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Nicollet Ave. Kmart plan moves to full Minneapolis City Council

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Redeveloping Nicollet and Lake
City of Minneapolis planners are taking the first steps to try to redevelop the area where a Kmart store, built in the 1970s, blocks off Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street.
Jon Collins / MPR News, File

A redevelopment plan that could lead to the reopening of Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street in Minneapolis took another step forward on Tuesday with approval from a City Council committee. 

Nicollet Avenue has been blocked off between Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway since 1977 by a Kmart store. Neighborhood groups have long supported the effort to reopen the street but previous efforts to negotiate with landowners and Kmart, which holds a lease on the site until 2053, have petered out. 

The plan would allow the city to spearhead future development on the site. The plan does not give the city the ability to use eminent domain to reopen the street. It is expected to head to the full City Council April 25. 

Mark Hinds, executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, urged the Council to use any tools at the city's disposal to reopen Nicollet avenue. 

"It's not about Kmart and it's not about Kmart being there, it's about reopening our main street, Hinds said. "There's nothing you can do that the neighborhood won't support in order to reopen Nicollet Avenue -- this is by far the top priority of the neighborhood." 

Kmart executives testified at the meeting that the company wants to continue to do business in the community, either in a new development on the site or at the current Lake Street store. 

"Although Kmart conceptually supports the plan's objects, we do have a concern: The uncertainty surrounding the project is hurting our ongoing business and operations," District Manager Tom Manke told the committee. "Already our customers are wondering how long they'll be able to shop at our Lake Street store." 

On Kmart's request, the city removed one reference to Kmart, which is surrounded by a large empty parking lot, as a blighting influence in the area. Some form of the word "blight" is still used 19 times in the document. 

David Frank, transit development director for the city of Minneapolis, said the other references to blight could not be removed. 

Ward 10 City Council Member Lisa Bender said the plan doesn't outline a specific development for the area, but it gives the city the ability to buy property from the landowners and negotiate with leaseholders. 

"The real vision of the plan that will include the transportation connections, the building design and guidelines, all those things, will come if and when the city is able to get partial site control of the property," Bender said.   

Even if the plan passes the full Council, the city still needs to successfully negotiate with the landowners and leaseholders of the property blocking Nicollet Avenue. 

"We'd like to get site control within this next year, if that doesn't happen maybe we'll put it on the shelf a while, take a breather," Bender said. "We don't want to keep raising the community's expectations if nothing is going to happen in the near term."