Five-story apartment would replace Curran’s in Kingfield

A five-story, 81-unit apartment building would rise at the site of Curran's Restaurant at 42nd & Nicollet under plans from a local developer. Submitted rendering

A proposed five-story, 82-unit apartment building could replace a second-generation, family-run restaurant at the southeast corner of 42nd & Nicollet.

Curran’s Restaurant, opened in 1948, is known for its all-day breakfast, reasonable prices and vast menu, which includes dozens of sandwiches, burgers and comfort offerings like meat loaf and fried chicken.

Owner Dennis Curran, a son of restaurant founder Mike Curran, said business has plummeted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan but said he won’t be able to cover expenses once it runs out.

“I’m just not going to be able to make it,” he said, adding that he expects to retire once the restaurant closes.

Alex Gese of LJG Investments plans to demolish the building that holds Curran’s and construct a 71,762-square-foot building with studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units in its place.

The apartment building would have a 36-space lower-level parking garage, a fitness center, a club room, a dog wash room and a 1,400-square-foot rooftop patio.

Gese hasn’t said how much units would rent for, but told the Star Tribune that they should be affordable to people who work in the service industry in the area. Gese hasn’t said how many units would be affordable to low-income renters, and he didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Curran and Gese have a purchase agreement of the site, valued by the county at $760,000.

“[Gese] is kind of a breath of fresh air to deal with, because he stands by his word,” Curran said, praising the building’s design.

Curran’s sits along a stretch of Nicollet Avenue that’s designated for mixed-use development of two to six stories under the 2040 plan.

The buildings in the immediate vicinity of the site are two or 2.5 stories tall, though a six-story apartment building will rise at 4220-30 Nicollet in the coming year.

At the July 23 meeting of the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole, commissioner Amy Sweasy said she’s disappointed with the lack of commercial space in the proposed building. Gese said the club room would help “activate” the street corner and that “retail has become a challenge and will continue to be a challenge.”

Architect Evan Jacobsen of Tushie Montgomery Architects said project planners are trying to limit amenity space in order to control costs.

Gese is a partner in Nighthawks Diner & Bar at 38th & Nicollet and in Five Watt Coffee, which has three stores in Minneapolis and also operates out of St. Paul’s Keg and Case Market.

In addition, he is constructing a four-story, 42-unit apartment next to Turtle Bread in Linden Hills and is a partner in the 41-unit Kolo apartment building at 36th & Bryant that will open Sept. 1.

The Curran’s project will need a conditional-use permit to rise above four stories and three variances, including one to reduce the minimum parking requirement to 36 spaces from 41 spaces.