The Kmart at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis has been an awkward urban planning decision since it opened in 1978.

The store was part of a neighborhood revitalization effort at a time when the city was losing population and spending millions of dollars to acquire land for redevelopment. But the decision to block Nicollet, a major thoroughfare, was met with resistance from the start and came to be seen as one of Minneapolis' biggest planning blunders.

In 2020, city leaders agreed to pay $9.1 million to buy out the store's lease and planned to reconnect Nicollet Avenue. Those plans stalled after the unrest following the murder of George Floyd and the pandemic, but they are again moving forward; Minneapolis released several potential redesign options this month and has begun seeking community input.

Here are some important things to know about the site:

Controversial from the start

The Kmart store went up in the 1970s when city leaders were looking for ways to redevelop and revitalize blighted south Minneapolis neighborhoods. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to acquire and clear the site.

When other plans fell through and the city was scrambling to find a tenant, Kmart came forward with a plan. But the company demanded that Nicollet Avenue, a major thoroughfare, be closed to accommodate the new store.

That idea was immediately unpopular with neighbors, according to stories and letters to the editor in the Star Tribune archives. A group of activists organized as "Keep Nicollet Open" tried, but ultimately failed, to block the street closure.

When the street was closed and the store opened, Kmart allowed upset residents to make a public display of their discontent and artists to put up a mural that depicted the struggle over the property.

Minneapolis has been talking about redeveloping it for years

Neighbors are excited to see the site redeveloped and have supported plans for a mixed-use, high-density development with homes, shops and public spaces. Thousands have offered ideas for the project, and more than 500 people attended an Oct. 10 open house to learn more about redevelopment proposals.

The city planned to demolish the building next spring. A final plan for the new design of the site is expected to be considered by city leaders in early 2024.

Reconnecting Nicollet Avenue was the first part of the redevelopment and will likely require repairs or the replacement of a bridge over the Midtown Greenway at an estimated cost of $18 million. Construction of the new roadway is anticipated for 2025.

It will be 2027 or later before any structures are built on the site. Residents have prioritized a walkable development with room for local businesses and good access to transit.

Kaley Brown, executive director of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood group, said in early October that the city had a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to reimagine a 10-acre site in the urban core.

A national success story

In the years before the Lake Street Kmart closed in 2020, the store had the distinction of being one of the most successful Kmarts in the U.S. It survived even as the company closed other stores across the country and Minnesota, serving as an essential hub for the surrounding diverse, working-class neighborhood.

By the time the Lake Street store closed, it was the last Kmart in Minnesota, which once had nearly 50 stores in the 1990s.

Big red K in Lake Elmo

After the Lake Street store closed, the 900-pound K that adorned it was bought at auction by a Lake Elmo man who planned to put it in his front yard and decorate it with blue lights — a nod to Kmart's Blue Light Specials. He spent more than $2,300, not including delivery.

Star Tribune staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this story.