Calhoun Square redevelopers: buying CARAG homes?

Calhoun Square’s redevelopers may expand their redevelopment project farther than previously thought – onto property occupied by existing CARAG homes.

Solomon Real Estate Director of Leasing Anne Knuth confirmed that Calhoun Square representatives have approached homeowners on the west side of the 3000 block of Fremont Avenue South about selling their homes to accommodate further expansion. "Through a Realtor, we tried to open up the lines of communication," she said.

"We’ve not talked numbers. We’ve not made formal offers," Knuth said, saying the idea is being floated to gauge interest.

Knuth said if Fremont homeowners were interested in selling their property, the west side of the block would be redeveloped for residential use or for greenspace, but "not commercial."

She said so far, homeowners’ responses have been mixed.

Steve Holst, a Fremont homeowner, said he received a letter in late February saying Solomon was interested in buying his house. "Do I like it? No," he said, adding that the neighborhood has lots of memories for him. However, "if they offer me enough money and we can find another house – yes, I’d move."

Another homeowner (who asked to remain nameless) was approached about a sale and responded, "Naturally, we’re not thrilled to hear that someone wants to tear down a home that we’ve spent so much time, money and effort restoring."

Last spring, North American Properties (NAP) purchased the main shopping center, plus all buildings on the 3000 block of Hennepin Avenue South – most of which will be demolished as part of the renovation. The company also purchased the vacant lot north of the parking ramp and the buildings along Lake Street between Hennepin and Girard. (In December, NAP Principal Jay Scott left to co-found Solomon, which took over the project.)

Knuth said that a closing is near for the long-announced purchase of the Music-Go-Round building at Lake & Fremont. She said that purchase is totally independent from the interest in the Fremont homes.

The redeveloped Calhoun Square will include a reconfigured retail space, a parking ramp addition that would add one and a half levels and potentially 60 housing units – with underground parking – along 31st Street and on the corner of Lake & Girard Avenue.

Holst, whose family has had its home for 40 years, said Calhoun Square’s original owners expressed interest in his home when the facility opened in 1980.

He said the newest inquiry has the neighborhood buzzing. Neighbors on nearby blocks, concerned about project spreading their way, met to discuss the issue.

Kay Graham, a nearby CARAG resident, said the inquiry, on top of the 12-story condo development/office complex floated at Lagoon & Girard, prompted her to call an attorney to review the neighborhood’s development issues.

"We have a lot of questions, not only about Calhoun Square, but of the traffic being brought to the area," Graham said. "Future development will just increase (traffic) in the future."

Holst said, "Homeowners shouldn’t be shocked," noting that the area has become very commercial between 29th and 31st streets. "You’d either have to be brain dead or stupid [not to expect it]," he said. "I’m just surprised it took so long."