After sitting empty for 18 months, the site of the shuttered Pier One Imports store on St. Paul's popular Grand Avenue will become the new headquarters of Coulee Bank and a Sweetgreen restaurant.

The new location at 733 Grand Av. will give Coulee Bank, which is now across the street, more space, plus room for a parking lot and a drive-through for the first time. Coulee will occupy about 60% of the space. The bank is expected to open in December.

Sweetgreen, which is based in Chicago and just finalized its Grand Avenue lease this week, is expected to open sometime after.

Ron Smith, a St. Paul lawyer who has owned the building for 30 years, said finding tenants to replace Pier One took longer than he anticipated, but said the bank and restaurant will maintain the feel of one of St. Paul's busiest retail nodes.

A block away at the Dixie's on Grand and Saji-Ya restaurants, a proposal to replace that site with a five-story apartment building with restaurants received the green light last month from the St. Paul City Council, despite some neighborhood opposition. That project will be developed by St. Louis Park-based Reuter Walton , with construction expected to begin next year.

Simon Taghioff, zoning and land use chair of the Summit Hill Association, said the neighborhood council reviewed plans for the Pier One site multiple times in the past two years. Neighbors supported giving Coulee Bank a more visible street presence and welcomed its drive through, he said.

"We want this site to be back in use and we love that Coulee, which is a local business, anchors them in the neighborhood," Taghioff said. "This means more people in the neighborhood and it is great for Grand Avenue."

HTG Architects and Tom Greeninger's TMG Construction firm have already started to convert the 4,000-square-foot space for the new tenants, the leasing firm Cushman & Wakefield said.

William Melin, the leasing agent with Cushman & Wakefield, praised Smith, saying he was diligent in making sure that "we have the right fit for Grand Avenue."

Pier One announced in January 2020 that it was closing most of its 12 Twin Cities stores. The Grand Avenue store closed that spring after 30 years in business.