Grocery store, apartments may pop up in St. Louis Park

Oppidan Investment Co. is moving forward with its plans to tear down the former Bally Total Fitness near St. Louis Park's Excelsior and Grand and replace it with apartments and a grocery store.

The project, at 4900 Excelsior Blvd., will include 177 apartment units and a 280,000-square-foot retail space on the ground floor that will be occupied by a newcomer to the Twin Cities grocery scene, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.

The St. Louis Park City Council discussed the project's affordable-housing goals Monday night at a study session, and the developer, based in Minnetonka, will make a few design tweaks before going for preliminary City Council approval on May 18.

Oppidan plans to allocate 10 percent of the units as affordable housing.

The developer originally proposed a six-story building, but is removing the top floor after receiving feedback against the extra height.

"It's a push and pull. When you remove that floor, you obviously take income out of the project so you have to make sure the math still works out. So that's what we are reviewing," said Paul Tucci, vice president of development.

But Oppidan and city staff are optimistic that the revisions will receive council support.

"I don't think there were any council members who were not in favor in the project," said Greg Hunt, St. Louis Park's economic development coordinator.

Fresh Thyme is a new grocery store chain growing rapidly in the Midwest. Its first Minnesota store will open in Bloomington this year, followed by locations in St. Paul, Plymouth and this one in St. Louis Park.

Kristen Leigh Painter