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Minnesota shopping plaza gets $10 million makeover

Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Bucking the trend in a slow retail construction environment, the Mendota Plaza shopping center in Mendota Heights is getting a major makeover.

Developer Paster Enterprises recently broke ground on a $10 million project that includes exterior renovation of the 48,000-square-foot Mendota Plaza, along with demolition of a retail bay, interior demolition and landscape and parking improvements.

Also under way is site preparation for a 14,820-square-foot Walgreens store that will open in 2011.

Most of the renovation work is set for completion in August. It’s the first phase of a larger, multiyear plan that could eventually bring new retail and office spaces, child care and senior housing to the 21.2-acre plaza property.

Mendota Plaza is among the few retail projects of this size and scope that’s graduating from concept to reality these days. The project has been in the works for a number of years, according to David McKnight, Mendota Heights city administrator.

McKnight said the city is “happy as heck” to see the project move forward. He described the project as a “high-quality improvement” that’s consistent with the city’s vision for the property.

John Johannson, senior vice president of retail leasing for Welsh Cos., said a $10 million retail project is a big deal in the current environment. He said more existing space needs to be absorbed before there’s real recovery in shopping center construction.

The Mendota Plaza project makes sense because it’s in an area without a lot of retail options, he said. He said the drugstore is an appropriate use there, and he likes the fact that someone is updating the center.

“It’s a logical place for it to start,” he said. “It’s a great community out there.”

Michael Sims, principal with Mid-America Real Estate-Minnesota in Wayzata, described the mall as a well-positioned property that serves the area well.

“Paster is a hands-on owner and they don’t sell; they build them and hold them for the long haul,” Sims said.

“To me, it’s a sign of their commitment to the market. I view that as all good.”

Sims said he has seen more interest recently in the overall Twin Cities retail sector from national and regional retailers that haven’t been in the market in the past 24 to 30 months.

“I am encouraged that they are at least coming back and saying, ‘We’re here; we are going to move cautiously, but we are looking.’ It’s a good sign. I’ve seen more activity in the last quarter than I have seen in the last three years.

“I don’t want to suggest that it’s 95 and sunny, but the storm clouds are starting to part and there are glimmers of light and it’s encouraging.”

Benson-Orth Associates is the general contractor for the Mendota Plaza project and Minneapolis-based KKE is providing design services.

According to the Mendota Plaza website, the first phase of construction includes construction of a 7,600-square-foot restaurant, a 12,000-square-foot retail building, the new Walgreens, and remodeling of the existing building, along with site and utility work and parking improvements.

Longer-term plans — as market conditions permit — call for an additional 10,800-square-foot office/retail building, a 10,130-square-foot childcare building, a 36,000-square-foot office building and a senior housing building with underground parking.

Mendota Plaza was built in 1970. Current tenants include several restaurants, a cleaner, a chiropractic clinic and a dental office, among others.

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