Amid the dust and debris of the Nicollet Mall remodeling in downtown Minneapolis, two new stores are opening — Sports Authority and Walgreens.
“What had been a lackluster stretch between 7th and 5th is now filled with new retail,” said Steve Cramer, president of the Downtown Council.
Sports Authority, which has nine metro stores as well as locations in Rochester and Brainerd, opens Friday in City Center. The 22,000-square-foot store is smaller than most of its suburban stores, but it will have a larger assortment of apparel for runners, cyclists and fans of local teams.
“We’ll have a large logo shop, Nike, Under Armour and an outdoor section with North Face, but we won’t have treadmills or other large, heavy items,” Sports Authority district manager Jacob Longwith said.
The sports apparel retailer fills a hole after Nick’s Sporting Goods closed more than five years ago and Dome Souvenirs Plus moved to St. Louis Park last month. Longwith is counting on business from downtown workers and the influx of new residents moving into the city core. The city’s downtown population has grown 22 percent in the past nine years, according to the Downtown Council.
The urban location is one of only a few for Englewood, Colo.-based Sports Authority, which also has city stores in downtown Chicago and Denver. “Corporate has wanted to be in Minneapolis for a long time,” said Betsi Sherman, marketing manager for Sports Authority’s Minnesota stores. “The Nicollet Mall renovations will be a pain, but it will be beautiful when it’s finished.”
The retailer will celebrate its grand opening Oct. 16-17 with freebies, prizes, discounts and appearances by Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine and Twins manager Paul Molitor.
Across the mall from City Center in Gaviidae Common, Walgreens opened last month, filling most of the first and second levels of the former Saks Fifth Avenue location at 7th and Nicollet. Its new, larger location replaces the store at 815 Nicollet Mall, which closed Sept. 17.
The new store is a marquee format that is about 25 percent larger than a standard Walgreens store. Aisles are wider, lighting is brighter and food offerings are expanded, although it is not one of Walgreens’ more sophisticated flagship stores with beauty boutiques and juice bars.
“We have a larger beauty department and an Upmarket Cafe [with a] sushi bar that is expected to open next week. Fewer than two dozen other Walgreens have sushi bars,” said store manager Mike Gladson. The bar will include hand-rolled sushi, poke and sashimi made daily.
A large part of the selection on both floors is devoted to grab-and-go foods such as bananas, oranges, onions and mangoes as well as prepackaged salads and cut vegetables and fruits.
Paulo Joao, who was visiting from Brazil, wasn’t sure he was in a Walgreens after he entered the store earlier this week. “This one looks different from the ones in other states,” he said. “I had to ask myself, ‘Is this a Walgreens?’ when I walked in.”
One of the store’s unusual features is its four entrances, two on first floor and two on the skyway level. Windows on the second floor overlook 7th Street, but the large department store windows that used to be filled with the latest fashions remain papered over. The space is owned by Walgreens but remains empty for potential future use.
The $30 million Nicollet Mall remodeling project is expected to be completed by 2017. With Sports Authority, City Center is now 85 percent leased. Next April, Saks Off Fifth will move into City Center after leaving the space that Walgreens now occupies.
Rumors of Nordstrom Rack coming to downtown have circulated. Executives at Shorenstein Properties, which owns City Center, said Nordstrom is not looking at City Center but possibly other areas nearby.
“Downtown Minneapolis is a very attractive location with a strong customer base,” Nordstrom co-president Blake Nordstrom said during a visit to the Twin Cities last week. “There are no plans yet, but we have to look into it.”