Local shopping center to be torn down and replaced

The new retail center will include a Lunds grocery store.

Jared Roddy

Higher-end retail could change the landscape of an area in Minneapolis.

The Eastgate Shopping Center on the corner of University Avenue Southeast and Central Avenue Southeast will be destroyed in the next few months to make room for a two-building, multiuse facility that will include a Lunds grocery store, according to plans provided by Exeter Realty, a company involved in the project.

The new buildings will be in an “L” shape, and one will probably be nine stories tall, while the other will probably be six. The street level will have a grocery store and a pharmacy, among other retail stores. There will be hidden parking behind the buildings and on the second floor. The upper floors will house condominiums, according to the plans.

The new buildings will have 18-foot-wide sidewalks and spaces for public art, said P. Victor Grambsch, who heads the Eastgate Task Force.

Hillcrest Development took over the property in January 2002. After trying to repopulate and renovate the buildings after years of deferred maintenance, they teamed with Exeter Realty to rebuild the whole block, Grambsch said.

The taskforce asked all local neighborhood associations to give the firms input, Grambsch said.

Ted Tucker, a Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association official, said “a first-class grocery store” was perhaps the biggest advantage of the plan.

Lund Food Holdings, Inc. – or Lunds – currently owns Rick’s Market, and when the new space is ready, Rick’s Market will close and Lunds will open in an 18,000- to 25,000-square foot space, Grambsch said.

Tucker said, “For a long time, we’ve been looking for a major grocery store in the

East Hennepin area,” “Now it’s coming, and we also have a chance to redevelop Eastgate, which has been sadly neglected.”

Tucker said he expected many people, including him, would start using the nearby grocery store to alleviate driving.

Grambsch said the typical suburban model for grocery stores wouldn’t work in Minneapolis.

“We have been encouraging Lunds to develop a more urban model, a big parking lot in front just doesn’t work in the city,” Grambsch said. “One reason is the land is too valuable.”

The project is privately funded, and though Exeter Realty has been “receptive” and “great to work with,” Grambsch said, the company has no obligation to follow neighborhood suggestions.

The current Eastgate Shopping Center consists of 1950s- era store fronts and buildings, and the Delmac building, part of the old East High School that closed in the late 1930s, Grambsch said.

“I’m surprised the health department didn’t close them down,” he said.

The plans have been endorsed by all of the neighborhood associations, and the only object of contention has been the design Exeter Realty has selected, he said.

Grambsch said many people were concerned about the look of the building.

“A lot of people want to ‘maintain the historical character’ of the neighborhood,” Grambsch said.

He said the area really didn’t have much of a historical look, and a modern building would be very beneficial.

“It’s not going to be a glass block,” he said.

Exeter Realty wants to begin destruction of the Delmac building by March 2005, according to its plans.

The hope is to keep Rick’s Market open throughout the construction, because it is the only market available to pedestrians in the area. The whole complex could be finished by the end of 2007, according to Exeter Realty’s plans.