Izzy's, housing developer at odds over downtown Mpls. site

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 5, 2012 - 7:45 PM

A proposed ice cream factory is targeted at a site in downtown Minneapolis that was also coveted by a housing developer, leaving the city to settle the clash.

A new ice cream factory planned for the downtown Minneapolis riverfront looks sweet to city boosters, but it is making one local developer sick.

Shamrock Development of Coon Rapids said it can't build its planned 12-story, 150-unit apartment building across from Gold Medal Park if the city follows through on the sale of an adjacent lot to Izzy's Ice Cream. Shamrock Development believes noise and trucks from the factory would make the new apartments "no longer a viable project."

Minneapolis has placed a premium on expanding housing downtown, but the fracas shows the tightrope city officials must walk to simultaneously expand jobs and housing in the city's core.

"The plans for Park Vista depend on the property not being used industrially," Shamrock attorney James Susag wrote to the mayor and City Council members last week, noting that the company has already invested $4 million in their apartment project.

City development officials contend that the two proposals can co-exist on the same block, adding that Shamrock also underbid for the disputed property more than a year ago.

"We think there's a vitality that comes in a downtown location from having a variety of different kinds of uses that ... just make it a vibrant place throughout the day and evening," said Cathy Polasky, the city's economic development director.

A City Council committee will vote on the land sale later this month. Polasky expects the city's development office will push for it to go to Izzy's.

Izzy's currently runs its entire operation out of St. Paul, where they produce about 200 gallons of ice cream a day. The St. Paul establishment has become a favorite among locals particularly for its salted caramel ice cream, which is one of 31 flavors offered at any given time. They also feature a distinctive small scoop on top of every cone, called an "Izzy."

Owner Jeff Sommers said they want to expand their business by relocating the factory in Minneapolis, where they will also sell prepackaged items.

"If there's a way to do the work to earn the support of anybody that's opposed, I'll do the work," Sommers said. "It's a dream, so we really want to pursue it."

Sommers said only one semitrailer truck would arrive at the site each week, in addition to quarterly shipments of various ingredients. A van making deliveries will also come back and forth several times each day.

To ensure it fits into the neighborhood, Izzy's has hired a prominent local architect, David Salmela, to design the space.

"It's industrial, but it's a one-story building that makes ice cream," said Council Member Gary Schiff, chairman of the zoning and planning committee. "We're not talking a foundry here."

The city issued a request for proposals to develop the land in September 2010, asking for $437,000. Shamrock offered $350,000, which a city official responded would amount to a "public subsidy."

By the time Shamrock made a new offer of $450,000 in November 2011, the city had already been in talks for several months with Izzy's. Izzy's has offered $437,000 for the property.

Shamrock claims that a sale to Izzy's would be "arbitrary and capricious." Polasky maintains that the city "conducted a very fair process."

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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