If you’re reading this and you’ve ever been to Minneapolis, then you probably know about the Kmart. That’s right. Thirty-seven years ago, some idiot decided to build a Kmart and accompanying monstrous parking lot (but of course) right in the middle of a major street in the heart of the city, diverting traffic away from a popular commercial area and deadening any life on the street.
This Kmart has long been a scourge on an otherwise lovely, diverse, active part of town.
So it is with joy that I read this news in a recent Star Tribune article:
The City Council will take a first vote next week on buying one parcel of land formerly occupied by a grocery store, which comprises part of the 10-acre “Kmart site” at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue. The vote will also allow the city to sign a two-year exclusive option to purchase the land beneath Kmart itself.
The price tag to right this horrendous city planning mistake? About $6 million. As the Star Tribune reports, the city has been in talks with the owners and tenants of this enormous land parcel for more than a decade. Now a change might finally happen.
Growing up in Minneapolis, I have distinct memories of this Kmart. I’ve never been inside it, but I remember when I was learning to drive and navigate the city as a teenager, this lot was always a strange roadblock. There was often a calculation about which way to go around it in order to get to the delicious variety of restaurants on Eat Street or the college where my father teaches, made more complicated by the one-way streets nearby.
Like a treacherous moat around a castle, the Kmart and massive parking lot served as a partition between the quiet residential neighborhood to the south and west, and the vibrant commercial street of Nicollet to the north, and downtown Minneapolis north of that. So many of the Twin Cities’ greatest landmarks are in this neighborhood: historic homes and churches, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, some of the city’s best restaurants. Yet Kmart has created around it a sort of wasteland of Little Caeser’s, Radio Shack, White Castle and the like.
Suffice it to say, the news that all this might soon change makes me very happy, especially because Strong Towns is headed to Minneapolis in just a few days for a Curbside Chat. Removing the Kmart would align this part of town with the progress and vibrance that has already happened in so much of Minneapolis.
Unfortunately, we can’t break out the champagne quite yet:
“People should not be expecting bulldozers or construction any time soon,” said Peter Wagenius, the mayor’s chief policy aide. “Because we’re going to take the time to do this right.”
Filling such a large this space with something new will, no doubt be a challenge, but truly, anything would be better than Kmart.
(Top photo by Nicholas Eckhart. All others from Google maps.)