City of Minneapolis buys out longstanding Kmart lease to reopen Nicollet (updated)

Photo by Paige Elliott Kmart on Lake Street in Mpls.

The City of Minneapolis has finally reached a purchase agreement for the lease at Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street, buying out the last remaining Kmart store in the state.

The move will ensure the future reopening of Nicollet Avenue. For decades the store had disrupted the traffic flow of the popular thoroughfare, a point of contention for developers and some city residents.

“Unblocking this artery is key to unlocking transit potential for Minneapolis,” wrote Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Facebook. “Our city’s ability to seize this opportunity came as a result of deliberate preparation over many years.” He called it a “momentous day” for the city and added that he looks forward to reimagining the corridor.

The deal will reportedly cost close to $9.1 million dollars that would come from the City’s Streetcar Value Capture Fund that “allows the City to tap property taxes generated from five parcels along the Nicollet Central corridor identified for a future streetcar line,” according to the City’s recommendation letter.

As the mayor noted, plans to reopen Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street have been in the works for some time. Kmart was built in 1977, with the store’s lease set to expire in 2053. In 2015, the City purchased land adjacent to the Kmart site, formerly home to a Supervalu grocery store. In 2017, the city council approved the purchase of Kmart land.

The demolition of Kmart, which is set for sometime this year, would “set the stage for new development on 10 acres of land currently home to single-story retail buildings and surface parking lots,” according to the City’s recommendation letter. The idea would be to reconnect neighborhoods, re-establish the street grid and create new development on the 10 acres, according to proposed plans.

The City plans to work with the surrounding community to incorporate the community’s vision into the goals and objectives for the site.

The measure was approved by a unanimous full city council vote on Friday, March 13, setting the stage for Kmart to vacate the premises by June 30, 2020.

“Today’s approval of the agreement to buy out the remaining Kmart lease is the final piece that will allow us to move forward with reopening Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street, the result of years of preparations from city staff and policymakers,” said City Council President Lisa Bender.

“Thank you to all of the community members who have made this a priority, I look forward to working together to dream big about the future of this area while working to protect existing residents and businesses from displacement.”

Stay tuned for community reaction in future editions of the MSR.