A shopping center owner’s plan to build a hot dog restaurant in Maple Grove was about as sensible as such plans get.
It wouldn’t have been just any hot dog stand, but a 9,000-square-foot Portillo’s gourmet hot dog restaurant out of Chicago. And a thriving Portillo’s restaurant — trust me, hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches as good as Portillo’s would sell there — is a sure bet to help attract more consumers, the blessed traffic retailers so sorely need. Brick-and-mortar retailing is fast hurtling toward a crisis, and any Portillo’s customers coming to the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes center would certainly be welcome.
But by now you can probably guess that Maple Grove’s City Council members voted down this proposal to generate desperately needed consumer traffic — for the reason that it would generate too much traffic. The city has a two-step process so a second vote is coming up this week, but there’s no good reason to expect a reversal.
Here’s a city that doesn’t seem to get how much the retailing industry is changing. If city councils like Maple Grove’s aren’t prepared to see these retailing spaces get turned into something else then they should expect to see a lot more empty space.
The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes is far from zombie status. It’s a top-tier property, lying adjacent to busy freeways in a leafy and upscale suburb northwest of Minneapolis. Built about 14 years ago, it’s often called Minnesota’s first lifestyle center, combining some of the features of big malls with a walkable, Main Street-style lineup of shops.
It’s owned by an affiliate of Prudential Financial, and like other good real estate owners it didn’t just collect the rent and occasionally resurface the parking lot. It constantly tweaked the property to remain competitive. And lately that’s become a lot harder.
If the name Shoppes at Arbor Lakes has made the newspaper recently, it’s probably because another tenant went out of business, like the clothing retailer Wet Seal. The occupancy of the center is around 87 percent, said Michael Landstad of CBRE, the center’s manager. Given retailing’s challenges, the center’s performance could be a lot worse.
When the center did a parking study last fall…