/Sunnyside is hideous, and the Art Materials bldg isn’t unique or special. Losing the 2-story brick building with the sweet mural is a bummer, especially for those people living upstairs.

    The opposition is not to Trader Joe’s itself, but to a suburban-style building and parking lot in an increasingly dense urban neighborhood. If they had come forward with a proposal for a 2-4 story mixed-use building with underground parking, you would be seeing quite a different reaction. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense for them NOT to do that…there’s more money in it. There are plenty of examples of Trader Joe’s stores in good, urban mixed-use settings. Google the Madison location or the Hollywood location to see what I mean. It can be done.

    I feel like the traffic issue is being underplayed here. 27th currently doesn’t have a stoplight, but it seems that this development will necessitate one. If we must add a stoplight here, you might as well go with a more intense use of that corner. Secondly, the developer should pay for intersection upgrades as part of the project (crosswalks, countdown timers, etc)

  22. sue says:

    does anyone know what will happen to the buildings on the other side of lyndale? s

  23. Joe says:

    Tear down the cruddy K-Mart and build the Trader Joe’s in that location.

    • Erin says:

      Exactly! I agree 100%!! TJs does not belong on Lyndale, because every mini van in south MPLS will be coming to get their cheap groceries gumming up traffic on Lyndale.

      • Cedar says:

        Here’s a question: why does the neighborhood care so much about traffic congestion? I know that’s almost heretical to ask here in car-centric Minneapolis, but why should we care? I can see some potential benefits to traffic congestion: if cars are moving slower, does that mean the streets are safer for pedestrians? (not sure what the actual official statistics say about this, but if traffic is slow I FEEL safer) If traffic is congested, will that mean more support for better bus service and more local support for bike lanes, or for any other initiatives to get more cars off the road? (right now it gets a lot of lip service, but when it comes down to it, even in Uptown neighborhoods, parking for cars almost always trumps everything else) Perhaps it’s because I don’t drive, but I don’t think the residents living within walking distance of the proposed TJ’s should be denied affordable groceries just because some locals want clear streets to drive in and out of their neighborhood.

        That said, I’m sad to see these buildings demolished, don’t like the TJ’s design, and wish there were some better alternatives. But I don’t care about the traffic, and haven’t yet seen any convincing reasons for why I SHOULD be concerned. Traffic is part of urban neighborhoods, and this is, after all, on a major street where traffic is a given.

        And given that so many TJ’s shoppers will live within walking distance, anyway, I think it’s important to acknowledge that this store WILL serve local residents who arrive on foot and by bike, not just residents of other city neighborhoods.

        In short, should we decide everything based on traffic? (or, if not that, then parking) Does traffic trump all else?

  24. Marcus says:

    The problem is that we are discussing trying to balance the desires of the people who live in the area with the business needs of the people who want to invest in the area. While we all know that the potential business that this area can bring to a new retail company could be highly profitable. What would you do if you lived in the area and could expect a great increase in both traffic counts and general increased

  25. Mimi says:

    I like the idea as we live on 38th and Aldrich and adding a Trader Joe’s to the area would give us some diversity for downtown shopping. Also really how much more traffic will it bring anyway?

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