Nicollet Ace parking lot decision set for March 1

The Minneapolis City Council will decide March 1 whether to grant a request by owners of Nicollet Ace Hardware, 3805 Nicollet Ave. — to build a parking lot south of the business — but this decision will likely hinge on the owner’s willingness to help relocate the two houses that sit on the site.

In response to neighborhood and council pressure, it now appears that Julene Lind and Steve Rosch will be willing to contribute some money earmarked for demolition of the houses to the project.

"I think that we’ve reestablished trust," said Kingfield board president David Brauer (who is also editor of Skyway News, which is owned by the Southwest Journal). He said that Lind and Rosch had not yet named a figure. "But, they told me that we’ll be impressed," he said.

The business owners, who would not comment for this article, have found themselves at odds with some members of the Kingfield neighborhood board over the fate of the two houses.

Because Nicollet Ace Hardware is a popular neighborhood business that anchors a difficult commercial intersection, the Kingfield neighborhood board voted overwhelmingly at their January meeting to support the parking lot proposal, even though it meant the loss of two houses.

Discussion at the January meeting included the possibility of relocating the houses. At that time, Lind and Rosch said they would be willing to work with any developers that came forward, provided the relocation would be completed within their timeline.

Soon after the vote, Lyndale Neighborhood Development Corporation (LNDC) and Project for Pride and Living (PPL) both stepped forward with proposals to save the houses in the designated timeline. The Kingfield NRP board voted to allocate up to $50,000 of public money towards the project.

Some neighborhood board members, however, said they sensed reluctance on Lind and Rosch’s part to move forward with the house relocation plan. Particularly, Lind and Rosch’s initial refusal to donate any of the demolition money towards the relocation project raised fears among some board members that once they received their up-zoning request from the City Council, Lind and Rosch would demolish the houses.

The tension came to a head at the Minneapolis City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee meeting on Feb. 19, where Kingfield board member Steve Jevning, who initially voted to support the plan, asked the committee to delay sending the request to the City Council until Lind and Rosch had attempted to work out a plan with the developers.

Another initial supporter, Kingfield board president Brauer sent a letter to the committee asking for the same extension.

"We’re concerned that if you act today and you approve the zoning," Jevning said to the committee, "then it removes the incentive over the next couple of weeks for Steve and Julene to continue working with these developers to try and meet the deadline."

Lind, at the same meeting, said that no "viable entity" had stepped forward with a plan to move the houses.

That testimony left City Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward) confused since proposals to move the houses were presented by LNDC and PPL. "She’s been approached, so I didn’t quite get that part of it," he said.

Lilligren, whose ward includes the hardware store, said he is troubled at the fact that many community members who had once supported the proposal now could not get behind it.

There is a definite long-term benefit for Ace Hardware in winning the up-zoning request, Lilligren said.

"I think they need to acknowledge that they are gaining something and that in the spirit of community, they should share that gain," he said. "And, if that means being more supportive of this house move, then I think everyone wins."

Lilligren said he did not make a motion delaying the City Council hearing on the matter, primarily because Lind and Rosch’s city application would have expired, but also because, "if [the house relocation] is going to happen, it has to happen as quickly as possible.

"I am looking for participation and buy-in from Ace Hardware in relocating the houses," he said, adding that he thinks relocating the houses in the designated time frame is possible.