“East Lake Street will see a lot of action in the next six-to-twelve months that will make you very happy” said Andrew Johnson, Longfellow Community Council (LCC) president, at the Council’s meeting on Tuesday night.
The upcoming changes are a result of the collaboration between the Longfellow Business Association, Seward Redesign, the City of Minneapolis’ Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, the Lake Street Council, and the LCC.
The working group is closely following the development recommendations from an independent market study done by Joe Urban in June 2012 according to Johnson. The study was conducted to determine why East Lake Street suffers from excessive retail vacancy. The report identified several problem areas. The first is 28th to 34th Avenue, this retail section is noted as lacking visual continuity, visual anchors, and street-facing doors. Thirty-ninth Avenue is also noted in the report with six vacancies within two blocks, however it has key businesses such as Blue Moon Coffee, Hymie’s, and Ace Hardware. Thirty-sixth Avenue also has considerable vacancies (nine vacancies in two blocks), but the study reports that the area has good character and lots of potential. It mentions Merlin’s Rest and River Lake Hardware as key anchor tenants.
So what might we see within the next year?
- Parka, a coffee shop and restaurant, opening this fall/winter.
- Riverside Grocery has a development proposal for the former Peterson Machinery building.
- Pop up art galleries and apparel stores.
- Murals done by local art students.
- A street festival next summer.
- Art shows hosted at local restaurants.
Collaboration is Key
Johnson notes that collaboration between local groups has been key in bringing forward momentum to the East Lake Street corridor. Group members are working together to locate grants and identify business owners interested in opening shop in the area. This renewed effort has set the stage for positive change, but there is still much work to be done. “There is a lot of energy [in the development of East Lake Street] and if we don’t address the problems now, the area will just linger. We want to make East Lake Street the next hot area to be,” said Johnson. As noted in the Joe Urban report and echoed by Johnson, community engagement and support is an essential component to the project’s success.