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Conflicted over Trader Joe's in Minneapolis

If Trader Joe's goes in, what goes out?
MinnPost photo by Marlys Harris
If Trader Joe's goes in, what goes out? A Coin-Op laundromat, a restaurant that's already defunct, an art supply store, a T-shirt store and Planet Soccer.

On Thursday morning, the Minneapolis City Council's Zoning and Planning Committee made short work of a proposal to allow a Trader Joe's grocery at Lyndale and 27th Street.

The city's Department of Community Planning and Economic Development or CPED endorsed the project. And the City Planning Commission had approved it unanimously. But Meg Tuthill, the local 10th Ward council member, announced definitively that she was agin’ it.

"We would be changing the zoning for one business," she declared, sounding a bit like a schoolteacher who had caught one of her pupils smoking in the cloakroom.

What's more, she had received complaints from residents, which was significant in her mind: "Usually, they roll over for developers," she said with the tiniest of sneers.

Following its tradition of acceding to the wishes of the local council member no matter what the merits, the committee -- without discussion -- adopted her motion to deny the required zoning change.

Next week the issue is up for a vote by the full City Council.

Should they go along?

As you no doubt know, Lyndale Avenue is not exactly a nature preserve. It's a busy commercial street lined for the most part with small businesses. Some, like the French Meadow Bakery and Café and Flanders Cycle, are what you'd call upmarket. They cater to people once referred to as yuppies -- young urban professionals (now they're ouppies, that is, old urban professionals) who are willing to pay $4 for a cup of coffee or $2,000 for a bike.

Other outfits -- I won't name names -- are a little bit worse for wear. Profitable they may be, but not particularly pretty. Trader Joe's, a discount gourmet grocery (owned by Albrecht Corporation, the folks behind Aldi's), would seem to fit right in.

Notoriously complicated

Most of Lyndale is zoned commercial. Of course, zoning codes are notoriously complicated, and "commercial" in Minneapolis is divided into five categories. The only ones we care about in this case are C1 (Neighborhood Commercial District)  and C2 (Neighborhood Corridor Commercial District). You're not crazy if they sound the same, but there are differences. C1 properties are limited to a maximum of 4,000 square feet, more if the builder adds on a story or two.

The proposed Trader Joe's store, while not as large as the typical Rainbow or Cub, is at 14,000 square feet, too massive to fit in that footprint. So it needs to be a C2, which, when translated from the legalese in the statute, means bigger. C2 properties may also have liquor stores; Trader Joe's wants to add one as a 1,200-square-foot adjunct to the grocery. Ergo, it needed a zoning change.

In the entire context of Lyndale Avenue from Rudolph's down on Franklin, all the way up to Lake Street, C1 and C2 seem to be distinctions without a difference -- or vice-versa. A pedestrian or driver passing by would not think, "Oh my gosh -- I've left a C1 zone, and now I'm in a C2."

The reason? Lyndale is completely inconsistent, splotched from north to south with a variety of zones. Some C1s are right next to C2s, and there are plenty of C4s -- a category that permits just about anything. You can also find batches of OR2s (office residences) and even various Rs -- or residential zones. A color-inside-the-lines person would likely say that Lyndale is a disorganized mess. To people like myself who love streets that are variable and even surprising, changing a parcel from C1 to C2 seems like a big fat foofaraw.

The professionals at the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development or CPED, pretty much made the same case -- though much more tactfully -- in an exhaustive 21-page "Site Plan Review." According to Becca Farrar, the senior city planner who presented the high points of this document to the zoning committee, the change was checked to see if it violated the spirit of any of the six different plans that applied to the area. Among other things, the planners determined that commercial properties should stay commercial but switches among the commercial categories would be kosher -- which makes perfect sense.

Initially, Farrar added, residents endorsed the project. Only recently had CPED received calls and emails objecting. She also argued that the change was not for the benefit of one property owner but "in the public interest.” In a later phone call, she defined that as keeping the most intense development in the Lyndale commercial corridor.

Few groceries

I would add another element of public interest. There aren't many groceries in the area. True, residents can shop at The Wedge or Kowalski's, if they're up to paying $5 for a loaf of bread. Stores with more modest prices, say, Rainbow or Target, lie at a distance. 

Another element in the plan's favor: CPED won a bunch of concessions from TOLD, the developer. They've agreed to put in all kinds of screening and landscaping, extra entrances and windows on Lyndale and to install a traffic light at on 27th.  Finally, because the site will have no unloading zone, the store promised that all deliveries will take place outside of business hours.

OK, so if Trader Joe's goes in, what goes out?

Basically, a not particularly fetching-looking group of stores: a Coin-Op laundromat, a restaurant that's already defunct, an art supply store, a T-shirt store and Planet Soccer. The one exception to not-particularly-fetching-looking is La Societé du Thé, a shop that sells and serves exotic teas and looks like it came straight off a street in Paris or Madrid.

The owner, Tony Ruggiero, a tall thin guy that looks to be in his late 60s or even later, told me -- over some aromatic Darjeeling Sangbulli -- that he did not want to leave. He and his assistant, Bozena Dimants, who designed the store, had been in the spot for 12 years. Trader Joe's, he argued, "is already redundant" because Kowalski's is adding a liquor store of its own.

The new development, he added, would make rents in the area rise. "They talk about creating affordable housing," he said. "Nobody talks about affordable business space."

But he made another point that to my mind was just as important. Projects like Trader Joe's, he said, "always skirt organic development." And I know what he means. A vibrant street life comes partly from clumps of little stores and cafes, some of them quaint like his, others, say, dry cleaners and pizzerias, more down-to-earth. If we allow such homegrown developments to be stomped out, city streets will wind up looking as bland as suburban strip malls.

Couldn't he find other space, I asked. He could, but much of the shops for rent in the area "don't have the right feng shui." OK, whatever. Still, I came away thinking that maybe Trader Joe's should go somewhere else.

The property owners

Then I talked to Jeff Minea (by phone, no thé). He's a lawyer, a commercial real estate broker and a member of the Guerts family, the property owners.

Minea did not argue, as I thought he would -- and righteously could -- that property owners should generally be allowed to do what they want, particularly if the project in question calls for a minor tweak in zoning. Instead he pointed to the 75 jobs the store would create, "all paying a living wage." He added: "Trader Joe's is a highly sought after retailer that's been trying for years to open a store in Minneapolis."

What's more, at the recent Lyn Lake Street Festival, some 1,000 people signed a petition in the store's favor, and he said, another 400 had signed petitions at a local store. Understandably frustrated, he added: "The Committee's vote was against jobs, against new business and against amenities. It went against the recommendations of city staff and did not match up with the plans for the area or the findings of the City Planning Commission."

But, I asked, somewhat weakly, what about the businesses that are already there?  Minea said he is not intimately acquainted with rentals in the area, but generally speaking, "it's a tenant's market." Since the recession began four years ago, lots of businesses have gone under, and there's plenty of empty space. Maybe, I thought, Trader Joe's or the Geurts family could ease the pain of moving by offering storeowners little farewell checks.

I think the council should vote for the project, even though I don't like Trader Joe's corn chips or its frozen potstickers. The development won't much change the character of the area; it will produce more jobs, provide a needed service and likely pay higher property taxes to the city. And, God willing, it won't be too ugly since the plan calls for parking spaces to be hidden in the back or underground.

Still, I apologize to Mr. Ruggiero. I'll drop by soon to buy some thé (maybe that will assuage my conscience) and pray that he can find a store with the proper feng shui.

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Comments (40)

And by "few grocery stores"

And by "few grocery stores" in the area, you mean several? Rainbow, 4 blocks west and 3 blocks south of the projected site, being less expensive than Trader Joe's. It is not like there is a grocery desert in the neighborhood: Wedge, Kowalskis, Lunds, Supervalue by Kmart on Nicollet all within 10-15 blocks. I am all for development and density in this (my) neighborhood. But it doesn't necessarily need to come in the form of an arguably organic chain store. Yes, the businesses there currently are not too inviting. But it has the potential to develop in a local and unique way. Not via another chain store. The site would not have problems attracting unique businesses, as Lyndale is slowly becoming the Hennepin of the East for Uptown. The Wedge neighborhood doesn't need more parking spaces to further auto congestion. If Trader Joe's thinks of itself as "Your Neighborhood Grocery Store," then understand that this neighborhood has plenty of active and mobile residents who are not demanding this.

Trader Joe's

I do get why TJ would be willing to spend so much money and effort to create another mess of a store in a busy, heavy traffic spot (much like the Excelsior/Monteray store) But other good alternatives do exist if they so want to establish a store in Minneapolis.

There's a perfectly fine spot (if not many) in South Mpls on Bloomington Ave. between the busier east/west corridors of 38th and 42nd. And it's already zoned as C2 with more than ample parking.

(see big pink block in middle of linked image).

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8318404/put%20a%20TJ%20here%2Ceh%3F.png

I can't say that the surrounding residents would instantly approve a TJ's here, but it's hard to imagine they prefer a defunkt bowling alley, Dollar Tree and coin-op laundry/tanning center.

Check again, Marlys ...

I'm pretty sure the Rainbow at 1104 Lagoon is closer to the proposed Trader Joe's site than either The Wedge or Kowalski's. Speaking as a neighborhood resident, I'd say Lyn-Lake is pretty well served with grocery stores already. I regularly bike/walk to Rainbow for the cheap stuff, hit up the Lunds a block over from time to time and stop at The Wedge on the way home from the office.

Sitting in on the LHENA neighborhood meeting in March (on duty for the SW Journal), I heard some neighbors say the same things, plus this: Trader Joe's is more of a destination store for folks driving in from out of the neighborhood, not necessarily a real amenity for residents. Concerns about increased traffic and the aesthetic impact of a one-story building paired with a surface parking lot also were shared. (Other neighbors welcomed TJ's; the vote was 2 for, 4 against, 2 abstain.)

a not particularly fetching-looking group of stores?

Last time I checked, Art Materials was a thriving store. It's been an anchor in the neighborhood for as long as I can remember, with friendly, helpful staff. I'm not sure what they did to deserve the writer's scorn.

Don't the Opinions of the Residents Matter?

Or do we just tell them to take their medicine for the greater good? Sure, a petition in favor of the store was signed by 1,000 people, but I would like to know how many of them live in the neighborhood.

For that matter, shouldn't we consider what the property owners think? Perhaps they don't want to move (even if they got a nice check and a Trader Joe's gift card), or perhaps they have justifiable fears about what would happen to their locations if a dollop of corporate-minted whimsy like TJ's was dropped in. Organic development has to be worth something, even if it means deferring to the owners or occupants of certain unnamed properties who aren't keeping things as nice as we think they should.

I live in the area

The reporter's view of the neighborhood seems quite ill informed. Rainbow Foods at 29th and Dupont is not at all at a distance but only a six block walk from the proposed site. The French Meadow and Wedge charge higher because they are essentially selling different products; the Wedge has consistently lower prices for organic foods than in specialty sections of commerical stores. Most varieties of bread are nowhere near $5, just as French Meadow does not charge $4 for a regular coffee. Where did those numbers come from? (I've never been in Flanders but wonder about the credibility of that one also.)

Are delivery trucks during non-business hours a noise problem? Not even considered by the reporter. I'm not normally anti-development and had not really had the information to take a position on this one, but this story is so stilted it makes me inclined to believe the council member.

Um

If you find a bike at Flanders for 400 bucks, let me know.

I have to say: this is one of the strangest articles I've ever read at MinnPost. Is it an editorial? Is this news? Why the "whatever" in response to the tea shop owner's desire for good feng shui? The council member was a "school marm" with "the tiniest of sneers"? Then the gist of the headline isn't addressed until a throwaway sentence at the end of the fifth "paragraph".

As a member of MinnPost, the tone of this article just makes me a little uncomfortable. I kinda feel like all the players are being patronized to by the writer who, by their own admission, understands the urban design issues at hand; doesn't really like TJ's, but thinks they should be allowed to build. . . . maybe.

I guess the problem here is that there's news here; the the issues to be discussed are pretty interesting and relevant to living in Minneapolis but the writer kind of wants to have it both ways: news mixed with a blogged-out, tumblr-type of gonzo-journalism editorializing. I think the story (and the readers) deserve better.

Ditto

Really strange article - no idea what the writer's point is, other than she's more clever than the interviewees, despite not knowing what they're talking about.

yes - good topic, weak reporting

I agree - the topic is very interesting, but the writer's style and focus is off the mark. And please do some fact-checking, folks.

I hate the tone of this

I hate the tone of this article. While it includes good information, I don't really care what the writer's opinion is. This story dwells too much on what she thinks and not enough on what others do.

article

I agree this is an anomaly in MinnPost. I don't trust the information, either, because of its snotty tone and somewhat arrogant comments--starting with the one about sounding like a schoolteacher. Why would this have any place in this kind of article--it's not a novel.
I used to live in this area but haven't for a long time; I frequently go through it, and it doesn't sound like the neighborhoods I am familiar with. What does she mean about "always skirting organic development." If you know what he meant, why don't you tell us.
Why should I believe anything here especially after reading comments that sound much more credible than hers.

right on!

in addition, bread is NOT $5 at the Wedge unless you are getting something special, There is no need for Trader Joes in this neighborhood

Lots of available space along Lake Street

There are a lot of places along Lake Street that could be used to site a Trader Joe's--and doing so would put that land to better use than being a used car lot or similar. Also not mentioned is the fact there is a similar competing store nearby--Bill's Imported Food (near Lyndale and Lake--across from the SuperAmerica on Lake Street).

Lyndale Ave. development

As a resident of the neighborhood where TJ would be located I resent your lack of knowledge about the project and the neighborhood. Contrary to your article, the neighborhood association did not vote to support the project. Of the people who signed the petitions you mentioned, how many lived within a couple of miles of the project and would be either impacted by the project of likely to go the store? We don’t know.

It is obvious you do not live in the area, since you did not know that there is a Rainbow a few blocks away, when you article only sights the one on Hiawatha and Lake. The Rainbow on Colfax and Lagoon is closer to the project than either the Wedge Co-op or the Kowalski’s you sight in your piece.

You talked to the proponents of the project and one business opponent. By your article, it is obvious you know nothing about why the neighborhood opposed the project. From my standpoint, it is a project that was bigger in area and shorter in stature than what the commercial corridor warranted. If you walk down Lyndale you will see mostly multi-story buildings. Not all, but most. This project was only one story and they refused to increase the height. This neighborhood is a walking, biking, transit-oriented neighborhood. We are willing to accept more density and encourage multi-story buildings to keep that urban feel. Albrecht Corporation only wanted a suburban one-story structure.

You criticize Lyndale for the multiple zoning areas. Yet, by endorsing TJ you do not let us smooth out the zoning. We are trying clean this up, but you want to make it worse. In addition, the footprint is bigger than everything else on Lyndale.

You downplay the businesses being displaced. The art shop moved because of the development. The laundry is extensively used by the neighbors, The soccer store is a mecca for soccer fans from around the Twin Cities and you dismiss a tea shop that looks like is could be in Paris or Madrid. That is a bad thing? Not in our neighborhood.

By the way, I have lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years. I have never paid $4 for a cup of coffee and still use my 20 year old bicycle that cost less than $100.

Spot On

This is right on. I am also a Wedge resident and this article is really off-base. Some people oppose the zoning change. I think just as many oppose the design of the project. It's absolutely terrible for this spot. We'd demolish some nice historic storefronts for a bland one-story suburban grocery and a big surface parking lot. The zoning would be for increased density but the actual use would DECREASE density. I _want_ more density in the area. This project takes us in the wrong direction.

I could go either way...

I'm of two minds about this development. I live in the neighborhood and walk by this area several times a week on my morning walk.

On the one hand, I'd love to have a Trader Joe's within walking distance so I can stop schlepping to SLP or Minnetonka when I need olive oil, cheese, and wine—or frozen potstickers. And as far as I know, Art Materials is excited about TJs moving in because they will move to a newer, better location (if the development goes through) just down Lyndale as a part of the deal.

Planet Soccer and the tea shop would be the hardest hit here, no question. Mostly, I'd hate to see places I shop more frequently be hurt by TJs moving in—The Wedge, Bill's, etc. That said, I'm also not sure they would be hurt because TJ's offers a pretty different set of products. It would be nearly impossible to call it your only grocery store as one could for either the co-op, Kowalski's, or Rainbow.

In general, I don't understand where Tuthill is coming from on this one. The C1 to C2 change over doesn't seem like the biggest issue at stake given the mixed up nature of the area already. The one comment that *has* made me consider shifting my position is that this would be a strictly one-story development, and that doesn't sit well with me for the area's needed density.

Over saturation

There is no way that locally owned grocers, Wedge Community Co-op, Bill's and Kowalski's, would not be hurt by this. Grocery stores run at a extremely slim margin and most of that comes from the packaged products which TJ's is able to offer at such a reduced price. The stores would probably survive, but definitely in a diminished way which would offset a number of the jobs gained from the development.

I have no problem with more TJ's in the city, the prices are great and they have a good track record supporting international and domestic fair trade. I just would like to see them go in a location where there is not already the saturation of grocers they have in the Wedge neighborhood. There are a plethora of locations in south Minneapolis that would welcome a Trader Joe's.

And yes, what's up with Meg Tuthill? Sometimes it feels like she legislates entirely based upon whims. She really didn't care about her constituents when she was fighting to restrict outdoor patios or large scale urban gardening.

Urban Form

I'm surprised more people aren't against this based on the idea that we shouldn't be building surface parking lots on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis in 2012. The idea of a store being there is fine, and driving to it isn't the worst, but Lyndale deserves better than a one story building with a surface lot. Stick the parking under the building, stick it over it, do something other than create the same problem we have with the Wedge just down the street. And probably put something (apartments, condos, office, whatever) on top of it too. I'm surprised that CPED endorsed this project in its current form to begin with.

Parking

The project as proposed would have 70 parking spaces--33 in a surface lot and 37 under the building. The initial proposal did not have underground parking.

Ah, I hadn't caught that.

Ah, I hadn't caught that. Thanks for the correction. I'm still not a huge fan of the surface lot though.

What creates "character?"

I've been walking and biking Lyndale for 16 years. Trader Joe's IS different from what is already in the corridor. It's larger than any other single first-floor use (*thinking* *thinking* *thinking*) that I can think of anywhere between Franklin and, well, at least 34th, and maybe Minnehaha.

I hate the massive surface parking lot, and that the store will be FACING the parking lot and not the street - another dramatic change in "character" from the rest of the street.

Many of those empty storefronts (i.e. the already defunct restaurant) are being held vacant by the owner in order to facilitate this development.

One other reason I oppose this store is that the small spaces currently found on Lyndale are much more resilient. When one tiny business closes, it's relatively easy to find another small one to fill the vacant commercial space. On the other hand, it is mighty difficult to find a replacement tenant for a 14,000sf space, especially one built to a very specific property type's needs. Or to fill the as-large-or-larger spaces of another grocery store that might go out of business nearby, if TJ's cut into its business too much. Do we really want vacant big box stores in Uptown, so we can look like the sad strip malls of the suburbs?

TJ

I must admit I used to be a TJ snob since I used to shop its original family owned stores in CA which in no way resemble today's corporate stores. I'll skip the history but TJ's model today is to go all private label on the food side away from any kind of recognizable brand which may also be small businesses. We shouldn't feel to sorry for TJ since its parent is the largest pure food retailer in the world probably only behind Wal-mart in total food sales.
TJ has a very loyal following and almost all of its attached parking lots if not the size of the Minnetonka store are overflowing which would lead to parking in the neighborhood as well as added congestion. For some reason urban planners never think adding more cars adds more congestion, something I have never understood.
Just FYI there is a TJ in downtown Boston that is a walkdown with no off street parking. An idea for Lynn-Lake?

Parking lots, Planet Soccer

Merely a "me too" post. As Nick said, it's silly to be adding surface parking to Lyndale Avenue. It's unsightly and unnecessary.

And not to pile on the reporter, but I do have to add my voice to the chorus of MinnPost readers who feel the tone of this article is not really consistent with what we expect here. She may not mean to, but Ms. Harris does come off condescending to nearly everyone mentioned here.

Last and most important, Planet Soccer. Mention that store to anyone in the area that plays and they will immediately rave about the store and the guy that runs it. Best soccer store in the metro.

Wait a minute

Didn't the City Council, including CM Tuthill, just override the existing zoning for one business--by approving the Vikings stadium deal?

And there was no public hearing or CPED report on that zoning change.--it was just a done deal in the legislation. I guess TJ just needs more outrageous fan support to make their case.

The aethetics and the traffic snarls

created by such a project have to concern both residents of the neighborhood and patrons of the current businesses. I have NEVER seen a Trader Joe's that isn't a traffic and parking nightmare, and the descriptions of a sprawling, one-story, parking lot surrounded store where its being proposed sounds absolutely horrendous.

What is more, although I confess to buying things at TJs, I can't imagine anyone ever making it their main grocery store, or even particularly missing the specialty items. I also find it offensive that a German-owned grocery store of any kind is going into a area where it is so little needed, so it can compete with and likely undercut the existing, regionally based stores.

Traffic

To add another perspective on traffic snarls and picking up on some of Ray Schoch's comments below: I am not a resident of the area, but I have to admit that because of the traffic congestion, it is an area I tend to avoid unless I ABSOLUTELY have to go there.

So adding A TJ's - which WILL add traffic - whether the parking is surface or not - WILL add more cars to already busy streets. And that is going to continue to cause people like me to avoid wanting to bring any of my business to the area.

So the question I am posing is, will enough additional people want to come in to shop at TJ's to offset the business lost from people who don't want to deal with the hassle?

You will like having a TJ's in your neighborhood

Trader Joe's enhanced my life by offering really good food and leaving lots of cash in my wallet. I live in St. Paul, and Trader's has been a godsend to those of us in this area who can't afford Kowalski's. I wouldn't dream of driving out to the suburbs to Cub or Rainbow, neither of which has the good stuff that we can get at Trader's and the food co-ops here in the inner city. We're covered now.

"New jobs created' by Trader Joe's.

The usual con job by developers: "every job in a new retail store is a new job'. If Trader Joe is going to have 75 full time living wage jobs including some higher paid manager jobs, they'll need to do $20 million in annual sales- give or take a few mill. It would be absurd to suppose that people in the trading area of the proposed store are sitting on $20 million in grocery money that they're not spending. Of course most of the business would come from other groceries, bakeries and liquor stores; and jobs and profits would be lost at all of them. Very few, if any, new jobs would be created.
Of the average dollar spent in a chain store, 43 cents stays in town (in this case profits would go to Germany.) Of dollars spent at locally-owned stores, 68 percent stays here thus actually helping create jobs and support a strong local economy. (Civic Economics studies support these numbers.) TJ's does very little local sourcing of food , supplies , or services.
Granting them a variance is not really for the common good.

While I don't disagree...

Even if the job gain argument was legitimate, it should not trump other urban design considerations. K-Mart on Lake Street provides plenty of jobs.

I don't get it

I live in St. Louis Park, we have a TJ on Excelsior, I've been there once and was not impressed. Meanwhile I know people from all over the metro who drive in to shop at this store, as far as I can tell it's all marketing to a particular class of consumer. At any rate, the parking has always been inadequate, there were actually little traffic jams when the place first opened. I would take the traffic and parking issues very seriously if I lived in the neighborhood. It won't be a neighborhood store, half the customers will be driving in. We don't have a problem with that in SLP, but if that's not what you want on Lyndale, Sounds to me like what people want is a smaller mom n pop grocery of some kind, that's not TJs.

Here's what I don't get, if your TJ and you want to go into an area like this, why be so committed to a particular store design? They could for instance go with a design that has housing above several separate stores. Instead of putting everything in one big space, they could split up the bakery, butcher, and produce sections and put them in separate side by side buildings. You could call it Trader Joe's Market Block or something. It's this business of wanting to drop the same store they have in SLP into a slot at Lyndale that seems to be causing he problem. Of course you'd still have to deal with the parking issues.

Boycott Trader Joes

I'll never shop in a Trader Joe's because of their notorious anti-labor record, just like I haven't entered a Walmart in 20 years and would never, even if one was planted on my doorstep. I don't live in Ms. Tuthill's ward but I bring significant money (several $Ks per year) into the ward at Art Materials and Le Societe de The. And if you're a local renter, one of the most important amenities you can have is a laundromat, which the writer seems to be looking down her nose at. Boo to Trader Joe's and Marilyn Harris. Kudos to Tuthill.

FYI

Art Materials wants to move so it can have off street parking. Also Trader Joe's treats their workers better than most unionized grocery stores offering higher wages and benefits to even part time employees, something most retailers including Art Materials does not.

Investigate the Wedge Co-op's influence on Tuthill

I am a co-operative supporter of its principles. The Wedge Co-op is hardly that. It will have to change if it wants to survive. Instead, it wants to zone away competition. I think that the Wedge is an over-priced snooty "health" food store.
The Wedge Co-op is mentioned once in the article, but almost everyone commenting brings it up. So, we all know that there is a connection. It is obvious that some of the comments here are from hard core Wedge co-op supporters. The anti-TJ bent is just too over the top.
My suggestion to the Wedge, be a leader, by being on the forefront of reducing packaging waste in a significant way. Trader Joe's seems to have no interest. By having very generic reusable packaging that could be sanitized in the store for reuse, with a deposit spent a point of purchase, much waste could be reduced. Oh, that would minimize the corporate logos and marketing tricks wouldn't it? I have long maintained that today's co-operatives are just "anthills" for the ultra left (my personal leanings). Smush out an anthill and they will build another, better. Instead let it remain and just be a very dysfunctional, ineffective, feel good place to shop. And get bilked at the same time.

Changing the landscape of a neighborhood

is fraught with potential problems.
I'm planning on a major move and this type of neighborhood is just what I hope to find. I like low-key, small store neighborhoods where I can feel like I belong - you don't get that when you start injecting large corporate stores into them. What you end up with is a version of suburbia.
I go to TJs occasionally, but only for a few things I can't get elsewhere. It is never my main store. If TJs would go back to its origins, it might be something I would shop more often, but now it is just an upscale version of Walmart.
The TJs I shop in is located in a shopping center, but the store itself is not very big, much smaller that what this article discusses. It really is all up to the residents as to what they want their area to look and feel like. If you don't want it, fight. If you want it, but not the configuration or size proposed, fight.
I'm now in a small town that has been taken over by high-priced, precious shops that have taken away all signs of small, local business that used to be there. This is all for the tourists and the wealthy. We have to drive out to the highway to do basic shopping in the ugly strip malls that inhabit the area. I used to live in a major city with lots of interesting, valued neighborhoods. It was a pleasure to shop with local merchants, walk from shop to shop, stop for coffee/tea in a local/non-corporate cafe, buy fresh bakery goods etc. Small local neighborhoods should be cherished - they are going the way of the dinosaur.

The proposal fosters ambivalence

Obviously, plenty of neighborhood residents have convinced themselves that Marlys Harris has done some sort of hatchet job here, but I don’t agree. The article is fine. I didn’t read anything particularly condescending, and assuming the photo is reasonably accurate (I don’t live in the neighborhood), there’s nothing very extraordinary about the businesses already in place. There are reasonable and valid arguments on both sides, which is why it’s the sort of development proposal that’s likely to create strong feelings – the kinds of feelings quite evident in the commentary.

As an old, broken-down planning commissioner, transplanted from Colorado, this looks like a no-win situation. Some are obviously opposed to any development or redevelopment that changes what’s already there in the slightest. Others don’t like the idea of a corporate food store – an exercise in futility if I’ve ever seen one. A 33-car surface parking lot is not – repeat, NOT – a big parking lot, but one of the commenters made an excellent point in wondering why there was surface parking at all. In an area that’s pretty dense in terms of both residential and retail, any sort of surface parking lot doesn’t really fit the character of the area, and more than that, it’s hardly the “highest and best use” of the available land. “Urban form” is a phrase that’s often used inappropriately, but I think it fits here as a criticism of the proposal. A (relatively) large, one-story structure with surface parking doesn’t strike me as quintessentially “Lyndale” or “Uptown.”A tea shop that could be in London or Paris is something almost any sane neighborhood would want to keep, especially if it’s been there for a dozen years.

Meanwhile, the property owner and developers have shown unusual restraint, at least as far as I can tell from the article. Zoning classifications, especially in larger cities, form their own sort of Sanskrit language, and complexity of Byzantine proportions does nothing to reassure either the public, developers, or investors. I’m also, I admit, more than a little skeptical of the mentioned 75 jobs as being of the “living wage” variety – for a retailer with a reputation for reasonable prices. In the American corporate model, I don’t see those two items – holding costs down and paying good wages – together with any frequency.

Because it’s not my neighborhood, I can afford to be ambivalent. As a fairly frequent visitor to the area, I think of Lyndale as a traffic nightmare already, and don’t doubt that a TJ store would simply add to the congestion. I’m not a TJ shopper myself, so I’m not among those who might drive into the neighborhood just to spend money there. Plenty of NIMBY sentiment, even when much of the criticism of a given proposal is reasonably valid, still boils down to “I don’t want anything in my life to change unless it’s under my control,” and that, too, is an exercise in futility.

As a planning commissioner – in a state where master plans are not “enforceable” (don’t carry the force of law) – I grew accustomed to perfectly reasonable arguments for or against a particular proposal being overruled by city councils on occasion. That may well be what’s happening here. That said, paying attention to the wishes of one’s constituents is what elected representatives are supposed to do, so I certainly understand Ms. Tuthill’s decision. I also understand that doing so undercuts the professionals whose job it is to try to keep urban development at least somewhat comprehensible. If I’m on city staff, this sort of thing merely adds to the frustration.

So I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I think some / much of the carping at Ms. Harris is misdirected. My take on the article is that she’s trying to present both the pro-and-anti-sides of the arguments surrounding the development. I don’t care for the sort of artificial striving for “balance” that characterizes much of mainstream journalism – one side has facts, the other side has propaganda, and the media treat them as if they’re equally sensible – but there are times when at least a modest attempt at “balance” seems appropriate, and this proposal strikes me as one of those times. The arguments in favor are not outrageous, nor are the arguments against.

I think your well-written

I think your well-written post essentially exposes what some of the comments, mine included, were perceiving in the article. You addressed all of the issues at hand within the context of the history and future of urban planning without any editorializing.

Frankly, I'm fine with the details of zoning. C2? C1? The politics and history driving those arbitrary designations? It's fascinating to me, personally, and pretty relevant to the story.

What's not relevant to the story? Editorializing about "school marm" tones of voice and "sneers". Also not relevant to the story is the unclear tone of the "Whatever" after the tea shop owner's concern about Feng Shui. Other details like the $400 dollar bikes at Flanders (nice edit, by the way, editors. While the $2000 number lacks the alliterative flair of the $400 number, it is more accurate. Perhaps if you had post-edited the rest of the article. . . ) and the failure research or accurately note the proximity of grocery stores in the neighborhood do nothing to help the reader trust the writer.

To me, this is not, ultimately, about balance. I don't think that Ms. Harris was doing a "hatchet job". I think she was just bringing way to much of herself into the article. In her defense, it has to be hard, watching Brian Lambert get to say just about whatever he wants in The Glean. However, Mr. Lambert does us the service of letting the players hang themselves, then providing the snark. What Ms. Harris tried to do here was snark about the subjects of her story in the story and have us golf-clap her witticisms.

The buildings that TJ's would replace.

The buildings on the corner where TJ's would be built are in disrepair and should be torn down regardless if TJ's gets built, I know I used to work in one and the other had infamous stories told about its condition and owner. Frankly, I think a TJ's would be a good idea for the area, multi-dwelling housing was just built across the street on the former church lot and there has also been multi-dwelling development along the Greenway both built and planned. As the economy recovers the area's population is likely to grow.

Historically, grocery stores have been good for neighborhoods. TJ;s does offer a limited selection of higher quality, lower priced products, that the residents could benefit from. Yet, TJ's produce will never compete with the wedge which should make a point to emphasize "buy local". Note the price of TJ's cheese is quite high for the quality. Also, TJ's has no deli to compete with Koslowski's everything is prepackaged and/or frozen. And yes, TJ's does not sell plastic bags or harsh chemical cleaners to compete with Rainbow. Finally, because of Minneapolis zoning laws and because TJ's does have a wine and beer shop, allowing TJ's to move in may stop a full service liquor store from moving in nearby.

Products

> TJ's does offer a limited selection of higher quality, lower priced products

You do realize that Trader Joe's simply sells relabeled stuff from the major food producers, right? It's the same stuff you get at Cub, Target and Rainbow. This is one of the reasons TJ's is so secretive about its business practices. I encourage everyone to do a little research on Trader Joe's. The Wedge is far superior in every way, including price.

Products

I would suggest you actually read the labels, you can barely shop at Target and Cub and avoid high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to the obesity epidemic. You can avoid corn syrup without paying twice the price at TJ's.

corn syrup

I do most of my grocery shopping at Rainbow and I don't buy anything with corn syrup in it. I spend a lot less at Rainbow than when my wife drives over to St. Louis Park to shop at Trader Joe's (and she's never can get everything she wanted).

Trader Joe's is a specialty store. It's good for people wanting cheap cheese, cheap beer or wine, or interesting frozen prepared foods. But it's not a good store if you actually want to cook and get all the necessary ingredients..

Still, a lot of people like it. It should be fine if they want to put in a store. But they should submit plans that fit the neighborhood aesthetic (sounds like current plans don't) and deal better with parking and traffic concerns as many others have noted. Lastly, the jobs argument is transparent. Any jobs would simply be jobs taken from other (of the plenty) neighborhood grocery and liquor stores.

AND PLEASE, LET'S HAVE BETTER RESEARCHED ARTICLES! The description of stores and prices mentioned don't bare any resemblance to reality!