The Dinkytown McDonald’s has been one of Minneapolis’ weird, uncelebrated landmarks since the ‘70s. It’s not so much beloved as it is iconic, with its sunken exterior and its keystone location. It’s one of those uncanny places that only seems to fully exist after midnight.
And now, it just might be coming down. CA Ventures and ESG Architects are eyeing the site for a new high-rise apartment building, either 16 or 25 stories tall. It’s supposed to have somewhere between 350 and 370 units, 1,000 bedrooms, a parking lot with 240 stalls, and “three or more” commercial spaces.
McDonald’s isn’t the only business on the proposed site. It’s also bearing down on Five Guys, the Pagoda, the now-closed Himalayan, and the liquor store. Owner Irv Hershkovitz says he got the call from the developers a couple of months ago.
The news caught him off guard. Not because a developer was approaching him for his property; they’ve been trying to get him to sell for a decade. He was surprised because he’d been trying to buy that McDonald’s for years. His plan had been to add more parking, which he says the area desperately needs, plus a new liquor store.
So he listened to what they had to say. And honestly, he doesn’t really know how to feel about a 25-story building going in. Even the 2040 Plan, which increased density throughout the city, only calls for “two-to-six-story buildings” in the area. Neighborhood association director Chris Lautenschlager says some residents are loath to amend the “newly christened” policy so soon.
University of Minnesota students are in desperate need of housing. The Twin Cities metro’s vacancy rate has been hovering around 3 percent for years, and a healthy market calls for about 5 percent.
It’s especially bad in Dinkytown – a “tough” area by Hershkovitz’s own description. Business owners have been watching the college crowd migrate to downtown and Uptown -- content to commute from campus rather than remain in the university berg -- and they’ve been at a loss as to how to bring it back.
The “billion-dollar question,” says Lautenschlager, is whether these proposed units will actually fit the average student’s budget. CA Ventures didn’t respond to interview requests, and so far, hasn’t been very forthcoming with a rent estimate. But students watching new housing sprout up in the area are getting concerned.
“All of these apartment places are nice, but I mean, we’re on a college campus and a lot of it is completely unaffordable,” senior Dylan Bassett told the Minnesota Daily. Earlier this year, CA Ventures displaced a handful of student tenants when it gave them a month to clear out and make way for a new 114-unit apartment complex.
“There are definitely mixed feelings,” Minnesota Student Association Coordinator Rebecca Lowin says. But she says some are heartened by a few of the perks the developers are offering. Some of that retail may end up being a grocery store, for example, and students may be able to access affordable units through financial aid or work study programs.
“Some people genuinely like [the plan],” Lautenschlager says – or at least they’re hopeful it’ll go the neighborhood’s way.
The Daily reports that McDonald’s will likely not be gone forever. CA Ventures Director Ryan Sadowy told the publication they plan to bring it back post-construction, sometime around the fall of 2022. Hershkovitz says the developers wanted him to come back, too.
“They asked me many, many, many times to put the store in the new place,” he says.
But he’s already made up his mind. If this project goes through the City Council and starts construction in 2020 as planned, he’s going to take the buyout and opt for semi-retirement. He says the developers are taking care to negotiate and work with tenants, and nobody’s getting “kicked out on the street.”