May 22, 2012 by southwestjournal
// By Drew Kerr //
The Minneapolis Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of a request to rezone the property and to approve a conditional use permit that will allow the California-based retailer to sell alcohol at the 14,000-square-foot store they hope to build at 27th Street and Lyndale Avenue.
The issues still have to be taken up by the City Council, which will consider the proposal in June, but developers took Monday night’s approval as a show of support for the project.
If the plans are approved by the City Council this summer, construction could begin as early as this fall, and the store could open by May or June 2013, said Jeff Minea, who owns part of the site where the grocery store would be built and has secured a lease with Trader Joe’s.
The project has not come without controversy, however.
A string of buildings, including two two-story, mixed use buildings, would have to be demolished in order to make way for the grocery store and the adjacent parking lot. Opponents have said Trader Joes single-story building large parking lot is inconsistent with the area. The parking lot includes 70 parking spaces, 37 of which would be built underground.
Opponents have also argued that the area is already well served by grocery stores, including The Wedge Co-Op, Lunds, Kowalskis, and Rainbow.
“To allow a suburban-style development and parking lot at this site would be a huge disservice to our neighborhood,” said William Neuman, a member of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association.
LHENA, despite five meetings with developers, voted in March not to support the project. Their opposition was affirmed by the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group.
Developers presented city officials with signatures from around 1,000 residents who support the project, however. The plan has also won support from the Lyn Lake Business Association and developers of nearby multifamily buildings who see the store as another amenity for their tenants.
A handful of residents also spoke in favor of the project during the public hearing that preceded the Planning Commission’s vote on Monday.
Mine, who is working to develop the site with Plymouth-based TOLD Development, acknowledged the project hasn’t won universal support, but said the existing buildings need to be replaced to spark new growth.
“We really didn’t want to lose the character of some of the buildings that are there, but there’s a limit to what we can do with them,” he said.
The buildings due to be demolished are now home to businesses including Art Materials, Planet Soccer, the T-Shirt Shop, and Coin Laundry.
Owners of Art Materials, which has been in the neighborhood for 56 years, have agreed to sell their property to make way for the development, and have already secured a new location they consider preferable nearby.
Minea owns the remaining buildings, and said he is working with business owners to relocate their stores.
The City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee is expected to discuss the project on June 21, meaning the City Council could take it up on June 29. A traffic study that could lead to a new traffic light at 27th and Lyndale also needs to be completed.
If approved, this would become the sixth Trader Joe’s in the metro area. Other locations include Woodbury, St. Louis Park, St. Paul, Minnetonka and Maple Grove.
Minea has declined to say how much the development will ultimately cost. But the underground parking, which was added after the initial proposal, added $1.6 million to the total cost, he said.