A grocery store and apartment development proposed for the intersection of Snelling and Selby Avenues in St. Paul will try to build upon what is already one of the capital city's more eclectic commercial areas.
Minneapolis developer Ryan Cos. is proposing a 39,000-square-foot grocery store at the intersection's northeast corner, with about 208 apartments stretching along Selby and Dayton Avenues, now home to a dated bank building and surface parking.
Some compare the evolution of the Union Park hot spot to the rise of the Grand Avenue retail strip 30 years ago. But many neighbors say the mix of vintage clothing stores, cafes, coffee shops, a workout studio, and O'Gara's bar — a St. Paul institution — has a far funkier feel.
"This neighborhood is a little pocket so unique it would have been successful without the development, but [the project] will fit in really nicely," said Tony Barranco, vice president of development for Ryan.
Ryan is working with a specific grocery store as an anchor but won't reveal its name until a lease is signed. The firm is currently building another residential complex anchored by a Whole Foods store on Hennepin Avenue S. in downtown Minneapolis. Whole Foods, a fast-growing Texas-based upscale grocer, could not be reached on Wednesday.
An older Whole Foods store is about a mile from the St. Paul project, at Grand and Fairview Avenues. In addition, the area is home to a Kowalski's store on Grand Avenue, as well as Cub Foods and Rainbow Foods stores in the Midway area.
The old Associated Bank branch will be torn down in the project's first phase, and a new outlet erected about a block north, off Snelling. Ground will be broken for the two-story 13,000-square-foot bank building this winter, with completion expected by next summer. The bank will feature up to five drive-through windows and about 50 parking spaces.
The bank is actually a catalyst in the project. When Green Bay, Wis.-based Associated bought the former Liberty Bank branch, it also purchased the surrounding land that is now being developed by Ryan. Several suitors reportedly pitched development ideas for the spot, with Ryan winning out last fall.
Ryan said part of the site's allure, beyond the funky neighborhood, is the proximity of at least seven "good-sized" colleges and universities, including Hamline University, Concordia College, Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas. In addition, the site is not far from the N. Snelling Avenue light-rail stop, and buses stop frequently in the area.
As currently proposed, the grocery and residential portion of the project will reach four and five stories high, taller than the current commercial stock. But Barranco said the design of the building will feature masonry similar to neighboring buildings.
The residential part of the project will include studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units, a courtyard with a pool, as well as four townhouses facing Selby Avenue.
At a Union Park District Council meeting Tuesday, neighbors expressed concern about parking with so many more residents and shoppers expected in the neighborhood. The current Associated Bank lot is often used now by customers frequenting local businesses, and once that lot is developed a convenient source of parking will go away.
Ryan has proposed about 270 parking spaces for residents at the complex and roughly 170 spots for grocery store customers. Barranco acknowledged that neighbors and local businesses have asked Ryan to explore whether there's room for a community parking lot, an idea the firm is discussing with the city. A current mock-up shows a community lot next to the new bank branch along Dayton Avenue, but it's still too early to determine whether that will become a reality.
Otherwise, Barranco said, the "neighborhood has been great. There's lots of excitement and curiosity about the project. The feedback has been incredibly positive."