A three-pronged plan to attract new, larger stores, upgrade stormwater treatment and redesign the parking lot at the 57-year-old Knollwood Mall is under review by St. Louis Park officials.
Rouse Properties, which owns and operates the mall along with 30 others across 19 states, has submitted an application to St. Louis Park that would bring another round of redevelopment to the mall.
At the proposal’s core is a plan to demolish the remaining interior of the mall between TJ Maxx/Homegoods and Kohl’s. The 15 remaining stores inside the mall would be replaced with “approximately five ‘Junior Box’ retailers about the size of stores like Old Navy,” according to a report submitted to the City Council in June.
In addition, a smaller, three-tenant building would be built at the corner of Aquila Avenue and Hwy. 7 as part of a parking-lot redesign. This building would relocate the Panera Bread store from inside the mall and expand it, with an outdoor patio and drive-through, in addition to housing two other as-yet-to-be-determined businesses.
The parking lot redesign would improve the notoriously tangled traffic flow, make it more pedestrian-friendly, and add green space through additional landscaping.
The plan — subject to change as it works its way through the city approval process — would unify the mall’s disjointed layout, but put an end to the traditional closed-air setup that began in 1980, when extensive remodeling turned most storefronts inward. The mall’s name was changed from Knollwood Plaza to Knollwood Mall as a result of the 1980 remodeling. Rouse Properties declined to comment except for a statement read over the phone by an employee of Integrated Corporate Relations, a public relations firm it employs.
“Rouse Properties is always exploring opportunities to improve each of its assets, but at this time is not in position to announce anything specific regarding Knollwood Mall,” said Hayley Cook, an account executive at ICR.
The redevelopment has been rumored since General Growth Properties, a Chicago-based mall operator and Knollwood’s former owner, created Rouse Properties as a spinoff company overseeing 31 malls in early 2012.
Kevin Locke, St. Louis Park’s community development director, wrote in an e-mail that Rouse’s proposal is tentatively scheduled to be reviewed at the Aug. 7 Planning Commission meeting, but his staff is still reviewing it for completeness. After Planning Commission approval, the proposal would go to the City Council for final approval, and construction would begin shortly thereafter.
Currently, Knollwood Mall is not in compliance with existing stormwater management rules.
When the mall was last remodeled in 2004, a resolution was passed stating, “On-site stormwater management must be brought into compliance with city standards when any future projects affect the parking lot or with any future building expansions.”
As the redevelopment plans have been drawn up, concurrent negotiations have been underway among Rouse, St. Louis Park, and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to develop a stormwater treatment plan for the 36- acre tract of land the mall occupies.
Rouse has submitted a plan that only covers its own land, but the possibility of a partnership among the three entities that could double or triple the amount of land covered by stormwater upgrades remains.
Locke wrote in an e-mail that the city remains open to a partnership, but no agreement is in place.
James Wisker, director of planning projects and land conservation for the Watershed District, has been handling the Knollwood project; however, he was on vacation and unavailable for comment at West Extra press time.