Former St. Anthony Walmart is still empty


file photo • Walmart closed its St. Anthony location in 2014 and moved three miles to a brand-new building in Roseville. Though the owners of the nearly 150,000-square-foot space at Silver Lake Village were confident they’d quickly find a new tenant, the building continues to sit empty today.

file photo • An announcement for the Walmart store at Silver Lake Village, as seen in the March, 23, 2005, issue of the St. Anthony Bulletin. The store opened the same day.

Back in 2015, about a year after Walmart vacated its former 150,000 square feet of retail space in St. Anthony, the owners of the the building felt confident it would soon be filled. 

As of late summer 2018, the building and sprawling parking lot at Silver Lake Village remain empty. 

Owner IRC Retail Centers, formerly Inland Real Estate, expressed their confidence in finding a new tenant during a 2015 St. Anthony City Council meeting. 

IRC property manager Brenda Thomas said the group was searching for new tenants, even “thrilled to get someone in there,” even though Walmart left in the middle of its lease, which runs through 2025. 

Thomas said IRC was winnowing down over 20 potential tenants interested in leasing the entirety of the former Walmart space without splitting it up. 

No representatives from IRC responded to multiple attempts for comment on how the tenant search is going today.

St. Anthony City Manager Mark Casey said in an interview he’d been in recent contact with people at IRC. 

He also reiterated the city’s long-held stance on the big box retail vacancy at 3800 Silver Lake Road, echoing what council member Randy Stille said at that 2015 meeting.  

“The city’s role is not to procure future tenants,” said Casey. 

Because the property is privately owned by IRC, the city has no control over what happens with it. However, he said, the former Walmart site is still a point of plenty city discussion, including in comprehensive planning.

Casey said those talks are about what the best use is for the site. Currently zoned for commercial use, Casey said the city is considering a zoning switch to multi-use in order to allow housing to be a potential partial replacement for the retailer. 

Casey said that sort of switch needs to be vetted by city staff before the idea circles back to the council for further consideration at the end of the year. 

No matter what for IRC, which he called a “good partner with the city,” Casey said it’s in the group’s “best interest to have the best tenant.”

 

Big box imbroglio

Retail stores of all sizes are struggling in the still novel and uncharted world of an internationally connected internet marketplace. 

The trouble with shuttering superstores is the supersized infrastructure that’s left behind. 

“It’s a very big parking lot,” said Casey of the former Walmart site. He also pointed out that St. Anthony is far from the only community tasked with coming up with creative ways to combat the fallout caused by fiber optic shopping on brick and mortar retail. “Market forces have changed.”

When a big store like Walmart enters — or leaves — a community, it tends to change the local marketplace. 

Since it arrived in 2005, the St. Anthony Walmart helped “periphery business pop up and be successful for a time period,” said Casey.

Walmart’s departure for a brand-new Roseville location three miles away in 2014 came with a corresponding dip in business at Silver Lake Village. A Wendy’s in the shopping center closed, perhaps due to the impact of losing its big box neighbor. 

Yet, between the Cub Foods and the Chipotle restaurant, many businesses reported to IRC in 2014 that they were doing fine. 

Sitting — and seemingly thriving — in the old Wendy’s spot now is a new Starbucks. 

A clause in Cub Foods’ lease says no other retailer in Silver Lake Village can have more than 10,000 square feet of food-selling-space, a constraint that informed Walmart’s move to open another location nearby that could sell food.

Silver Lake Village replaced Minnesota’s second enclosed mall, Apache Plaza, which opened in 1961. The plaza suffered years of decline, lost businesses to nearby Rosedale Center, was damaged by a tornado in 1984 and was eventually bulldozed in 2004.

 

— Solomon Gustavo

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