25 years in the making: Minneapolis’ Nicollet Kmart slated for demolition

Redevelopment of Minneapolis Kmart site

Redevelopment of Minneapolis Kmart site

City leaders say the massive former Kmart that cuts Nicollet Avenue in two in south Minneapolis is officially coming down.

It’s a decades-long story. The last update was in 2020, when the city bought Kmart out of its property lease. The store officially shut its doors months later.

Except for a temporary U.S. Postal Service office, expected to move out by the end of July, the building and parking lot have been largely vacant since then.

“I mean, it’s like an eyesore,” said Wesley Victory with East African Healing Services, who had a table set up on the sidewalk in front of the lot on Lake Street to give out free Narcan and fentanyl test strip kits on Wednesday.

It’s no coincidence they chose that spot, Victory said, noting the former Kmart lot has become more than an aesthetic issue for the area.

“We met one lady that said, every day she goes around just cleaning up, and she finds all kinds of needles and all kinds of stuff every day,” he shared. “Like, a big bucket-full every day.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made a point to highlight the project in his annual State of the City speech on Thursday, 25 years after the city began discussing the demolition of the property and the reconnection of Nicollet Avenue from Lake St. to W 29th St.

“Suddenly, there’s like a block and a half there that is basic nothingness. And why would we have that?” Mayor Frey said Wednesday. “Maybe it was a decision that people deemed to be good back in 1978. But right now, what makes sense is to unclog that important artery of our city.”

Project supervisor Rebecca Parrell, with the City’s Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) Department, and senior transportation planner Kelsey Fogt from the Public Works Department teamed up in the last couple of years to make the vision a reality.

Picture in place of the Kmart, new businesses, housing, walking paths and trees and other greenspace, the pair said.

“This will be sort of a reclamation of being able to have their street back,” Parrell added.

“And you get a constant thoroughfare that isn’t blocked by a big building as you’re driving or walking through,” Frey said.

Asked about persistent crime in and around the Kmart lot and how the project will address public safety, the Mayor said, “Crime happens when people aren’t watching. Crime happens in dead space where there’s not a lot going on, and what we’re talking about is having 1,000 different things going on along the corridor.”

As for that seemingly symbolic moment where a wrecking ball will hit the building, Parrell said that’s expected to happen in March 2024.

In the meantime, she and Fogt said they’d continue to gather community input, with two open houses in the summer and fall this year.

Street-level construction is slated to start in 2025, Fogt said.

“We have a goal date on the calendar, so I’m hoping to stay on track,” she added. “It all depends on what we hear from folks, and what we’re able to incorporate into our work and how long that takes.”

Click here for a more detailed look at the city’s vision.