Minneapolis’ Nicollet Avenue Kmart slated for expedited November demolition
Minneapolis city officials on Sunday announced expedited plans to demolish a former Kmart building with a complicated past, moving the date from March 2024 to early next month.
Originally, the plan was to tear down the abandoned store and reconnect Nicollet Avenue starting in the spring, but a massive fire at the building on Oct. 20 moved up the timeline.
Mayor Jacob Frey was the first of several city leaders, past and present, to ‘break ground’ on the project, using a sledgehammer to take a ceremonial swing in commemoration of the beginning of the end for the deserted Kmart building, a site looked at with virtually universal disdain by residents of Minneapolis.
Aside from the artwork adorning boarded-up entryways, it’s largely an eyesore that, in the 1970s, cut the city’s beloved Nicollet Avenue in half.
“At long last, Minneapolis, a multi-decade, multi-generation dream for our city is coming true,” Mayor Frey said, beginning his remarks to cheers. “This Kmart is coming down and Nicollet is opening back up.”
Referencing the decision by his predecessors to build it in the first place, he added, “I don’t think we all should spend time questioning what is now viewed as one of the worst urban planning decisions ever made.”
“It is going to transform this entire community,” added Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins.
She was followed by former Mayor R.T. Rybak, who thanked Frey and city council members “for finally getting the job done.”
“I had no idea that I would have to wait to be a broken down old man who could barely lift a sledgehammer,” he said to laughter before adding, “But the good news is Nicollet has been waiting for you, this block, and it’s ready.”
The hope, according to the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) Director Erik Hansen, is for the official demolition crew to begin work at the site the week of Nov. 6.
Before that happens, city council would have to approve a $638,667 contract with Minnesota construction contractor Rachel Contracting LLC. Both a committee and full council vote are expected this week.
“So in the next coming weeks, you’ll see most of this building come down,” Hansen concluded.
The newly announced timeline moves the demolition up four months earlier than initially planned. It’s a matter of safety, according to Frey, following a massive fire inside the former Kmart just over a week ago that collapsed the north side of the building.
A press release from a city spokesperson last week said the investigation into the fire was complete, leaving the cause of the fire “undetermined.”
The fire was an unexpected twist in the decades-long effort to tear down the building.
Once the demolition is completed and a new foundation is laid, Hansen said the property will sit an empty lot for another year. Construction is slated to begin on reconnecting Nicollet Ave in 2025, he added.
CPED has been floating several ideas for how the space will eventually be filled. The department released an online survey earlier this month, asking for feedback on three design options for public spaces (like parks and greenways) and four concepts for street design.
The survey is scheduled to close on Nov. 15 at 9 a.m.