Several tenants to be cleared from Calhoun Square

LAKE & HENNEPIN — Numerous Calhoun Square businesses received notices recently to clear out by spring to make way for the Uptown shopping center’s long-awaited redevelopment.

Plans for a revamped center are scheduled to go to the city’s Planning Commission in February, and developers hope to begin construction in April, said Calhoun Square General Manager Gayle Siegler, who works for property manager Capital Growth Madison Marquette. Siegler said some tenants have been asked to leave but declined to discuss specifics.

“We are committed to working respectfully with each of them as we deal with the reality of preparing for the physical transformation of the property,” Siegler wrote in an e-mail. “It is a complicated process and each Tenant’s situation is both unique and confidential.”

Keith Anderson, executive director of Capital Growth Madison Marquette, did not return phone calls.

Calhoun Square tenants have been anticipating a mall makeover for years, many of them growing impatient as storefronts emptied and traffic slowed. Shop owners such as Calhoun Square veteran Willy VanDooijeweert of URBAN Traveler were hoping to be around for better days.

His travel goods store was among those told to leave.

“I have no bad feelings toward Calhoun Square. I love the place,” said VanDooijeweert, whose store has been in the mall for 22 years. “I’ve been there all these years and I’m heartbroken frankly that this is where it has come to now. I don’t want to not be a part of it. I want to be part of the future.”

VanDooijeweert, who runs another URBAN Traveler in Roseville, said he is hoping to negotiate for a space in the new mall, but he’s been given no guarantee. If he can’t be there, he’ll find another spot in Uptown, he said.

“We will be there somewhere, available for our clientele,” he said.

Arun Rajbhandary, owner of Agan Trader — a shop that carries clothing and other items from India, Nepal and Thailand — said he was surprised to learn early this month that he has to be out of Calhoun Square by the end of March.

His business started as a kiosk in the mall five years ago and has developed a loyal following, he said.

“We cannot afford to lose them,” said Rajbhandary, who has begun looking for a new space in the area.

Gift shop ZRS Fossils was another retailer given notice to vacate the mall.

Some of the more prominent tenants, such as restaurant Figlio and kitchenware retailer Kitchen Window are staying in Calhoun Square.

Doug Huemoeller, general manager and co-owner of Kitchen Window, said what’s happening at the center isn’t a sob story and didn’t come as a surprise to him.

“In order for them to build a new space, they certainly have to vacate old spaces,” he said. “You can’t leave everyone in the place that they’re at and develop a new space.”

Much of the issue comes down to leasing, Huemoeller said. Kitchen Window, which has a long-term lease, is working on moving the store to a new location in the mall.

Many businesses are on short-term leases, especially newer ones, since Calhoun Square management required them in recent years in anticipation of development.

A $75 million city-approved renovation that was to include condos and revamped retail stalled last year when the real estate market imploded, causing former owner Principal Global Investors to put it up for sale. New York-based investment firm BlackRock purchased the property and retained Capital Growth Madison Marquette as the site manager.

Project planners have shared plans with the CARAG neighborhood group and some leaders of other area neighborhoods, but have not gone public with any details beyond those meetings and won’t until they get the city’s OK, Siegler said.

The city’s approval of the previous renovation plans was set to expire in December, but an extension was granted.

“Since BlackRock purchased Calhoun Square —basically in August, we have been committed to working with the City and the Uptown neighborhoods as well as our tenants to follow through on the long-awaited renovation of this retail center,” Siegler wrote in an e-mail. “We are making progress.”