Planning Commission postpones Calhoun Square vote

After hours of discussion, the Minneapolis Planning Commission decided at its Feb. 25 meeting to hold off on approving redevelopment plans for Calhoun Square, the Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue shopping center that has been in limbo for years.

It was the Planning Commission’s second delay of a decision on the project in less than a month. The first came on Feb. 11, when the city needed more time to review the project’s travel demand management plan.

This time the main issue was whether the development plans provided adequate public amenities, particularly a public gathering space. Commissioners were also concerned about pedestrian and vehicle conflict in a loading dock area on the mall’s south side.

“I think (Calhoun Square is) a great amenity, I think it’s a great place, I go there often,” said Planning Commission Chairman David Motzenbecker. “I respect the position of the developer, I understand the deal with holding costs, I understand your schedule, I understand that you want to get this thing going, but our job is to steward the land uses in the city…this is one of the major corners in the city, this is one of the main spots.”

Minnetonka-based developer Capital Growth Madison Marquette, which manages Calhoun Square for owner BlackRock, a New York-based investment firm, is hoping to start construction on the center as soon as possible, preferably this spring. BlackRock purchased the mall in August for more than $47 million after a stalled condo market caused previous owner Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa, to scrap city-approved redevelopment plans.

The languishing center has lost numerous tenants in recent years and some blame it for a retail slump in Uptown.

New plans for Calhoun Square include a completely revamped shopping area with more retail space, an outdoor gathering spot along Girard Avenue, widened sidewalks, a parking ramp that will grow by roughly 300 spaces and a 108-unit residential component.

The Planning Commission will review the proposal again March 31.