Demolition begins next week to clear space for northeast Minneapolis face-lift

by Mike Oakes

Demolition of three city blocks in northeast Minneapolis is scheduled to begin next week, marking the start of an $87 million redevelopment task called the St. Anthony East Bank Village Project.
The project, headed by Minneapolis-based HuntGregory, will redevelop the old Lupient property and surrounding areas between Second Avenue, University Avenue, East Hennepin Avenue and First Avenue, and Main Street in northeast Minneapolis. The area is adjacent to the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and Nicollet Island.
The new development will feature 45,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, 30 affordable housing units, 144 townhouse and condominium units with tuck-under parking and a 215-space parking structure.
One block included in the redevelopment houses the historic Firebarn and Annex, which will be used after the redevelopment for commercial space.
Rob Wheaton, a developer for HuntGregory, said he expects the project to take more than three years to complete.
The project will be financed in part by loans secured by HuntGregory, grants from state agencies and a finance program through the Minnesota Community Development Agency.
“This is the project the neighborhood has been waiting for,” Wheaton said. “We couldn’t ask for more support from the neighborhood and communities.”
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who is also a Nicollet Island resident, said she is pleased with new development in northeast, but she worries that not enough affordable housing will be built.
The townhomes and condos that will be developed on two of the blocks will sell for $300,000 to $900,000.
Kahn also said many community members would like to see a food and wine market added to the redevelopment plans.
“Residents complain about not having a good grocery store,” she said. “We’re distressed with the choices right now.”
But Kahn said the redevelopment will ultimately be good for the area because it will continue the trend toward making urban living more attractive.
She said nearby river property has seen an influx of empty nesters from the Calhoun and Lake of the Isles areas, older people from the suburbs and new corporate executives from throughout the metro area.
Kahn added that safety will be less of an issue after the redevelopment.
“As soon as you get more people around all the time, one of the things that automatically happens is it becomes a safer neighborhood,” she said.
Neighborhood associations involved in the redevelopment include Marcy-Holmes, Old St. Anthony and the Nicollet Island community area.
Steve Swanson, a Marcy-Holmes representative, said more people will be attracted to the area because of convenience.
“The roads and the freeways are clogged up,” he said, “and if people can have a nice place to live downtown, why not?”
Kahn said she is happy with the progress northeast Minneapolis has made in the past 20 years as far as improving its aesthetic quality.
“I think that all of the renewal that’s gone on on East Hennepin is really good for the area,” Kahn said. “It’s become a very vibrant and interesting neighborhood.”

Mike Oakes welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3294.