Council votes to demolish remains of site at 53rd & Lyndale

A view of the former Beek's Pizza site at 53rd & Lyndale from earlier this year.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday voted to demolish what remains of the former Beek’s Pizza building at 53rd & Lyndale.

The order came nearly five years after the one-story building burned down. Owner Bill Graham had plans to turn the site into a three-story building with retail on the first floor and four apartment units on the second and third floors, but he never followed through.

Graham received City Planning Commission approval for the project in June 2014. A construction permit was issued for a new building in January 2016, but work was stopped and the building permit was cancelled this past March.

The city sent Graham an order to raze the property in March, but Graham appealed, saying the delay was due to the death of the previous owner before the title was transferred. He said at a May hearing that he had resolved issues and requested a continuance so he could begin the work.

However, in July, Graham said he couldn’t proceed with the work because of health issues in his family. He said he had signed a purchase agreement to sell the property in October, and that the purchasers were planning a mixed-use property.

Later, Graham said he would be going forward with the project himself. In an interview on Sept. 12, he said the developers wouldn’t have been able to do the project in a timely fashion and that with his wife’s health improving, he decided to move forward with the project.

“We feel a personal connection to the neighborhood, and we feel it’s important to move forward,” he said at the time.

The City Council on Sept. 20 postponed a vote on razing the property, giving Graham another shot to get the project in order. Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano scheduled a community meeting with Graham and his new business partner for last week, asking him to bring proof of financing. Graham’s partner did not show up, and he did not bring the required documents.

Palmisano thanked the city’s Problem Properties Unit, in particular Scott Bockes, for its efforts to move forward this project before the council vote on Friday.

“It’s my hope that we can still find a way to develop this property in the near future, but right now the community deserves the vote we’re taking today,” she said.

The city estimates it’ll cost $40,000 to $50,000 to remove portions of the remaining foundation walls, fill the hole, grade the lot and establish vegetation, a cost to be paid for by Graham. He still will own the property and could still build there but would need to build a new foundation, among other things.

The city needs to wait 60 days after mayoral review to move forward with the demolition. Graham could appeal the decision to the state court.

Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association board president Paul Ragozzino said the association is fine with the property getting filled in but ideally would like to see it developed. He thanked Palmisano and city staff for their work on the site.

Graham did not respond to a request for comment after Friday’s vote.