A proposal to build a new liquor store at the corner of Broadway St. and Marshall St. is in jeopardy after the St. Anthony West Neighborhood Organization (STAWNO) board voted to not support the project at its Feb. 13 meeting.
About 40 people attended a neighborhood meeting on Feb. 8 to discuss the proposal with Steve Krause, owner of Minnehaha Liquors, his son Jason, who would run the new store, and their architect and engineer.
At the meeting emotions ran high as people spoke passionately both in favor of and against the proposal.
“The neighborhood is pretty evenly split from what I can tell,” said Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey, who said he would abide by STAWNO’s decision. “I think we need to frame the question properly. Is there a better use for that parcel? I would think so. But do we have the option of another use? Presently we do not.”
Former City Council Member Diane Hofstede, who lost her reelection bid to Frey last November, helped organize opposition to the liquor store by encouraging local businesses to speak out against it.
Opponents of the plan say a liquor store would cause public safety issues, increase traffic at an intersection that already has traffic problems and that the neighborhood should hold out for a proposal that adds more value to the area.
“I have some very strong concerns about this being a gateway to Northeast. I think it sends a negative message about the direction we’re moving in as a community,” said Hofstede, who lives in St. Anthony West with her husband, Tony, a STAWNO board member.
Currently the land is owned by Modern Roadways, an asphalt road paving company. Piles of gravel and heavy trucks dominate the site, which is widely considered to be an eyesore in a high-profile location prime for redevelopment.
The Modern Roadways parcel at 80 Broadway St. NE -- photo by Ben Johnson
Supporters of the liquor store proposal say a new, beautiful building would be a huge improvement to the ugliest piece of land in the neighborhood, traffic and public safety concerns are overstated, and that nothing will ever get built there if the board continues to shoot down development proposals.
“I’m still boiling, we had a coffee shop that wanted to go in there eight years ago and the do-gooders who didn’t like the liquor store didn’t like the coffee shop either,” said STAWNO board member Michael Rainville.
Rainville ended up voting against the proposal under the condition that STAWNO would immediately begin work on a small-area plan to provide guidance to potential developers in the future.
Steve Krause was upset by the board’s decision because several board members told him after the Feb. 8 community meeting that he didn’t need to attend the Feb. 13 board meeting, which is where the board ultimately decided to vote against his proposal.
“On Saturday there were more people in favor of [the liquor store proposal] than against it, and it was my understanding that’s when the neighborhood had the opportunity to be heard,” said Krause. “I feel like I was at a disadvantage because I wasn’t aware that this was going to be another hearing.”
At the Feb. 13 STAWNO board meeting there were 15 minutes of public comment and 15 minutes of board discussion before the vote was taken. Representatives from nearby businesses RSP Architects and Northeast Bank spoke out against the proposal, while no one representing Krause’s interests was present.
Krause says he’s still thinking about how he will proceed. New developments are not required to receive neighborhood approval, but they rarely survive the city planning and licensing process without it.
“To get to this point you spend thousands and thousands of dollars in soft costs with architects and attorneys and developing plans and submissions to the city,” he said. “I don’t know if there was support for us in the room, and I don’t know how many people want that corner redeveloped, and how many people want to continue to look at gravel piles and dump trucks.”