Boaters, bikers and beer drinkers will start to see some new attractions in Wayzata aimed at drawing more visitors to the Lake Minnetonka town.
In the six months since the city approved a major 10-year plan to revitalize its lakefront, Wayzata is already seeing some signs of changes — something the city highlighted at the community’s 40th annual James J. Hill Days festival this past weekend.
Since the “Lake Effect” project was approved in March, the city has applied for more temporary docks to give boaters more spots to stop next spring. The city is working on plans to add more bike trails and convert a beach house into a food vendor similar to Minneapolis’ Sea Salt restaurant in Minnehaha Park. A new brewery is in the works. And this summer, volunteers planted 1,000 native plants, flowers and grasses next to an old railroad building that the city hopes to eventually restore.
“There’s a lot of activity starting to unfold along the lakefront,” Mayor Ken Willcox said. “In general, people are enthusiastic and it’s moving forward at a steady pace.”
Talk of revamping the city’s lakefront began back in 2011, when the city started a task force to come up with ways it could boost revenue and tourism from being on the Twin Cities’ busiest lake. Starting in 2012, community input sessions brought in more than 600 ideas that eventually led to a 10-year “vision” for how Wayzata could improve.
By June, work was already beginning. Thanks to funding from the state Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul-based Great River Greening and community volunteers planted 1,000 native plants, flowers and grasses next to the historic railroad building, the Section Foreman’s House, for aesthetics and to help a neighboring stormwater pond.
The city has also applied for temporary docks to put near the Boatworks building on the west side of its downtown and more docks near Broadway Avenue — where the city could someday add a pier. The new docks, which could be added next spring, still need approval from the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.
The city is also working with Hennepin County as the county starts work this month on a $41 million project to widen Bushaway Road, part of County Road 101, adding a bike trail and doing other improvements. For drivers entering east Wayzata from Bushaway, city leaders want to create more of a “gateway” by adding signs about the city and its history, improve landscaping and aesthetics as well as add trails to connect to the new Bushaway trail.
In fact, the city is also looking to add bike lanes and expand the bike trail system throughout the town.
“We need safer routes for bikers,” City Planner Bryan Gadow said.
He’s also working with McCormick’s Pub on plans to renovate the city’s beach house to sell food out of it next year. And by November, the City Council is expected to get recommendations for next steps in the Lake Effect project from a consultant the city hired.
New brewery on tap
Another attraction residents said they wanted: a brewery.
Now it’s nearing reality. After a state law change, many west metro cities have approved microbreweries and taprooms, including Excelsior, Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park. Last week, Wayzata became the next to do so, with the City Council approving a revision to its city code to allow for microproduction facilities like microbreweries, also approving the city’s first one — Wayzata Brew Works.
The brewery is slated to open in the Boatworks building — a historic former wooden boat manufacturing plant that’s one of the only commercial buildings in Wayzata directly on Lake Minnetonka. A new restaurant, 6Smith, recently opened there, part of a spree of new restaurants.
Now the new brewery is slated to open by October or November. It will replace office space and will include a 2,500-square-foot taproom and an outdoor patio.
“It’s really a jewel on the lake — there are no other breweries that we’re aware of that are lakeside and with that kind of view,” said Bill Cavanagh, one of the owners.
Cavanagh said the brewery will also include distilling on site to manufacture — not serve — vodka, gin, rum and whiskey to sell to stores.
To allow that, Wayzata’s ordinance change, approved by a 3-2 City Council vote, doesn’t just allow microbreweries but also microdistilleries, brewpubs and microwineries.
Willcox, who opposed the broader version, said it “sends a message that Wayzata is really where you want to come for an alcoholic pursuit.”
The city has long been trying to strike a balance between being more active and attractive to tourists but not too “rowdy.” Just this month, the city will discuss new parking options to meet the growing demand in its downtown.
“Summer in Wayzata is sort of like Christmas at Southdale [Center in Edina]; it’s the peak activity time in Wayzata and it’s when everyone’s there,” Willcox said. “ … Now we just need to accommodate them.”