Trader Joe’s update

Business, Featured — By on March 22, 2012 10:12 pm

Here we are again, talking about what’s going on with the Trader Joe’s proposal for a new store at 27th & Lyndale in the greater Uptown area of Minneapolis.

Unlike what you may have read in the Finance & Commerce, the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association did not take a vote to oppose the Trader Joe’s project. The organization considered a motion to move its Zoning & Planning Committee recommendation to support the project but that motion failed to pass. No one else on the Board offered a motion, so the brief discussion was that they would send a letter saying the motion to support the project failed.

What does that mean? Mostly, it will likely be interpreted that the neighborhood association neither supports or opposes the project though that officially is not the position. Listening to their group discussion, people felt conflicted but generally opposed. Folks supported Trader Joe’s as a business in their neighborhood but objected to the location over concerns of traffic (turning traffic on Lyndale is a concern they have about the Wedge Co-op too, and I agree that it is frustrating) and the loss of traditional urban buildings that are great at housing mom and pop businesses.

Ultimately, the Trader Joe’s proposal will go to the Planning Commission and then on to the City Council since there is a rezoning. The neighborhood association’s position, much like anyone from the public, is something that the City will take into consideration when making their decisions…so in other words, it is advisory.

Trader Joe's main elevation

The proposed Trader Joe's building at 27th & Lyndale in The Wedge area of Uptown Minneapolis. These are from March 2012. Click to enlarge.

A few updates on the proposal:
– There will be 30-something on-grade parking stalls (if I recall correctly) and a bunch of underground stalls, taking them to the maximum parking stalls they can have as of right (i.e. without extra permission)
– There will be an entrance to TJs at the south side of the building by the sidewalk and parking lot and a shared vestibule on the north side near the corner that will have an entry to the liquor store as well.
– The underground parking stairs and elevators will be in the vestibule at the 27th/Lyndale corner.
– The exterior is mostly glass and brick, with the cashier stations on the Lyndale side with lots of glass.
– They will rezone from C1 to C2 and are willing to use a Restrictive Covenant to semi-permanently restrict certain uses from the property. (More below)

For land use junkies, the rezoning to C2 was a concern apparently and they are willingly to put the Restrictive Covenant in place. What uses it will restrict have yet to be determined but will be based on input from the neighborhood. The only group to be able to remove the covenant will be the City Council.

The covenant will be put in place and recorded prior to the City Council acting on the zoning change. The City cannot, as it turns out, force the property owner to put a restrictive covenant in place as a condition of the rezoning and that is why they are proposing to do it this way.

What happens if the City doesn’t approve of the rezoning? The restrictive covenant goes away (per a clause in the document). Also it means that TJs couldn’t get a liquor store. What then? We may or may not find out.

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. Kevin says:

    I wonder if anybody else finds it extremely frustrating to sit and listen to these board meetings. I’ve never seen a group of people so out of touch with the views of the people in Uptown and the surrounding communities.

    • uptownpatty says:

      That’s the problem with neighborhood boards. It’s such a hyper-local level of government that most people don’t have the time to engage, no matter how dedicated they are to our communities.

      While it is important to have a local voice in city decisions, the weight they are given is excessive. This is especially the case in renters neighborhoods. While the concerns of renters generally remain the same, it’s difficult to get a sustained voice on neighborhood boards due to the nature of the business. I suspect the renters who make up a majority of residents in LHE and Whitter would have many fewer complaints about this project that the busybodies on local boards.

      • Thatcher Imboden says:

        Interestingly, while I generally agree that renters are far more supportive of change, the opposition to this specific proposal was from a wide spectrum of people at the meeting, including several younger people.

      • TerriS says:

        Local voices should be heavily weighted in city decisions. If it’s your neighborhood, you should have an important say in what happens. If a you believe in a neighborhood enough to have purchased a home there and are committed to it for the long term, your voice should definitely be heard. Yes, renters should have a voice, but that doesn’t make the people with a long-term commitment to the neighborhood “busybodies.”

        • Thatcher Imboden says:

          Terri, I agree and disagree with your comment. I agree that local voices should factor in city decisions, but I would not use the word “weighted” as I believe that property owners have fundamental rights to their property and just because something is unpopular, that they should be prevented from utilizing their property if legally allowable. So in this case, I don’t think this specific Trader Joe’s proposal is that appealing to me, but I no longer see enough reasons as to why it should be rejected. Local land use plans and zoning do not prohibit this style of building.

          As a neighborhood, the legal reasons why a project should be allowed to build is mostly irrelevant given that their voice is advisory to the decision making process. If the neighborhood feels a project is unfitting because it is the color blue (for example), they could take that position. The City would have to consider that opinion but decide whether to approve the project based on how it stacks up against ordinances and plans.

          I agree with you that people with a long-term commitment to the neighborhood (property owners) should not be labeled as “busybodies” simply because of their commitment. Rather, the quality (subjective) and relevancy of their comments could make them busybodies, but that applies to renters as well.

      • Rita says:

        The busybodies on neighborhood boards are that way for a reason – they are long term resident of the neighborhoods they live in; many of them for close to 30 years and they moved into the city as “Urban Pioneers” and dealt with drugs and whores to build a viable neighborhood; they have substantial investments in their homes; and they are paying, in many instances close to $10,000 a year in property taxes. You call them busybodies – I call them people who care. Most, but not all, of our young renters will be moving back to the burbs to spawn and do not care enough to get involved. Most young people don’t care about these type of issues until they have substantial financial skin in the game or have kids. There is nothing wrong with that. That being said, anyone can get involved in neighborhood organizations and many younger people and renters particularly those with an interest in architecture, urban planning and local government have over the years. Renter have a voice, they should use it instead of whining about the folks who take the time to get involved.

        • Cedar Phillips says:

          I think this is an outdated vision. Many of our local renters are from the city, or from other cities, and have no interest in moving to the ‘burbs. I also strongly disagree that it requires having kids or home ownership to feel connected to a place. (and given that housing prices are so expensive in Uptown these days, many families will likely have to remain permanent renters if they decide to stay in the neighborhood — and I think the general Twin Cities bias against renters has led many families to choose other, cheaper neighborhoods for buying because to choose to be a long-term renter still has a stigma attached to it) My problem is not with “busybodies,” but rather the busybodies who forget that the Uptown area is diverse, has residents with many different interests and needs, and that it’s important for boards to realize that their boards don’t fully represent that diversity. And while it’s nice to say “just get involved if you want to have a voice,” for some people it’s simply not feasible to make it to board meetings. Online media is a huge benefit to local community organizing for that very reason; things like Facebook pages, or this site, make it possible for people to learn about what’s going on and to interact, even if job or family obligations make it difficult to take on the responsibility of board membership.

          For what it’s worth, I think only a very few residents of Uptown can ever be considered urban pioneers. Most of Uptown was never that bad. That is, however, probably a different topic. The neighborhood has certainly changed over the years, though, and I do think that it’s beneficial for newer or younger residents to understand the past context to better understand where old-timers are coming from.

    • uptownpatty says:

      And don’t even get me started on the politics of liquor in Uptown. Good Lord, it’s worse than the suburbs!

  2. Anon says:

    It’s as if the developer hasn’t listened to any of the input he’s gotten, or is just utterly clueless about building in an urban neighborhood. Why is so much of the lot still dedicated to surface parking? Why are there mixed-used and additional stories on top? I sometimes wonder if the developer wants this project to fail.

  3. pbg says:

    [I suspect the renters who make up a majority of residents in LHE and Whitter would have many fewer complaints about this project that the busybodies on local boards.]

    Um, no. As a renter (6 years) and future homeowner in LHE, I’ll be contacting Councilmember Tuthill and urging her to oppose this project. Terrible idea that would destroy a block of local businesses, turn that already tough intersection even less pedestrian-friendly, and strain the businesses at Wedge, Kowalski’s, etc. Not to mention the hideous suburban eyesore that the plan shows.

    • Cedar Phillips says:

      I believe it is the liquor store requirements that have led them to choose this particular block. While you’re contacting Tuthill, I’d suggest that you encourage her to push for changes on that front. As long as those outdated laws exist, companies are going to zero in on a very limited number of locations, whether or not they are the right location on any other count.

      As far as competition goes, I don’t think it’s the city’s role to protect the Wedge or Kowalski’s. And given that Trader Joe’s serves an entirely different (although sometimes overlapping) demographic — including those who can’t afford to shop at the expensive places — I don’t think they are really direct competition to begin with.

      I think Trader Joe’s is a good fit for the neighborhood, although I do think it’s unfortunate that we’re losing some nice buildings. I don’t like the design (although really, is it any worse than the Wedge’s design, yet people rarely complain about the auto-centric, “suburban” design of that business?), but it wouldn’t be so bad if it was infill on a surface parking lot. To see it replace existing older buildings is sad.

  4. Kevin says:

    ***It’s as if the developer hasn’t listened to any of the input he’s gotten, or is just utterly clueless about building in an urban neighborhood. Why is so much of the lot still dedicated to surface parking? Why are there mixed-used and additional stories on top? I sometimes wonder if the developer wants this project to fail.***

    All of this design is per the input from the board. There are no additional stories on top because of the directive from the board. There are already so many mixed use buildings in the area with additional proposals in place, adding more would just saturate the area with unnecessary units.

    • Anon says:

      Saturate with unnecessary units??? The most likely mixed-use design would put apartments on top. The vacancy rate in uptown for apartments is among the lowest in the city, which is itself at its lowest level in a very, very long time. The vacancy rate in uptown was below 1% less than a year ago and rents are continuing to go up in the area, even with the new units that have been built coming online. Not sure what market you see getting saturated. A couple stories of market-rate apartments would lease pretty easily.

      And it was my understanding that there were a number of people asking for some residential on top when they presented this to LHENA in the past.

      Whether you think there are “so many mixed use buildings” in the area depends whether you’re comparing the area to Seattle, Toronto, Chicago, or to Bloomington and Eden Prairie. It seems the developer is of the latter view — a view most feel is inappropriate for uptown. Such suburban-style thinking is what threatens Minneapolis of being passed by many of its peer cities in the near future.

  5. TerriS says:

    A large part of what makes Uptown distinctive and desirable are the older buildings filled with independent business. Trader Joe’s would destroy some great buildings and it’s just not that special. Concerns about traffic are valid, too. The Wedge is a great co-op, but the traffic there is a pain. Adding a TJ’s would make driving or biking on Lyndale a nightmare.

    • Luis says:

      Bikers? Anyone who has driven in uptown will tell you that bikers are one of the biggest problems with the neighborhood – none of them follow traffic laws and create quite stressful road conditions.

      • Anders says:

        Really? I always find drivers rolling through stop signs, stopping in crosswalks, and pulling crazy left turns off Hennepin/Lyndale into the path of pedestrians to be a lot more stressful (and dangerous).

      • Cedar says:

        I’ve seen some bikers doing crazy things, but they are outnumbered by the dangerous drivers. As a pedestrian, I definitely consider cars to be one of the biggest problems in the neighborhood. I regularly see drivers going the wrong way, going through stop signs and lights, and — most common — turning on pedestrians who have the right of way. I feel that it’s become far more dangerous in recent years. We’re regulars at the Walker Library, and that intersection in particular terrifies me; I don’t think I should have to dodge turning cars simply to bring my son to story time. Dangerous, fast-moving traffic and unsafe intersections are what I consider the number one issue facing Uptown these days, and it’s certainly a major livability issue to be addressed.

      • Anon says:

        People who ride their bikes on the sidewalks are one of my biggest pet peeves, but that issue wouldn’t even exist if the drivers weren’t making the roads so bad for the bikers (and pedestrians!) in the process.

        Too many driver’s not knowing what they’re doing, driving too aggressively, not respecting pedestrians and others, or all of the above dominate the uptown roads. Few things could make me happier than running a streetcar down Hennepin and making the traffic single lane in each direction.

        You shouldn’t be driving in uptown in the first place to begin with. It’s one of the most walkable neighborhoods and has some of the best transit in the city.

  6. Cedar Phillips says:

    I believe homeowners should certainly have their voices heard (and being active and vocal, whether owner or renter, does not in itself make that person a “busybody”), but so, too, should renters. Being a renter does not in itself suggest that someone is not committed to the neighborhood — in the short OR the long-term. One of my big pet peeves is the frequent anti-renter bias we hear in this city. Not everyone has the means or the interest in owning property, but that doesn’t make the neighborhood any less “theirs”, or mean that they will inherently be less invested in its future. And while understandable we focus on the long-term issues, the ongoing needs of even the most transitional of short-term renters should be addressed, too. Part of what gives Uptown its character is that healthy blend of both old-timers and newcomers, and it’s in the interest of everyone if we keep Uptown’s many different constituents in mind as we debate the future.

    • Rita says:

      I am in violent agreement with you, renters voices should be heard – but they have to join the conversation in the first place and show an interest in the neighborhood’s future. Also, you cannot assume that all renters or transients have the same interests just like not all homeowners have the same interests.

  7. LAK says:

    As a homeowner who is merely a stones throw away from the proposed sight, I already avoid that intersection like the plague. There are already more cars going the wrong way on 28th due to the Subway that I can only imagine what would happen with Trader Joe’s going in on 27th and Lyndale. Although I am not completely opposed to them moving into the neighborhood, as I do shop there quite a bit (among the Wedge and Whole Foods as well), there would have to be some major considerations for traffic & building design. I understand we would lose some great buildings and spaces, but I don’t see how we can avoid the big box stores coming to our neighborhood. Just look at Lake & Hennepin. Progress can be successful if done purposefully and thoughtfully.

  8. Nathaniel says:

    I really appreciate the conversation here. I may be a little late to the conversation, but I thought I’d share: “What Minneapolis Planners should have said to Trader Joe”

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