Minneapolis may get one more drive-through — at a Starbucks coffee shop — despite city leaders taking a stand against them last year in the name of pedestrian safety and cutting pollution.
The new drive-through would come with the redevelopment of a self-serve car wash at 4159 Hiawatha Av.
The City Council approved a plan, with some conditions, in late 2019 for a restaurant and Starbucks at the site. It was acting on an application submitted this summer, just days before the city enacted a ban on new drive-through windows.
Nick Boosalis, who has owned the car wash on the site since 1985, has not submitted a building permit yet. He did not say Tuesday if or when the buildings would break ground.
Boosalis said the Starbucks would attract fewer vehicles than his car wash does and the drive-through would provide enough space so cars would not need to line up outside of the property.
Council Member Andrew Johnson, who represents the area and voted against the project, said the city has worked over the past year to make streets safer, including by enacting the drive-through ban.
Other coffee shops with drive-throughs have had issues, he said. Cars block the roadway outside a Starbucks on Cedar Avenue and 47th Street.
At another location by Snelling and Marshall avenues in St. Paul, police officers direct traffic that spills onto the streets.
“No matter how much this applicant or developer believes that they’re not going to have a negative impact on traffic, we just can’t take their word for it,” Johnson said.
“We need to … be working proactively to make sure there’s not a negative impact and that we can hold them accountable if there is.”
The city’s planning commission initially rejected the project, citing traffic concerns for drivers trying to access the property and the surrounding neighborhood.
Boosalis then appealed the decision to the council, which approved the plan with conditions: no left turns into the property’s only entrance from 42nd Street (to avoid backups onto Hiawatha Avenue) and a requirement that the developer prepare a plan to control traffic on the site.
Some council members felt their hands were tied, despite concerns about the possibility of traffic backups.
The city approved a similar development with apartments at the site in 2018 without banning left turns, but Boosalis dropped it.
Council Member Lisa Goodman, who voted against the most recent project, said she was against new drive-throughs but worried the city could potentially be sued if it set any restrictions on the development.
“It feels like we’re piling on and becoming more punitive,” she said about requiring a plan for traffic control.
Boosalis says he is still planning to add apartments above the buildings in the future. Representatives for Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The city slowly limited where drive-throughs could be built before banning new ones entirely last year.
For years, council members had said cars idling in line were contributing to noise and air pollution and dangerous for pedestrians.
Boosalis said he did not take the ban into consideration. “We submitted our plan independent of the timeline for the ban,” he said.
Another franchise, Burger King, attempted to reopen two of its Minneapolis locations with drive-through windows in December.
However, the city rejected its applications because of the windows and how long the restaurants had stayed closed.