East side redevelopment proposal focuses on food

An architectural drawing shows plans for a commercial development for the southeast corner of Richfield Parkway and West 66th Street. (Image courtesy Interstate Partners)
An architectural drawing shows plans for a commercial development for the southeast corner of Richfield Parkway and West 66th Street. (Image courtesy Interstate Development)

Richfield officials are receptive to revised plans for a restaurant-focused redevelopment project at the intersection of 66th Street and Richfield Parkway.

After two initial proposals failed to impress the gatekeepers last year, Interstate Development was back before the Richfield City Council, Planning Commission and Housing and Redevelopment Authority during a Jan. 24 study session.

When he presented project plans to the city this past April, Interstate Development representative Lonnie Provencher was asked to revise the designs for the 10,000-square-foot complex so that it would more fully embrace 66th Street. When the developer hired a new architect for the project, the firm realized how far the first concepts were from the city’s vision.

“After seeing the new plan, we saw the mistakes that we made last time, and we kind of had a moment of realization on how far we really were, and I hope we got it right this time,” Provencher said.

“The idea that was being asked of us a year ago was to create a building that does not have a rear. … I think we finally got there.”

Councilmember Pat Elliott agreed. “I think you nailed it,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Erin Vrieze Daniels appreciated that the city’s comments were taken to heart.

“You took all our feedback and really changed it. It looks fantastic,” Vrieze Daniels said.

With the developer and the city on the same page, Interstate Development can continue working to recruit occupants for the retail space, which Provencher said will have four tenants.

The most prominent aspect of the new development will stand on its east end.

“We’re looking for some type of a unique food tenancy for that space,” Provencher said.

He added that the west end of the development “wants to be coffee.” Considering that the nearby Caribou coffee would seem to fulfill that use already, Provencher gave assurance the new coffee shop will differentiate itself from Caribou.

“We are in discussions with an operator that is, I would say, uniquely different, and has a different position in the market from them,” Provencher said.

Sandwiched between the prospective restaurant and coffee shop would be retail or service-oriented users and another potential food establishment that would focus on lunch, he said.

“I think we’ve got a good idea of what the tenancy would look like throughout the building, with the exception of the (east) end cap,” Provencher said. “We have spoken with many users who would like to be there. I’m not sure we’ve found the perfect one.”

The user of the complex’s east end would likely not be fast food, but rather a full-menu restaurant with a beer and liquor license at minimum, he elaborated, stating the hope is to include outdoor seating as well.

A new mode of cooperation

Watching the plans come together, Elliott praised changes the city has made in how it works with developers, calling the current cooperation with Interstate Development “symbolic of what we’ve been trying to do over the last 4-5 years.”

Over that time, city officials have been trying to conduct listening sessions regarding developers’ designs earlier in the planning process, so that developers aren’t sent back to the drawing board after committing substantial resources to a project.

Elliott emphasized the synergy that occurs when developers hear the city’s ideas and return with a finished product.

“And I think that’s the epitome of a partnership between developers trying to work with the city and the city trying to express to you what we are looking for,” he said.

Aside from worries about how the project was oriented toward 66th Street, concerns from last year’s designs also focused on noise from the drive-thru. However, the plans do meet the city’s distance requirements for such a feature, Community Development Director John Stark noted. Last time the project was presented, there was confusion regarding the noise impact on a dentist office that some thought was a home, Stark explained.

The drive-thru in the new plans would be used primarily in the morning, Provencher said, while the food tenant in the middle section of the building would be lunch-focused. The restaurant on the east end would focus on dinner, he added.

Contact Andrew Wig at andrew.wig@ecm-inc.com or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.

This article originally referred to Interstate Development with an older name for the company. The post was updated to be consistent with the firm’s current identity.