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This Trader Joe’s in St. Louis Park was developed by TOLD Development, which said the Minneapolis rezoning request is consistent with city policies.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Lyn-Lake area of south Minneapolis not sold on Trader Joe's

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER
  • Star Tribune
  • April 2, 2012 - 9:56 PM

Don't break out the Two Buck Chuck just yet, Minneapolis.

A Trader Joe's store proposed for the Lyn-Lake area of south Minneapolis is encountering resistance from both people in the neighborhood and City Council Member Meg Tuthill, who oppose rezoning the property.

The discount grocery chain can't sell liquor on site -- one of its requirements -- unless the council changes the commercial zoning. Tuthill's opinion could prove fatal to the project, because the City Council typically defers to the member whose ward includes the parcel where the rezoning would take place.

It would not be the first time Trader Joe's has struck out trying to open a Minneapolis location. The California-based company unsuccessfully sought a legislative exemption in 2009 to build on 22nd and Lyndale, where it was boxed out by city requirements on how close together liquor stores may be.

Developers recently told a city planning panel that Trader Joe's chose the 27th and Lyndale location after scouring the city for locations that have ample traffic, feature the right demographic and meet the general city requirements for a liquor store. Due to zoning and spacing requirements, there are few spots left to open a liquor store in south Minneapolis.

But the parcel needs to be rezoned, which has garnered some key opposition.

"I have never felt in my 40-plus years in the city of Minneapolis that it is good policy to change zoning for one business," said Tuthill, who represents the Uptown and Lyn-Lake areas.

Last month, the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association board voted against a measure to support rezoning the property. It was not technically a vote against the project, but board president Ryan Bender said they "always considered the up-zoning request to be proxy for the entire development."

Bender said he voted against it because the Trader Joe's would not add to the urban landscape, a new grocery store isn't a necessity in that neighborhood and rezoning the property clashes with the conclusions of a small area plan and a 2010 city rezoning study.

Tuthill, who also cited the rezoning study, related the project to the racy Hollywood Hustler store that recently opened on Hennepin Avenue S. Residents fiercely opposed that project, but the city did not change the zoning to block it.

"It's just not good government to pick one business over another," Tuthill said.

Council Member Gary Schiff, who chairs the council's zoning committee, said he can't remember a time when committee members voted against the local council member's wishes on a rezoning request. "We tend to say, 'You know your ward best,'" Schiff said.

Trent Mayberry with TOLD Development Co. said the proposed zoning is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan policies for the area. Without the liquor store, he said, Trader Joe's will not move forward.

"In our view, a development that creates 75-plus [full-time-equivalent] jobs and 150 [to] 200 union construction jobs, brings a highly sought retailer in Trader Joe's, and replaces vacant storefronts should be something that has a realistic chance of approval and is worth pursuing for the residents and City of Minneapolis," Mayberry said in a statement.

TOLD has also developed Trader Joe's stores in St. Paul and St. Louis Park.

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

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