Whittier Wendy’s spurs controversy

Whittier residents and business owners are speaking against a proposed new Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant at 325 E. Franklin Ave., on the site of the former Franklin Street Bakery.

Some residents say they don’t want a fast food chain restaurant near Eat Street, which is noted for its independently owned ethnic eateries.

Wendy’s spokesman Rick Janssen said if the company receives city approvals, it would demolish the existing bakery and build a new Wendy’s facing Franklin, just west of Electric Fetus, 2010 4th Ave. S. Demolition could begin as early as this spring. Construction would take 90 days.

Marian Biehn, neighborhood development manager for the Whittier Alliance, said more than 30 people attended an Alliance Community Development meeting Dec. 6 to hear the proposal. Those in attendance "overwhelmingly" passed a motion saying they did not support a Wendy’s at that site.

People had concerns about loitering and trash, Biehn said. People had concerns that Wendy’s would add to traffic and congestion, as people driving westbound on Franklin tried to take a left into the Wendy’s.

Janssen attended the meeting and said afterwards that the city’s zoning code allows a Wendy’s on the site and the company would work hard to be a good corporate citizen. It would create 35 to 40 full-time-equivalent jobs.

This would be Wendy’s’ fifth Minneapolis location.

The property is in the Washburn Fair Oaks Historic District. The Heritage Preservation Commission was scheduled Dec. 14 to hear Wendy’s request for a demolition permit, after the Journal’s deadline.

Blake Graham, the city’s zoning administrator, said the bakery building is not a contributing part of the historic district. (It was built in 1946 as a National Tea store.) The staff recommended approving demolition, as well as the design of the new Wendy’s.

Janssen said Wendy’s modified the restaurant’s design to conform better to the neighborhood’s character.

Janssen said the business also would seek two conditional-use permits, one to operate a drive-thru, a second to extend the drive-thru hours to 2 a.m. (from the normal 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday closing times.) Wendy’s would close to walk-in customers at 10 p.m.

Allan Elias owns the building and said Franklin Street Bakery moved in October 2003 to 1020 Franklin Ave. E.

He wants to lease, not sell, and had several deals fall through before the Wendy’s offer, Elias said. "I am not saying it would have been my first choice," he said.

Elias said an offer to build a major housing development on the site was too low. He said he was also approached by a tamale maker, a doughnut baker, a Family Dollar Store, a mortuary and even a gun dealer — and for various reasons they did not work out.