A First Step To Reopening Nicollet Avenue?

City report outlines redevelopment plan for Kmart site.

A First Step To Reopening Nicollet Avenue?
City of Minneapolis leaders have long sought to reopen Nicollet Avenue at the intersection of Lake Street in south Minneapolis, where a Kmart store has stood since 1977.
Planning gurus have long lamented the decision to close Nicollet Avenue there in favor of a big box retail store. But over the years there’s been little progress.
That’s why when a 19-page city report outlining the Lake and Nicollet Redevelopment Plan surfaced late last week, it appeared to be the most concrete signal of potential changes to the property in years. The plan is up for discussion on Thursday before the Committee of the Whole of the Minneapolis City Planning Commission.
The plan includes other nearby sites beyond the Kmart block and envisions future plans that could include mixed-use and high-density residential in the area. But the plan that’s up for discussion is an early step. At this point there is no budget or timetable for the redevelopment project.
“It’s not a project until you have site control,” David Frank, director of transit development for the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department, told Twin Cities Business. “It’s just talk until then.”
The biggest unanswered question is how much an ambitious redevelopment of the site would cost. “It will cost money,” Frank said. “But those costs are as yet unknown.”
Frank says that the current plan and discussion is simply a “process step” to position the city for future redevelopment on the site. Frank said that the plan doesn’t mean that the city is looking to acquire the site through eminent domain at this time. But the plan is meant to lay the groundwork for the city’s legal authority to acquire properties in the area from willing sellers.
The real estate under the Kmart site is complicated. The site includes two different property owners and two different tenants. The total site is about 10 acres but includes two different property parcels –10 Lake Street W. and 30 Lake Street W. A grocery store operates next to the Kmart and much of the site is dominated by a large surface parking lot.
“It is obviously our continued desire and intent to reopen Nicollet,” Frank said. “We believe we are making some progress.”
But Frank emphasizes that the city does not have any deals in place with any property owners or private developers who may partner with the city on such an effort.
Kmart is part of the Sears Holdings Corporation, based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Howard Riefs, a spokesman for Sears Holdings, emailed the following statement on the latest planning efforts by the city of Minneapolis: “While Kmart has been and continues to be committed to an open and fair dialogue with the City on this matter, we did not receive notification of the proposed redevelopment plan until last Friday, Feb. 28, when it was released to the public. We will review the proposal and provide further comment in due course.”
Frank said that the city continues to talk with Sears Holdings and said that the city and the retailer could be “project partners” in a potential redevelopment.
The Committee of the Whole of the Minneapolis City Planning Commission does not take any votes, but it’s often the first venue at City Hall for an informal public discussion about development projects. Under the schedule outlined the city’s report, the Lake and Nicollet Redevelopment Plan could be before the Minneapolis City Council for approval in late April.
Kate Brickman, spokeswoman for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, said: “The mayor has been supportive for years of opening up Nicollet. She’s pleased that this seems like a starting point. While there is still a lot of mechanics to sort out, she’s supportive of moving discussions forward.” 
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