One proposal to bring a fresh outlet for groceries to the North Side of Minneapolis is dead, but two others are making steady progress toward opening stores in an area with 67,000 people but only one full-service grocery.
A proposal by entrepreneur Glenn Ford to build a store on the city-owned southeast corner of Plymouth and Penn avenues failed to materialize in time to meet the last of three city deadlines. Ford’s rights for his proposed 30,000-square-foot Praxis Marketplace have expired, the city confirmed Tuesday. Ford hasn’t responded to Star Tribune inquiries.
Meanwhile, Pillsbury United Communities has advanced plans to reopen a former grocery building that’s half as big as what Ford proposed. The nonprofit has a purchase agreement to buy the building from Hennepin County and is in the middle of fundraising for the project, known as North Market.
It’s placing a $6.3 million bet that selling food while dispensing health services at the site at 4414 Humboldt Av. N. can prove a profitable combination at a site where Super Valu and Kowalski’s groceries closed. The target for opening is fall 2017, shortly after the planned completion of a new county library next door.
On a smaller scale, backers of a seven-year-old proposal to open Wirth Co-op have amassed close to 500 paid members, hired a manager and are negotiating to lease a storefront at Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue N. That store would have more than 4,000 square feet. It hopes to open by June.
Although the North Side has many corner groceries, promoters of the two planned stores are trying to carve out niches for health services and affordability.
Pillsbury is working with North Memorial Medical Center to develop a health clinic in a new mezzanine level to be built overlooking the grocery store. The working plan is for a walk-in clinic with family health services, but to also offer health counseling that’s based on making good food choices.
Dietitians and health workers hired from the community would work on-site. People with health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems could walk through the store with these workers to talk about types of carbohydrates to buy and avoid or to discuss menu planning, said Adair Mosley, Pillsbury’s chief of staff.
“We want to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice,” Mosley said.
The project is getting grocery development expertise from Super Valu and marketing help through General Mills. Oppidan Investment Co. is handling real estate and construction management for the project. The store will have 25 to 30 full- and part-time workers, Mosley said.
He said the proposed store will have two advantages over previous ventures on the site in the thin-margin grocery business. One is that Pillsbury United Communities, a nonprofit, does not need to post the same margins as a for-profit business to satisfy investors. The other is that it won’t need to set prices to cover debt payments if all financing is raised up front, including working capital. Pillsbury and the county negotiated a $487,500 purchase price for the store and are scheduled to close in mid-September.
Wirth Co-op plans a renewed membership push in January, and plans to attract added investment by selling stock to members early next year. Board member Wendy Thoren said some in the area are worried about the affordability of a co-op. She said that Wirth is making a commitment to affordable food but needs to educate community members about how a cooperative works.
The City Council granted the Praxis Marketplace proposal one last chance early this year to submit architectural plans for the Plymouth-Penn site that once held a McDonald’s that was razed in 1994. But those plans never materialized. The unrealized proposal would have brought fresh produce to a high-traffic corner of the North Side.