West St. Paul may finally be maxed out on pawnshops, especially on its prime commercial strip on S. Robert Street.

The City Council recently approved a request by Burnsville-based Pawn America to open a shop in Robert Square Shopping Center. Due to a 2011 zoning ordinance that restricts how far pawnshops can be from several types of properties, including other pawnshops, the retail center is essentially the last place the new shop could go, according to Community Development Director Jim Hartshorn.

Pawn America said the new shop will be a “boutique-like” operation that at 1,600 square feet will be considerably smaller than the 10,000-square-foot pawnshop at 1399 S. Robert it has operated since late 1990s. When it opened a 33,000-square-foot shop in Inver Grove Heights last year, the company wasn’t sure whether it would continue to operate the outlet in West St. Paul. It subsequently decided to close the old West St. Paul store and is in the process of winding down operations at that location.

Pawn America said the shop at 1676 S. Robert will operate the same as a typical pawnshop but is “intended to meet the needs of customers seeking higher value financial transactions by being located in a more private and confidential setting.” At least initially, it plans to operate the store on an appointment-only basis. The company said it has had a similar operation at its Burnsville headquarters for several years.

Those assurances weren’t enough for the owner of the building that houses the adjacent Rainbow Foods, which anchors the Robert Square mall. Rick Plessner of Inland Real Estate asked council members to reject Pawn America’s request or at least to require the company to resubmit its application to operate if it abandons the appointment-only format.

Council members rejected the request. “This is a permitted use. That’s how we have to look at it,” David Wright said. He told Plessner that requiring Pawn America to operate only by appointments “would be like going to Rainbow and saying they can’t sell doughnuts because they’re fattening.”

Council Members Jenny Halvorsen and David Napier agreed they had little choice but to approve the new pawnshop. “I’d rather not have one.” Halvorsen said. “If we’re going to have one I’d rather have it be a 1,600-square-foot boutique-like location than what we had on Robert before.”

Upscale apartment project gets pitched for Cedar Grove

The upscale apartment building bandwagon could be pulling into Eagan.

Stonebridge Companies has offered the city $1.8 million for a 4.8-acre parcel in the Cedar Grove redevelopment area near Hwy. 13 and Cedar Avenue, where it would build an apartment building with up to 180 units. The apartments would range from studios to three-bedroom units, with estimated rents of $900 to $2,200 a month.

The Economic Development Authority last week approved Stonebridge’s preliminary concept plan and the preparation of a preliminary purchase agreement. A public hearing on the deal has been scheduled for July 2.

In documents filed with the city, Stonebridge says the apartments would have granite countertops, custom wood cabinets and their own washers and dryers. Each apartment would have a patio or deck, and some would have fireplaces.

Common area amenities would include a club/game room, exercise room, business center, lounge, outdoor pool and patio.

Stonebridge says the building would have three stories of apartments atop a parking garage and about 14,000 square feet of commercial space. Possible tenants include a coffee or wine bar, a restaurant, a microbrewery, apparel shops or small offices.

The proposed apartment project would be adjacent to the large retail project now being built by Baltimore-based Paragon Outlet Partners. The complex is expected to have about 100 upscale outlet stores.

Earlier this year, city planners began preparing for increased interest from developers in Cedar Grove sparked by the high-end outlet center and the upcoming start of the bus rapid-transit line on Cedar Avenue. City documents say that this spring planners contacted multifamily housing developers to gauge their interest in building an apartment complex in the area.


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