Grocer, East Bank developer negotiating; is Loring Park next?
Neighbors of the East Bank's Rick's Market, 313 Central Ave. NE, are hungry for a full-fledged Lund's grocery store.
Officials of Lund Food Holdings, which purchased Rick's this spring, told about 100 people gathered for a June 17 meeting that there was a "very good" probability the store would become Lund's in coming months. Lund is the parent of Lund's and Byerly's grocery chains.
John Pazahanick, the grocer's senior vice president of business development, said Lund was in active negotiations with Hillcrest Development, which owns Eastgate Shopping Center, to extend the store's six-year lease and possibly redevelop the aging strip mall at University and Central avenues.
"We're very anxious to land there," Pazahanick told residents gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 1 Lourdes Place.
The Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood Association (NIEBNA) hosted the meeting that drew residents from several area neighborhoods, including Loring Park, North Loop, Marcy-Holmes and St. Anthony West.
The residents pressed Pazahanick for more details on plans for Rick's and urged him to quickly open a Lund's there. Many urged him to ditch the current name to lure more customers.
Some said Rick's had a bad reputation under old ownership for poor customer service and produce selection.
Since Lund Food Holdings took over ownership in April, the store's look has changed little except for some new lights and new paint on the ceiling. The produce aisle is now stocked with Lund's fruits and vegetables, and the store also carries Lund's baked goods, Pazahanick said.
The improvements have not been enough to satisfy those at the meeting. Some said they had been waiting for more than 25 years for a high-quality grocery store near Downtown. Others complained about having to drive to Uptown or the suburbs for groceries.
In response to their pleas, Pazahanick said he would continue to work on a lease extension and redevelopment plan for Eastgate.
The 11,900-square-foot store would likely double to roughly 18,000-20,000 square feet, he said.
A typical suburban Lund's store is 40,000 square feet.
NIEBNA Chairman Victor Grambsch said the size proposed for Eastgate is a better scale for the neighborhood and wouldn't overburden the area with extra traffic.
Besides the Eastgate site, Lund Food Holding is looking at other Downtown sites, including one in Loring Park, Pazahanick said.
Scott Tankenoff, a managing partner for Hillcrest Development, said University Central LLC -- a related Hillcrest party that oversees Eastgate -- hopes to secure a full-service Lund's.
However, a few hurdles remain, he said, such as addressing some long-standing shopping center leases.
"We've been, through our representatives, working hard with Lund's to make something happen," he said. "We're excited about Lund's, their plans and continue to strive to make something positive happen. There are number of things that make it hard to redevelop the property today and we're working to clear those barriers."