The New Nicollet Redevelopment: Reimaging New Places and Opportunities

The 2024 Student Planning and Design Competition project site location is the New Nicollet Redevelopment, the former Kmart site in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. This project site covers 10 acres of land between the Midtown Greenway bike trail, Lake Street, First Avenue, and Blaisdell Avenue.

History of the New Nicollet Redevelopment

In the 1970s, Kmart and SuperValu built stores with large surface parking lots on the site, closing a block of a significant commercial corridor. While the discount store served the daily needs of residents, it also created a barrier that affected the communities and local businesses of south Minneapolis.

Today, the City of Minneapolis owns the site and plans to reconnect Nicollet Avenue and redevelop the rest of the site as a mixed-use, walkable district. The city is conducting three phases of public engagement between 2022–2024. With community input, the site will once again serve as a commercial and cultural crossroads, reflecting the needs of the diverse communities who currently live here.

The former Kmart site is centrally located in south Minneapolis and adjacent to both significant bike infrastructure and existing and planned rapid transit routes. The Midtown Greenway is a unique east-west bicycle and pedestrian trail that crosses the city.

Lake Street is a vibrant commercial and cultural corridor and Nicollet Avenue features a popular restaurant district known as "Eat Street" just north of the site. Both corridors are planned to have bus rapid transit (BRT) routes in the future. The newly constructed I-35W & Lake Street transit station — just one block from the site — offers existing BRT service direct to downtown Minneapolis.

Before European colonization in the mid-1600s, this land was inhabited by the Dakota and Anishinaabe people. Between 1920 and 1950, the intersection of Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street reached its peak as a commercial shopping district at the intersection of two heavily used streetcar lines.

Following the development patterns of many cities throughout the United States in the post-WWII era, suburbs grew outside of the city and the development of the Interstate Highway System and federal home loan programs encouraged the outmigration of white, middle-to-upper-class residents. This phenomenon — combined with the discontinuation of streetcar service in 1954 in Minneapolis — spurred the decline of the booming commercial district along Lake Street; the area quickly became vacant and crime-ridden.

In the 1970s, the City of Minneapolis demolished the run-down buildings at the Nicollet and Lake intersection in hopes of encouraging new development, but the site continued to remain vacant. The anticipated funding for redevelopment fell through and, by 1976, the city found itself in a difficult financial spot.

Deciding to do what felt like the most financially responsible action at the time, the city accommodated Kmart — the only retailer interested in this site — and their condition of closing off a section of Nicollet Avenue to build the new store and large surface parking lot. Kmart and the adjacent grocery store opened in 1977 and served the area until 2020 when the city regained control of the site.

The New Nicollet Redevelopment Today

Today, the buildings are closed, and the City of Minneapolis is planning the site as the New Nicollet Redevelopment project. The first phase of public engagement (August 2022–January 2023) created open dialogues with community members in the area and identified the communities' desired outcomes for the site. The second phase of public engagement — currently underway — is asking for stakeholder feedback on the design for the new Nicollet Avenue and ideas for public spaces on the former Kmart site.

To find out more details about the site, including historic maps and images, visit the project webpage.

Top image: Aerial image of the project site, May 2022. Image City of Minneapolis' Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.

About the Author
Adrienne Bockheim is a principal city planner/designer in the City of Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development. She is on the project management team for the New Nicollet Redevelopment Project.

September 20, 2023

By Adrienne Bockheim, AICP