Shakopee appears ready to put the brakes on the number of businesses that sell and service used cars on its Hwy. 101/County Road 69 corridor, a prime pathway into the city’s downtown.
The Planning Commission last month unanimously approved a change in the city code that would allow used-car businesses in the highway zone only if they also sold new vehicles. The change wouldn’t affect existing used-car operations but would apply to any that might want to locate in the area in the future. Existing used-car businesses that wanted to expand also could be affected.
The City Council was scheduled to consider the measure on Tuesday, after the print version of this article went to press.
Shakopee currently has 15 vehicle sales businesses in its highway business zone, according to a city staff report on the possible code change. Twelve are near downtown, and only one — Shakopee Chevrolet — sells new vehicles. Like other new-car dealers, it has undergone a renovation in recent years — part of a trend by automakers across the country to buff up and provide distinctive identities for manufacturers’ brands.
The remaining vehicle sales and services in Shakopee’s highway zone, mostly on 1st Avenue E., are a collection of older, squat buildings. In many cases, they’re dominated by asphalt parking lots that run straight up to the curb.
City and business community leaders say they’re not against the used-car businesses, but believe their overwhelming presence on that particular stretch of road is at odds with the city’s long-term vision for the corridor. “We want to make it a destination area that’s walkable, where people could go to a variety of businesses,” said Samantha DiMaggio, economic development coordinator. “When you go to a used-car lot, you’re not going to stop there and then go to a neighboring business.”
“We have a beautiful, historic downtown,” said Angie Whitcomb, president of the Shakopee Chamber & Visitors Bureau. “People come in to drop their kids off at Valleyfair, and then they leave. I would love for them to discover our downtown, to drive down and park their cars and spend the afternoon walking around shopping and eating and enjoying our parks and trails.”
But DiMaggio and Whitcomb said that the large presence of used-car businesses on the corridor has discouraged restaurants and shops from locating there.
“We’ve heard from brokers and developers that they don’t have business tenants interested in taking a chance in those buildings [in the highway corridor] when they don’t know who their neighbor is going to be,” DiMaggio said. “They don’t want to make a huge investment in a property and then have a used-car lot move next door. They want to be next to businesses that create more foot traffic.”
The feedback was part of the research done for the city by a consultant it hired last year to review land use in the downtown and 101/69 districts. The study, funded jointly by the city and the Scott County Community Development Agency, came about because the city wanted to know how the business profile of those areas might change after the project to reconstruct and expand the 101 bridge is completed.
“We wanted to know what the impacts of that project are and try and identify the opportunities for doing things that will be beneficial to the 101 corridor,” said Michael Leek, community development director.
Leek said the city has not received any feedback about the proposed code changes from the used-car businesses. He believes that’s probably because they would be allowed to continue to operate on their existing sites. Under the new rules, the city would consider expansions of those businesses on a case-by-case basis, Leek said.