Drop-offs could soon be very different at the former Rainbow Foods store on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. If redevelopment plans are approved, the loading docks where trucks delivered groceries will soon be used for school buses.
St. Paul developer Wellington Management plans to turn the backside of the vacant store into a charter school and use the front for a smaller grocery and other retail stores. Senior housing also is part of the plan.
Wellington’s redevelopment documents are on the agenda for Minneapolis’ planning commission meeting on Monday.
“We are really excited about it,” said David Wellington, director of acquisitions and development. “That’s a pretty big upgrade to what is already there.”
The Rainbow, located at 2912 28th Av. S., has been empty since 2014. Wellington Management purchased the store and the 5.8-acre site it sits on in July for $5.35 million and has tested the market for potential tenants and uses.
The firm decided that reusing the Rainbow building was the way to go because it was still in good condition, Wellington said. But the structure did have some redevelopment challenges, mainly its depth. The 70,000-square-foot building is nearly 300 feet deep in some parts, so just breaking it up into space for multiple retail stores would have been impractical.
“Retailers, they don’t want to pay for deep space,” he said. “They would have to be bowling alleys.”
Wellington has developed a handful of charter schools, including Lionsgate Academy last year in Minnetonka.
An award-winning St. Paul charter school that serves about 300 students is close to signing onto the project, but Wellington declined to confirm the name of the school. A second-story addition to the building would make the school 58,000 square feet.
Pending approvals, construction should be finished in time for the school to open for the 2017-2018 school year, Wellington said.
Wellington Management already purchased and demolished a house next to the back of the building on the corner of E. 29th Street and 28th Avenue S. to make room for a parking lot that can also serve as a student drop-off space for parents.
The second phase of the redevelopment will consist of adding a 22,000-square-foot grocery space in the southwest corner of the building and filling out the rest of the space with smaller retail shops. Wellington declined Friday to name the potential grocer.
Wellington Management has asked current retail tenants, which include a tobacco and cellphone store, to vacate the space so it can start demolition and refacing the building. The firm hopes to have retail tenants in the spaces in the first part of 2018.
In the third phase of the development, Wellington hopes to build a 100-unit affordable senior housing facility in the northwest corner of the parking lot. With a first floor of retail, the plan is for the complex to be six stories. The senior housing portion probably would not be ready to be built until 2019.
Wellington Management has invested considerably in the Longfellow neighborhood and surrounding area with the Hi-Lake Shopping Center, the Lake Street Station senior housing project, the Corridor Flats condos, the Greenway Office Building and the recently completed 135-unit Blue Line Flats workforce housing, which filled up quickly.
“We really believe in that area a lot and think it has a lot of potential,” Wellington said. “It’s already from what we can tell a really great submarket and delivers a lot of services for a lot of folks.”