Apartments planned for empty Grand Ave. site

LYNDALE — Developers are hoping to bring apartments that are both green and affordable to the Lyndale neighborhood. 

CPM Property Management is proposing a four-story, 30-unit building that would be located at 3535 Grand Ave., a long-vacant site that had been considered for condominiums before the housing collapse. 

Plans for the apartment project won support from leaders of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association in early April. 

Daniel Oberpriller, of CPM Management, said the hope is to bring the project to the Minneapolis Planning Commission in May, and to begin construction in August. Construction of the 15,500-square-foot building would take up to a year, he said. 

Oberpriller described the $4 million project as unique for the southwest market because of its combination of affordability and environmental friendliness. 

Units will rent for an average of $1,150 a month, and 20 percent will be designated as affordable housing. Plans call for 18 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units. 

The building, entirely self-financed, would also include 28 underground parking spaces and two street-level parking spaces. 

Oberpriller said the most exciting aspects of the building are its green elements. The building will not be LEED certified, but features such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, bicycle parking and low-flow plumbing fixtures are planned. 

Despite the modern amenities, Oberpriller said he wants the building to fit the character of the community. The scale and brick façade were both chosen with that in mind, he said. 

“We’re really trying to fit into the fabric of the community,” he said. 

Mark Hinds, the executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, called the project a “positive development” for the neighborhood. 

Hinds said the only concerns about the project came from immediate neighbors who worried they would be losing green space. The lot, vacant for around a decade, once served as a home for a community garden. 

Hinds said similar new construction in Lyndale is unlikely, if only because there are few locations with as much empty, developable space. 

The building is being designed by BKV Architecture Group and will be built by Reuter Walton Construction, Inc. 

Pedal Pub adds Eat Street route

EAT STREET— Imbibers who want to get some exercise while they drink have a new option in south Minneapolis. 

Pedal Pub began offering a new “Eat Street” route in mid-April that begins at the Black Forest Inn at 26th and Nicollet. The route winds through the Lowry Hill East neighborhood and down Hennepin Avenue before returning via Lyndale Avenue. 

The tour, like all Pedal Pub excursions, is expected to last around two hours and include stops at a few bars or restaurants that dot the route. Plans for a progressive meal are being planned now. 

Pedal Pub moved into the Twin Cities market in 2007, and this is its 10th route in the area. Other routes run through downtown Minneapolis, Northeast, Longfellow and East Hennepin. 

Lisa Staplin, the city manager for Pedal Pub’s Twin Cities routes, said the company was looking for places to expand to meet growing demand. 

Pedal Pub leaders settled on Eat Street because of the concentration of bars and restaurants, she said. Further expansion is being considered, but an often-asked for Uptown route is unlikely. 

“Between the traffic and the parking it would just be too messy,” Staplin said. 

New Lowry Hill District branding unveiled 

LOWRY HILL — Business leaders along South Hennepin Avenue have banded together to create a new identity they hope will distinguish the area and boost business.

The South Hennepin Business Association in March installed 150 signs with the area’s new moniker — the Lowry Hill District — and unveiled a new website promoting the area (lowryhilldistrict.com). 

The district runs from 28th Street to Franklin Avenue, cutting through the Lowry Hill, Lowry Hill East and East Isles neighborhoods.  

Michael McLaughlin, the executive director of the South Hennepin Business Association, said the goal is to raise the visibility of businesses along the corridor. 

Previous polling of business owners also suggested the area didn’t have a distinct identity, making it hard to coordinate a message, he said. 

While the Uptown label has cache, businesses along the South Hennepin corridor have unique attributes of their own, such as more parking, McLaughlin said. 

“In a consumer’s mind, Uptown has some great connotations, but this is an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we’re an area with a different identity and a different profile of businesses,’” he said. 

McLaughlin said future group branding efforts will include brochures, a Facebook and Twitter page, coupon books and other joint marketing programs. 

The Lowry Hill District, though a product of the South Hennepin Business Association, is its own separate group. Around 40 of the estimated 160 retail and service businesses that line the street have signed on so far. 

Risotto closes 

LYN-LAKE — Lyn-Lake’s Risotto restaurant has closed. 

Owners Gabriele and Patrice Lo Pinto announced the April 21 closing on their website. The couple could not be reached for comment, and did not give a reason for the closing in their posting.

But the couple said they had “no choice” but to shutter the restaurant, located at 610 W. Lake St. 

“We are quite saddened about the closing but recognize we have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve our treasured customers a little piece of Italy for the last three years,” the website posting said. 

Aris Arambadjis, who owns the space where Risotto is located, said shortly after the announced closing that there were no definite plans about what could come next, though it would “most likely” be a new restaurant.  

South Lyndale businesses band together amid construction

LYNNHURST — Businesses along Lyndale Avenue are banding together to overcome a bridge and road construction project that some say is keeping customers at bay. 

Work to replace the Lyndale bridge began in January, forcing drivers traveling on the corridor to make their way east or west to cross Minnehaha Creek. 

The bridge remains closed and work to reconstruct the street between 53rd and 56th streets began in April. The road is now down to two lanes in the area.

Dan Campo, the owner of South Lyndale Liquors, at 5300 Lyndale Ave. S, said business dropped 8 percent after the bridge closing and has been slowly deteriorating ever since. 

“The biggest problem is the perception that the road is closed,” Campo said standing outside his store. “Our regular customers, as loyal as they are, are shopping elsewhere because it’s such a pain to get here.”

To help bring customers back to the area, Campo is joining forces with neighboring businesses, including Prima and Diamond Lake Rental, to offer deals. 

He is also taking flyers door-to-door to advertise a detour route he says is better than the one officials have suggested. Campo suggests drivers take West Minnehaha Parkway to get to the store from north of the bridge. 

The official detour route takes people down West 50th Street to Penn Avenue and back to Lyndale using West 54th Street. Hennepin County officials overseeing the project say their detour is focused on county roads because of heavy truck traffic that isn’t suited for city roads. 

While businesses are being disrupted now, there is a hope that the project will be beneficial in the long-term. 

The $2.75 million, Hennepin County-led project will bring the four-lane road down to two lanes with a median. Wider sidewalks and ornamental lighting are also planned.  

Prima owner Jennifer Jackson-King said the work will make the area more inviting for pedestrians. And she said business has been good, despite the hassle. 

“I have a lot of faith in our neighborhood,” she said. “They’ve really made an effort to be here.”

Hennepin County construction engineer Don Shaffer said the work on Lyndale is scheduled to be completed in mid-June, and that the bridge is scheduled to be open by Oct. 15.   

New hair color salon coming to 50th & France 

50TH & FRANCE — A hair coloring outlet that “bridges the gap” between boxed hair colors and salons is coming to 50th & France. 

Brenda Boehler, the founder and CEO of dpHUE, said she plans to open at 4944 France Ave. by June 1. This would be dpHUE’s second location. The first opened in Maple Grove in September 2011. 

Boehler said she wanted to move to 50th & France because of its concentration of fashion and beauty retailers.

“I’ve always had an eye on that area, and I felt like the concept would be good there,” she said. “It’s really become a destination for fashion and beauty.”

Boehler describes her store as one-of-a-kind. Customers work with trained staff to choose their hair coloring, can learn how to apply it in the store, and then continue treatments at home. 

The idea is to help those who are intimidated by the myriad boxed options, but don’t have time or money to spend getting treated at a salon. 

“It just seemed to me that there had to be a better option,” Boehler said. 

Pizza Luce Block Party put on hold

LYNDALE — The Pizza Luce Block Party is going on a one-year hiatus. 

Corey Sax, Pizza Luce’s marketing manager, announced the postponement in an April 12 letter, saying the event had outgrown the 3200 Lyndale Ave. location where the event has been held for the last nine years. 

“After our hugely successful block party last year, we spoke with neighbors, our managers and people who attended the event,” Sax wrote. “While most everyone had a good time, our fantastic lineup brought out more people than our site could comfortably handle.”

Neighborhoods prepare for Nicollet Avenue work 

LYNDALE — Businesses along Nicollet Avenue are bracing for a few months of roadwork. 

City officials plan to begin work on the long-awaited street reconstruction project in May, beginning with a segment from Lake Street to 32nd Street. No exact date has been set, but signs will go up a week before work begins. 

The work on the first section is expected to be finished in June. 

Crews will then shut down the 35th Street intersection for two weeks, and later move to complete work from 32nd Street to 36th Street, finishing sometime in September or October. 

Reconstruction of the stretch between 36th and 40th streets will be undertaken next summer. 

Drivers will still be able to access businesses along Nicollet during construction, but the road will be closed to thru traffic. Drivers will instead be redirected to Blaisdell or 1st avenues, which sit to the west and east of Nicollet. 

“People will always be able to get to businesses, it will just be a little more complicated,” said JoNette Kuhnau, a consultant with Kimley-Horn who helped plan the project. 

Still, some business owners are anticipating a decline in sales. 

Tom Roberts, who owns the shopping center that includes Office Max, Cost Cutters, Radio Shack and other retailers at Lake and Nicollet, said he was expecting at least a quarter drop in sales during construction. 

But he said the project will ultimately benefit the site — especially if city officials use it as a catalyst to move the Kmart store that sits to the north, removing a barrier between south and north Nicollet. 

City officials have identified the move as a goal, and have also discussed improving interstate access and bringing streetcars to the corridor, which was last repaved in 1977. 

The Nicollet Avenue construction project itself will include public art, improved sidewalks, widened boulevards with trees and additional lighting.  

“Everything that’s going on is positive for this property,” Roberts said. 

Businesses are planning to work together to overcome the construction challenges, too. 

The city set aside $30,000 to help businesses market the area during the construction. Jen Borger, a coordinator with the Nicollet East Harriet Business Association, said the plan is to emphasize the positive. 

“We want to change the conversation so it’s about what the area has to offer rather than what the pains are to getting here,” she said. 

Project leaders are encouraging residents to visit the city’s website to sign up for regular updates, which will also be shared at the NEHBA-run website — nicolletconstruction.com. 

Regular meetings will also be held to keep residents informed. 

Old mural finds new life near Lake Calhoun 

WEST CALHOUN — Leon Hushcha’s mural was only supposed to live for a few months. 

But 28 years later, after moving to two different locations, the hand-painted, Matisse-inspired work is getting new life, and a forever home at the Lake Calhoun Center, off Excelsior Boulevard. 

The piece — an abstract work with a horse, fish, birds and human forms Hushcha describes as “Minnesota tropical” — was created in 1984, as a commission for Lowell Pickett, the owner of the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant. 

Pickett saw it as a holiday gift to the city, and had it installed at the corner of 5th Street and 1st Avenue, where it remained for two months. 

After it was taken down, Billy Weisman bought it and moved it to his Lake Street building. Weisman offered it to Stu Ackerberg, of the Ackerberg Group, after the building was torn down. 

Ackerberg was familiar with Hushcha’s work, and saw it as a chance to bring life to an otherwise sterile retaining wall outside his building. The piece sits on the west side of the building, facing the parking lot. 

“I knew I had an opportunity to turn what could have been a lemon into something really significant,” said Ackerberg, who regularly incorporates art into his projects.