At this link, you can read an interesting artciel about the pros/cons of a ‘downtwon’ redevelopment.
I’ve highlighted some statements that I find particularly funny or emblematic.
St. Louis Park's Excelsior & Grand project a success, but still experiencing a few growing pains.
David Peterson, Star Tribune
Dusti Kugler tried the parking lot at the busy new Trader Joe's in St. Louis Park's Excelsior & Grand town center once -- and doesn't plan to try again. She couldn't even back out to escape the crowded lot. Now she parks on the street, even if it means walking a block or more with heavy groceries. "It's ridiculous," she said.
Sally Carlton manages a store down the street and says her business is on the upswing -- but she's exasperated, too. "You come here and it's like, 'Where do I park? Is it five blocks down a side street, or what?' "
The arrival this summer of the popular grocery chain at St. Louis Park's $150 million downtown is proving to be a lesson for the entire region, many agree. While the three-year-old town center is succeeding on many levels, and many cities around the metro want to emulate it, day-to-day use and the development's growing popularity are bringing some surprises and a realization that the much-lauded design still has a few bugs to work out.
"It's new to the market and has been somewhat successful," said Terry Schneider, a St. Louis Park-based development consultant. "But there will be failures along the way."
Urban, suburban expectations
Fed by millions of dollars in public subsidies to demonstrate what life could be like without all those "acres of asphalt," as Schneider puts it, Excelsior & Grand has drawn lots of awards and enthusiastic praise. But it turns out those acres of parking asphalt perform a useful function -- and the beautifully landscaped alternative brings with it some headaches of its own. For example, whole rows of street trees, meant to provided cool, shady walks, are dying. A possible cause: de-icing chemicals from the sidewalks. And the trees that are thriving are hiding merchants' signs. "I spent $15,000 on a sign, and it's covered with trees!" exclaimed Nancy Sherman, owner of the newly opened Shorty's Loft, just down from Trader Joe's.
Neighbors of the 15-acre high-density project who nervously supported it as a much-needed civic focal point, are getting jittery again as they see developers eying more and more of Excelsior Boulevard for projects that might make the area even more dense. "St. Louis Park needed this," said Tom Stutzman, a real estate broker who lives nearby. "It was just this 'burb -- and now it's a 'burb with a heart. For us, it's fabulous and we go there all the time. But now that I see five stories leading to 10 stories, in the eyes of developers anyway, I have some regrets."
Projects such as Excelsior & Grand are intended to counter the downsides of a car-centered culture. Parking ramps replace oceans of surface parking, allowing for pretty, tree-lined sidewalks. Hundreds of housing units -- an estimated 1,000 people eventually will share just a few blocks of space -- make for more compact living and Manhattan-like walks to stores instead of a dozen short trips per day by car.
"We felt that if we could get just one of these built, we could change the whole development pattern in this region," said Ted Mondale, former chairman of the Metropolitan Council.
The center has made an impression on city officials throughout the region, said Carolyn Krall of Minneapolis-based Landform Engineering, who consults with many of them. "The Champlins, the Hugos, all these guys would love to have something like that. I toured Anoka people through it, Shoreview is coming up. It's group after group after group. But it's very challenging to make it work."
The project's developers, TOLD Development Co., agree. "It's 'urban density meets suburban expectations,' " said Gary Wilson, the company's asset manager.
'Everything's right here'
Industry observers say the clearest point of success has been the residential portion. Wilson and his colleagues at TOLD describe that side of the project as "stellar," with no vacancies among 337 apartments and all but 12 of the 210 completed condos sold, with more being built. Geri Schiavino moved into her new condo in May. "I totally don't use the car half of what I used to," she said. "I take the bus, and when friends come over, we walk to coffee shops or dinner. Everything's right here."
Still, two major commercial tenants, a restaurant and drug store, have vanished, though developers say that had little to do with the type of project it is. Both were quickly replaced.
TOLD and outside observers agree the key test for the retail and restaurants will arrive in a couple of years, when the first wave of leases comes up for renewal. For the moment most residential and commercial tenants seem happy, though they are concerned about how parking will work in the long run.
Some merchants think the answer to the parking problems will have to be the purchase of nearby space for parking lots. Others say there's plenty in ramps, and it's more about training customers that they're there and they're free. Schneider, the development consultant, is also a Minnetonka City Council member. He said the pioneering project and St. Louis Park's effort to make it a reality are to be admired.
"Maybe it isn't 100 percent successful, but neither is Southdale. And when you look at what it is compared to what it was 10 or 15 years ago ... the difference is huge. The city took big risks and has achieved major goals."