• Follow us

Minnesota News

Empty storefronts fuel concern about future of St. Paul's Grand Avenue

First came the business closings. Traditions. Bonfire. D’Amico & Sons. Creative Kidstuff. Then came the near-death of Grand Old Day, the 45-year street festival that was canceled and resuscitated in the span of a week in April.

Now people are talking again about the future of Grand Avenue, St. Paul’s premier commercial corridor. Some worry that Grand’s longtime blend of boutique dining and retail with century-old bungalows and classic apartment buildings may be fading in this time of Amazon and St. Paul’s rising minimum wage.

“We’re trying to get a handle on what the vacancies mean,” said Hayden Howland, president of the Summit Hill Association, the district council that oversees Grand’s eastern half. “People are concerned. If they see empty storefronts, it can be alarming.”

In response, the Summit Hill Association and the Macalester-Groveland Community Council will survey properties along the entire avenue. With members from the Grand Avenue Business Association and local residents, the Future is Grand Task Force will collect feedback from business owners, landlords and area residents on how to ensure Grand Avenue’s continued vitality, Howland said.

In addition, Summit Hill’s Neighborhood Plan Committee is looking at the cause of vacancies and addressing an increased number of variance requests, rezoning applications and nonconforming development proposals.

Grand Avenue boosters are trying to determine if they’re witnessing another transition in a history of change or if it’s something more calamitous.

“Grand is a really important part of our neighborhood and we have always been interested in maintaining its vibrancy,” Howland said.

A Grand history

For those who have known Grand only since the 1980s, it may be surprising to know it once knew hard times.

The avenue enjoyed an early heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, when a streetcar delivered customers to myriad groceries, dry cleaners, drugstores and restaurants at nearly every corner. Grand’s fortunes started diminishing during the housing shortages of World War II, said David Lanegran, a Macalester College professor who co-wrote a history of the avenue.

The years following the war accelerated the street’s decline as wealthy families fled for new suburbs, leaving Summit Avenue mansions to be chopped up into low-rent apartments. Crime and decay followed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Grand’s fortunes began to rebound in the early 1970s, when low prices for buildings that once housed auto dealers and repair shops attracted a handful of business owners who launched stores and restaurants, Lanegran said. He doubts a return to its darker days.

“People love Grand Avenue, so they’re constantly worried about its health,” he said. “Every 10 years or so, there is some big problem and people get nervous. ... The truth is, people have come and gone all the time.”

Closings, openings

When the Wild Onion closed, its space was filled by Red Rabbit. After a flower shop departed, the Mischief Toy Store filled its space. When the owner of Bibelot announced her retirement, GoodThings quickly took over Bibelot’s Grand and Linden Hills shops. A property that once was home to a grocery store, then Restoration Hardware, then the North Face, is once again being proposed as a grocery, this time a Lunds & Byerlys with 69 apartments above.

Still, Mischief co-owner Dan Marshall said Grand needs fundamental changes to ensure its continued viability. Despite the charm of its bungalow shops, it needs zoning changes — such as allowing buildings taller than three stories, he said.

“Grand needs reinvestment right now. It needs new projects and it needs more density,” Marshall said. “Every parking lot on Grand Avenue is wasted space.”

Mike Schumann, who closed his Traditions furniture store on Grand in January after 31 years in St. Paul, said City Hall indifference and high taxes have a number of business owners frustrated and “tired of beating their heads against the wall. It used to be fun to do business in St. Paul. But you don’t get that sense anymore.”

The city and the mayor’s office in particular, he said, need to nurture Grand Avenue businesses. Still, Schumann said, despite its vacancies and challenges, Grand “will eventually come back. But, in the meantime, the city is really not helping matters.”

Hibbing native Tom Forti is betting on it. Despite nearby vacancies, he has remade his Sunrise Cafe on Grand into the Iron Ranger, a casual restaurant offering beer, wine and many of his family’s Iron Range favorite foods. He plans soon to build a patio and, possibly, expand into space next door.

He’s betting on Grand’s continued success, given the prosperity of the surrounding neighborhoods. “I’m in the right business. I sell a product that everyone consumes every day.”

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

StarTribune.com | Local News

Man convicted of molesting girls on school bus 2019-05-29 12:30:56The 72-year-old defendant won't be eligible to leave prison for at least 20 years.

Lawsuit seeks to overturn Minnesota abortion restrictions 2019-05-29 12:08:05The lawsuit targets more than a dozen existing statutes, including a 24-hour waiting period and a provision mandating that fetal remains are buried or

BCA identifies domestic violence suspect seriously hurt by 2019-05-29 10:50:14The suspect has a long and violent criminal history, court records show.

Duluth police plead for end to rumors on 2019-05-29 09:35:04'Allow us to complete an accurate and thorough investigation,' a police statement read.

Arson suspected in series of fires in St. 2019-05-29 00:20:46A dozen deliberate fires were concentrated in the western part of the city.

Vehicle struck by speeding van hits Metro Transit 2019-05-28 23:42:48

Biggest attraction of Doors Open? Federal Reserve Bank 2019-05-28 22:49:30Doors Open event brought 72,000 visitors to Minneapolis buildings and businesses.

City of St. Paul may buy former Hillcrest 2019-05-28 22:36:14Study found mercury from fungicides in the soil at the former East Side course.

All 5 Minnesotans at National Spelling Bee get 2019-05-28 22:29:22The students are among hundreds trying to make it to Thursday's finals.

As Bde Maka Ska pavilion is demolished, police 2019-05-28 21:24:49As the fire investigation continues, the man in the video has not been arrested, and the woman caught on camera is not considered a suspect, police sa

1 person has died in Milwaukee house fire 2019-05-28 09:00:12Authorities say one of two people pulled from a burning Milwaukee home has died.

Brainerd area resort guests rescue 3 men pulled 2019-05-28 08:51:30Snowmelt and rainy spring have made for high water levels in the area, the Sheriff's Office said.

| Duluth News Tribune

Info sought in Cloquet business burglary 2019-05-29 12:15:30Duluth News TribunePolice are seeking information about a burglary of a Cloquet business. The B & B Market, 506 Big Lake Road, was burglarized Mon

Making minimum payments on credit cards often leads 2019-05-29 12:12:32prairiebusinessmagazine.comRED WING, Minn — More than 40 million Americans expect to miss a credit card payment due date this year, according to

Mueller says he would not go beyond anything 2019-05-29 11:46:23prairiebusinessmagazine.comWASHINGTON - Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced Wednesday he was closing his office and offered his first public comm

Woman stabbed in Mayo employee cafeteria, man arrested 2019-05-29 11:21:32prairiebusinessmagazine.comROCHESTER, Minn. - A woman was injured Wednesday morning when she was stabbed multiple times by an assailant in a cafeteria

WATCH: Robert Mueller makes statement on Russia investigation 2019-05-29 10:38:15prairiebusinessmagazine.comWASHINGTON — Robert Mueller is scheduled to make a statement on the Russia interference investigation today at 10:00

'Large and extremely dangerous' tornado rips through Kansas, 2019-05-29 10:07:05prairiebusinessmagazine.comKANSAS CITY — Strong to severe storms in parts of northeastern Kansas were expected to continue Wednesday after a "l

Lost Italian: Enjoy North Dakota's agricultural bounty with 2019-05-29 08:00:00prairiebusinessmagazine.comFARGO — While most of our cooking takes place at home these days, every now and again Tony and I get an invitation to

The Pinke Post: Building on past generations for 2019-05-29 07:00:00prairiebusinessmagazine.comMy husband’s family business is a small town lumberyard and home building business. The business has been rooted in b

Bygones for May 29, 2019 2019-05-29 07:00:00Duluth News TribuneMay 29, 1979 New residential building construction in Duluth in April continued on a slow pace. Although builders took out permits

Pressroom Podcast: Tearing it up during wedding season 2019-05-29 06:00:48Duluth News TribuneWedding season is upon us and this week we have a Duluth photographer who takes wedding portraits to the next level. Derek Montgom

Pet of the week for May 28, 2019 2019-05-28 08:01:48Duluth News TribuneBrittani is a brindle-colored 1-year-old female Labrador retriever mix available for adoption through the Humane Society of Douglas

Bygones for May 28, 2019 2019-05-28 07:00:00Duluth News TribuneMay 28, 1979 The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined that the St. Louis County Board could hold prayers before me

Twin Cities

McConnell: ‘We’d fill’ any Supreme Court vacancy in 2019-05-29 12:05:47By ANDREW TAYLOR WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell says that if a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court during next year&rsq

Watch: Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaks publicly for 2019-05-29 12:05:20Robert Mueller on Wednesday spoke publicly for the first time since being appointed special counsel two years ago.

Woman stabbed in Mayo employee cafeteria, man arrested 2019-05-29 11:44:48ROCHESTER, Minn. – A woman was injured Wednesday morning when she was stabbed multiple times by an assailant in a cafeteria at Mayo Clinic Hospi

Mueller: Special counsel probe did not exonerate Trump 2019-05-29 11:10:10Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday he believed he was constitutionally barred from charging President Donald Trump with a crime but emphasi

Wolfgang Puck: Easy-to-make chutney is the perfect standby 2019-05-29 10:58:49I enjoy celebrating the start of the warm-weather grilling season by encouraging you to make a big impression when you cook outdoors. But let’s

Minneapolis teen pleads guilty to murder, robbery of 2019-05-29 10:24:41A Minneapolis teen has pleaded guilty to murder and aggravated robbery. In a plea deal with Hennepin County prosecutors, 17-year-old Shire Basal enter

Gallery walls will never go out of style. 2019-05-29 10:12:50Every now and then, a design blog will declare gallery walls “over” — a fad that’s had its moment. But they’re a decorat

Gophers softball: ‘Nothing to lose, everything to gain’ 2019-05-29 09:57:12At every turn over the past 24 months, the Gophers have been left to pick up the pieces after being told they have no business competing with the nati

A macaroni and cheese pale ale? As craft 2019-05-29 09:37:11Anyone for steak and onion Kolsch? Or a macaroni and cheese pale ale? Those were among the flavors at the Strange Brew Festival in Reno, Nevada, this

New St. Paul barbecue joint Bark and the 2019-05-29 06:00:56Barbecue is having (another) moment in the Twin Cities. No fewer than five new spots have opened in the past six months, and St. Paul’s newest i

KARE announces staffing changes for 5 p.m., morning 2019-05-28 23:28:04A new anchor will join the 5 p.m. news desk at KARE-TV, the station announced Tuesday. In July, Lauren Leamanczyk will move from the morning anchor te

Twins’ Devin Smeltzer shines in debut as Minnesota 2019-05-28 23:26:25Rocco Baldelli had been looking forward to watching Devin Smeltzer pitch in person. He finally got his chance on Tuesday, and it’s safe to say h


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.