Shakopee, Jordan push for new energy downtown

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 8, 2013 - 2:20 PM

But neither city’s redevelopment plans is without critics, and any progress is likely to be gradual.


The Excelsior & Grand development in St. Louis Park is a model for what leaders such as Mayor Brad Tabke would like to accomplish in Shakopee.

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Two Scott County communities that have long struggled to revive historic downtowns are seeing a new surge of energy this fall.

Jordan has approved a new master vision for a downtown built around historic buildings — a vision that includes sidewalk cafes, creekside walks and a new central gathering spot for farmers markets and other events.

Meanwhile, Shakopee is embarking on a major new planning push under the guidance of a mayor who is invoking images of stylish new developments like those in St. Louis Park, mixing multi-story condos and apartments with stores such as Trader Joe’s.

Neither city’s path to change is likely to be smooth, however.

In Shakopee, Mayor Brad Tabke’s hopes for the major traffic corridor just outside the historic core of downtown will face an early test in the November elections, as he faces a veteran council member who has long been a skeptic on ambitious plans to remake the city.

“There are things there already,” Matt Lehman said of the heavily trafficked 101 corridor. “I’m not sure how you’re going to take existing property currently being used — apartments, businesses operating just fine, healthy, not receiving any government assistance — I guess I don’t know why you want to take that off the tax rolls.”

And in Jordan, an online poll conducted by the local weekly paper quickly produced a highly polarized result, with strong factions leaping to both extremes when it came to creating a major new public gathering spot in the heart of a sprawling downtown.

“There’s always been a huge dichotomy in town between ‘do nothing’ and ‘let’s do something,’ ” said Charles Wood Jr., whose father, Charles Sr., a noted landscape architect, recently passed away after decades of passionate activism in rural Scott County around just such planning issues.

“My dad was action-oriented,” said the son. “He wanted to try and shape it. Just letting it be is not urban planning. He expressed a lot of frustration with that. But he also knew it was a process.”

Paradoxically, he added, he believes his father would approve of both concepts being pursued in Jordan and Shakopee: Jordan’s burnishing of historic character, and Shakopee’s interest in a higher density future that brings more animation to the scene.

“He was OK with 10-story buildings in Scott County, feeling that it brought more people in and helped businesses and, by injecting life, made it safer for everyone. The thing he hated was big-box and sprawl.”

Starting the process

Shakopee’s council recently approved the launch of a land use and marketing study for the Hwy. 101 corridor, and on Thursday the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Shakopee Chamber & Visitors Bureau are inviting business folks and property owners to a meeting to discuss upcoming plans.

The session, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Turtles Bar and Grill, 132 1st Av. E., is to be devoted not only to the study itself but to the possibility of working with a program called Minnesota Main Street, a unit of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. It’s an organization that brings what it calls “a proven methodology used by over 1,200 communities across the country” that sought to jump-start ailing downtowns.

Jordan is thinking of getting involved with that same program, said Corrin Wendell, senior planner with the city.

Both cities have fought for many years over languishing downtowns and both are now eyeing catalytic possibilities, each of them thinking in part at least of Shakopee’s recent success in attracting new employers and jobs.

“We’ve received calls from people who have gained employment in Shakopee,” Wendell said, “so yes, we expect some spinoff effects for us.”

In smaller ways, Jordan too can boast of progress on some things it has long sought. There’s a new library. There’s a pharmacy after many years without one. And the old Jordan brewery, a key landmark, is being revived.

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