University video renters gave the Stadium Village Blockbuster Video two thumbs down last November – the business moved out due to low sales – but new acts will be premiering soon.
Minneapolis’ Zoning and Planning Committee passed a motion Jan. 18 allowing three new businesses to move into the vacant space. But the path to approval of Panino’s Restaurant, a Darque Tan tanning salon and a Caribou Coffee at the location wasn’t smooth.
John Trautz, a partner in Reliance Development Company, L.L.P., said Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association members expressed concern that the facilities wouldn’t be pedestrian friendly without additional parking.
The three businesses would have needed 75 parking spaces, but there are only 35 spaces and no room for more, he said.
The company applied for a parking variance, but the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee initially denied it because of the protests from the neighborhood group, Trautz said.
He said Reliance Development hired an architect and met with the neighborhood group to create a plan to make both sides happy. Reliance appealed the decision and won.
Developers will install bicycle racks, an outdoor patio for Caribou Coffee and add landscaping to make the area more attractive to walking traffic, Trautz said.
“We’re pleased and they’re pleased; it’s the best possible outcome,” said Florence Littman, the co-chairwoman of the PPERRIA zoning committee.
Littman said the building is presently an “ugly, unappealing” place for pedestrians. Sidewalks are narrow, and parked cars impede walkers, she said.
But the alterations will make the location better for students to sit outside while drinking their coffee, Littman said.
Patrick Campion, Caribou Coffee senior manager of new developments, said his company wanted to open a store in Stadium Village because of the growth on that side of campus. TCF Bank Stadium and a Central Corridor light-rail line along University Avenue will both be within walking distance.
“It’ll be a great spot,” Campion said.
He said he hopes to have the shop operating by May.
Jason Barnett, Darque Tan district manager, said he loved the location, and some of his employees suggested opening a store near campus. He said he expects to open doors between March 1 and April 1.
Physiology junior Nate Stunek said he doesn’t know if he’ll go to any of the new businesses.
Stunek lives at Dinnaken House, across Washington Avenue Southeast from Stadium Village Plaza. He misses the Blockbuster Video because he could use his membership from home there.
He said he won’t likely go to the Caribou Coffee because he “likes smaller businesses … rather than big corporations.”
Romina Sosa, a fourth-year medical student, said she would patronize the sandwich shop and Caribou, but not the tanning salon.
“Fake bake is just not my thing,” Sosa said.
She said being from the South, she would rather go to the beach for a tan.
Journalism and advertising junior Stephanie Rowcliffe said Caribou is smart for choosing the booming location.
Rowcliffe said she hopes its prices will be cheaper than some of the competition.
“A lot of people in Dinnaken will be happy because the prices can get steep (at other places),” she said.
Rowcliffe said more pedestrian traffic late at night would make her feel safer.
“It’ll make it a little more student friendly,” she said.