7-story mixed-use development planned for Totino’s site

7-story development planned at the former site of Totino's and some neighboring parking lots.

7-story development planned at the former site of Totino’s and some neighboring parking lots.

The Minneapolis Department of Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) has put up a document describing the development planned at the former Totino’s site in Northeast Minneapolis, the namesake of General Mills’ Totino’s pizza brand.

The pizza joint had been a landmark of the city, but the building has fallen into disrepair. There are efforts to save the old building, including a Don’t Demo Totino’s Facebook page, but many people have questioned whether the old structure is worth the money and effort. This planned change, would replace not just the Totino’s building, but also some neighboring vacant lots.

This project reminds me a lot of the recent demolishment of the Oak Street Cinema a couple of miles away near the University of Minnesota, which was replaced by student housing. However, both cases have involved an upgrade in land-use intensity over what had previously existed — a sharp contrast to much of the slash-and-burn redevelopment of the second half of the 20th century, where tall, tightly-packed structures were often taken down and replaced with low-slung buildings with large setbacks and overbuilt parking (or often simply replaced with parking lots and no buildings at all). Instead, these new replacements have minimal setbacks with (mostly) hidden parking.

The Old St. Anthony neighborhood where this project is planned has been slammed with both urban renewal and an aborted attempt at building a freeway which obliterated a swath of buildings just northwest of the Totino’s site. What do you think of this plan?

About Mike Hicks

Mike Hicks is a computer geek at heart, but has always had interests in transportation and urban planning. A longtime contributor to Wikipedia, he started a blog about trains and other transportation after realizing it had been two decades since he'd first heard about a potential high-speed rail line from Chicago to Minneapolis. Read more at http://hizeph400.blogspot.com/

13 thoughts on “7-story mixed-use development planned for Totino’s site

  1. Chris IversonChris Iverson

    Like the House of Hanson site in Dinkytown, I can see where people would have a soft heart for a site like this. However, the difference is that Totino’s has been closed for a number of years, and I think a change would be ideal at this point. Although the building encompasses the feel of old St Anthony well, I’d rather see a nice new development taking up the surface parking around it than a restored building with the same ugly parking lot in the vicinity. Also, since it is 7 stories, will it be a more supported steel/concrete build instead of stick?

  2. Alex CecchiniAlex

    Can’t really complain about the intensity of the space, especially compared to the vast amount of parking. Who can honestly complain about mixed-used structures that (seem to) utilize green space on roof-tops and hide nearly all the parking underground?

    What’s unfortunate is the nature of development.. There’s clearly a need or demand for housing in this area, but to achieve profit levels big developers (the only ones with access to the capital needed to invest) desire, they need to build this size of place. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the building remain AND the adjacent parking lot re-developed? Maybe some row houses or tight homes and a mixed-use apartment half the size of the proposal?

    Furthermore, it’s disheartening that so many of these developments going up look nearly identical to one another. It would be nice to see some people truly investing in character of exteriors, maybe even consider matching the character of the neighborhood or what they’re tearing down. Just a thought. Flip side of the coin is that in 100 years maybe everyone will love this architectural style… who knows.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      there are A LOT of vacant lots in this area. lots of room for infill. I wish i knew more about the economics of real estate development, that is, why if there’s demand for a building like this, wasn’t anyone building on these surface parking lots that have been sitting there for decades?

      1. Alex CecchiniAlex

        I’ve said that for quite some time.. If the land was valuable enough for someone to decide a giant structure like this was worth it, couldn’t there have been a better use sometime in the last 30 years?

        I think there are 2 answers, zoning and speculation

        1) Zoning – parking minimums, setback requirements for other structure types, etc kept smaller developers or would-be property owners from being able to build a structure that was either profitable under current zoning rules or they didn’t have the political clout to get the city to change the zoning rules to make sense for the scale of the area.

        2) Speculation – we see this in downton Mpls as well. Tons of surface parking adjacent to extremely productive places. Some of that is, again, parking minimums. But I think a lot of people owning that land is speculating on its future value, assuming it will be raised further by surrounding development. Problem is, for so long development never occurred because everyone was doing the same thing. Poor tax ratios of land/improvements allowed surface parking to still be profitable in the “short-term.”

        1. Nathan

          I agree that there is a big gap in house – most of what’s going up now isn’t geared towards families. That’s unfortunate because once the young couples start having kids, they move out to the suburbs, never to be heard from again until they are 65.

          Infill is great, because it builds density. More people will hopefully create more vitality, a stronger tax base, and more reasons for families to stay. In this case, we can’t hope to grow by protecting old, dilapidated buildings and parking lots (not that that is what you’re saying).

          I’d love to see some other options as well (town-homes or duplexes in this area). This particular site wouldn’t be good for that since it’s in such a busy area.

      2. Colin

        In addition to any economic concerns the developers have, I wouldn’t be surprised if the city sees this as preferable to developing empty lots precisely because the building hasn’t been occupied in a while. Abandoned buildings are a major insurance liability for owners and a major source of concern for city fire departments, far more so than empty lots and surface parking. Keeping the current structure and developing around it seems far preferable, but city officials could very well suspect that the site will continue to struggle in attracting tenants even with nearby development (due to costs sunk in redoing the interior, meeting codes, etc.). If that’s the case, demolition and redevelopment makes a certain amount of sense for almost all parties involved. I’d prefer to see reuse rather than demolition from both an architectural and environmental point of view, but there are other factors to consider.

  3. Nathan

    We own a home near here and the site is a bit of a dump. This will add some much needed aesthetic charm to the area. If the mixed use is actually usable for a majority of people, this will be amazing. I’ll take what we can get even if its not the most creative of designs. Personally I think it could be a lot worse and it’s actually pretty nice. Maybe they will put in a pizza place in Totinos honor.

    1. Alex CecchiniAlex

      No doubt, Nathan. I didn’t mean to be a negative nellie in my post. The parking on ground level with an arcade out to the street/sidewalk is a great idea. It’s a good compromise in allowing cars to access the place while leaving it open to the possibility of converting said space to more retail if the area becomes populous enough to support it without parking (and better on-street parking and street design in general).

      I just see a big gap in the housing stock going up in our Minneapolis neighborhoods.. Seems like a lot of mega apartment buildings with mostly 1 BR, few 2 BR, all aimed at the young single folk (or young couples). Seems like there needs to be more “true homes” in these neighborhoods to support families with 1-2 children (1,500-2,000 sqft, maybe a small yardspace even if on a rooftop) to keep the neighborhoods from being single-function.

      1. Spencer AgnewSpencer Agnew

        Alex- I’m curious why you perceive a gap in housing for families in Minneapolis. The general demographic trend in Minneapolis has been toward smaller households and fewer families. Recent Census data shows that less than 30% of households in Minneapolis are 3 or more people, yet 40% of existing housing units have 3 or more bedrooms. The gap seems to be in the number of families in the City, not the amount of family housing.

        1. Alex CecchiniAlex

          I think that is in large part due to the very large number of millenials recently graduated from college or currently in the workplace who aren’t married (yet) that are choosing to live alone or in 2 BR places. This is a huge bulge in the population and while I agree with you very short-term this is the market need, long-term these people will want a slightly larger home that isn’t in a big apartment. Most of these people have stated that eventually they will buy a home in the suburbs. Why help that along by not offering more housing options that include the 3-4 BR variety with slightly more private space.

          I would say a large number of the 70% of houses that are 2 or fewer people will eventually become families of 3 or more, and a portion of the 3 or more will become 4 or more. Also keep in mind the propensity of people to own a home with a spare bedroom (or two) for guests or other uses (office, etc). Furthermore, perhaps the type of housing units with 3 or more BR available in Mpls proper are 1) not what people want or 2) too expensive for the general millenial to afford, hence moving to the suburbs.

          But you are right, there is a disparity in the numbers there and I’m curious if it is changing as these big apartments are going up..

  4. Jeremy Bergerson

    I agree that while the Totino’s building captures the feel of Old St. Anthony, given the need for greater density, a large project like this is a good idea. Unfortunately, like almost all new condo/apt. buildings in Minneapolis, it just looks chintzy. Why can’t these new structures have a feel of solidity and longevity to them? I scratch my head when I look at the new condos going up all over Uptown. Are such rinky-dink structures really going to appreciate? Chicagoans building solid brick and stone buildings all the time. Their climate is comparable to ours. Why can’t we do the same?

  5. Julie Kosbab

    This project isn’t out of line with some of the other recent infill, albeit with a greater attention to the aesthetics of Old St. Anthony than you see, say, at the Lund’s nearby, which is glossy blue glass. The 7-story nature of it is also in keeping with what’s nearby.

    And it’s walking distance to tacos and karaoke.

    I don’t know what the reason for a look at that parcel versus other parcels. It may be that the derelict nature of the building makes it higher priority (per the city) than some of the vacant parcels that don’t have derelict buildings.

  6. Bret Herzog

    Normally, as a Nordeaster, I’d be a little more weary about adding another higher end rental mixed-use (Broadway and Main *cough*). But given the location of this specific site, CPED’s initiatives for the Central Ave Corridor, and the possibility of being positioned on the first of the Minneapolis Streetcar routes, I think this could be a nice anchor for the east of the river development.

    The railroad tracks that run parallel to 1st Ave NE already have townhouse development on both sides, as well as over over by Our Lady of the Lourdes. The traffic on that intersection is too high to put attached homes, and with the Banks Building and other adjacent structures, it’s not outside of the character of the neighborhood or adjacent buildings.

    Also, there’s some excellent new dining off of E Hennepin, mixed right in with some of the same bars that have been around for decades now. If it were a certain triangular karaoke bar, I think the Nordeasters would be more up in arms (Although I think it’s technically Marcy-Holmes.)

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