Chain restaurants in Stadium Village on the rise

Three new businesses have appeared in Stadium Village over the summer

A pedestrian walks past empty retail space underneath WaHu Student Apartments in Stadium Village on Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016.

Carter Jones

A pedestrian walks past empty retail space underneath WaHu Student Apartments in Stadium Village on Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016.

by Tiffany Lukk

Businesses in the University of Minnesota’s Stadium Village neighborhood have faced extreme turnover in recent years.

The area’s mainstay restaurants have given way to new chain locations and luxury apartments, which — along with the additions of TCF Bank Stadium and the Green Line train — have drastically changed the neighborhood’s composition.

Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon said he has mixed feelings on the area’s rapid new development, lamenting closures of independent shops like Bun Mi, Big 10, Espresso Expose and Abdul’s Afandy. Their departure marks the end of most of the neighborhood’s independent business.

“It’s heartbreaking to see these businesses close,” Gordon said.

Stadium Village rental prices are similar to those downtown, said Chris Ferguson, Stadium Village Commercial Association representative and owner of the local Dairy Queen. He said this means new developments have challenges ahead.

“You might see people come into the area,” Ferguson said. “If the market supports it, it’ll stay but maybe not for the long term.”

Gordon said the changes echo what he saw happening to Dinkytown in years past.

“What happened with Stadium Village could happen with other neighborhoods,” he said.

Blaze Pizza and Sprout Salad Company were the first businesses to move in below WaHu Apartments, which still has open commercial spaces standing idle.

For Sprout, the Stadium Village location, which opened in August, is a chance to try out new business ideas like staying open seven days per week and offering breakfast, said general manager Tim Collins.

In July, Middle Eastern chain Naf Naf Grill opened a location in the space left behind when Dino’s Gyros closed this spring.

Naf Naf manager Roger Santillan said it brought jobs to the area, and the coming construction of a new luxury apartment down the street will bring the store more traffic.

Managers of various chain restaurants in Stadium Village said they’re expecting business to pick up with the return of students as the fall semester starts.

Blaze Pizza general manager John Shelley said he likes the location because it’s so close to campus, where there is a sense of community his former location in St. Louis Park lacked.