A new hope for blighted Burger King

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February 28, 2011 // UPDATED 8:36 am - February 28, 2011
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch
// A new buyer wants to revitalize the Northeast site //

NORTHEAST PARK — The empty Burger King at 17th and Central is under contract with a buyer looking to redevelop the corner, according to the site’s listing agent.

What the buyer wants to build is not yet known, however — the parties are bound to silence as part of the purchase agreement, and the city hasn’t yet received a land use application. The closing is expected in six months.

Members of Windom Park Citizens in Action (WPCiA) clapped for listing agent Brian Bruggeman, an associate with Welsh Cos., when he told them of the sale at a Feb. 15 meeting. Burger King sat vacant for two years, and WPCiA as well as the Northeast Park Neighborhood Association had pushed for action.

“This sounds like a positive thing to me,” said board president Steve Sylvester.

Bruggeman said the Burger King building is in rough shape now. Squatters had been living inside, and people stole copper out of the HVAC system. The building is boarded and secure now, he said, but almost all of the site’s potential buyers planned to raze the structure. He said Burger King closed due to management troubles.

“It just got run into the ground,” he said.

Bruggeman said he approached the landowners about listing the property after reading a newspaper article about the site, which had become eyesore. Neighborhood groups also contacted the owners, urging them to secure the site and take action on it.

Property owner Cushman Minar said he was happy to list the property.

“I want to get out of owning property in Minnesota,” he said, adding that he’s particularly interested in the economic benefits of redeveloping the site.

“I want them to employ people and make a living,” he said.

He said he hopes the new project moves forward without any holdups from the city.

“If the city is going to be problematic and nitpick, I can see that probably would be the biggest obstacle,” he said.

In the three months that Burger King was on the market, Minar said it received a handful of interested “suspects” and two offers.

Bruggeman said he wasn’t surprised at the interest, and said buyers were watching the property and waiting for it to come on the market. Interest came from national retailers, local tenants and multi-unit housing developers, he said.

“There is a lot of interest in the whole Central corridor,” he said.

He said he doesn’t expect that the owners will need a conditional use permit from the city, something that came as a relief to Windom Park staff member Gayle Bonneville.

“I was worried this could be another dumping site,” she said, referring to proposals elsewhere in Northeast for hazardous waste and recycling centers.

Bruggeman is optimistic that the Northeast market is taking a turn for the better. He’s already seen improvement in the industrial and office sectors in Minneapolis, and retail tends to follow behind. The Burger King sale comes on the heels of Falafel King moving into the old Porky’s restaurant at 18th and Central.

Windom Park resident Doron Clark said he thinks the purchase is good news, so long as the proposal fits in with neighborhood plans.

Bonneville said she’s happy to see change on the corner.

“Not much could be worse,” she said.