Lockheed retail plans get mixed reviews
Residents provided feedback March 14 during community meeting
by Jessica Harper
Plans to convert Lockheed Martin in Eagan into a retail complex received mixed reviews this week.
Eagan residents were divided when expressing their views and concerns March 14 during a meeting with CSM Eagan, a subsidiary of CSM Corp. of Minneapolis, which intends to redevelop the site on Pilot Knob Road.
Some residents were excited about the plans, which would create large and small retail spaces, and free-standing restaurants on the 51-acre site.
“I’m so happy that it’s not a large strip mall. I can’t stand strip malls,” said Laura Treaeger, a Lockheed Martin employee.
Plans include 2.6 miles of walkable paths within the site.
Tom Palmquist, vice president of commercial development for CSM, said the project, dubbed Central Park Commons, will be similar to Shops on Arbor Lake in Maple Grove and Woodbury Lakes in Woodbury, both of which have urban, walkable designs.
CSM also intends to complement the site with mass transit options.
Treaeger, who intends to remain in Eagan after Lockheed moves, said she hopes CSM’s plans will increase nearby property values.
Kathleen Murphy is also eager for the retail complex to come into fruition.
“I particularly like that it is going to be different and be a destination location,” said Murphy, an Eagan resident.
Some residents expressed concerns about limited parking, but Palmquist reassured them the site will meet city standards and will have shuttle bus services during peak shopping seasons.
Other residents were disappointed the developer is looking at retail instead of other uses.
Eagan resident David Senechal had hoped the property would remain research and development or become the new data center site.
Plans to build a 138,000-square-foot data center in Eagan were announced in November. The center, called Connextion, will be built along Yankee Doodle Road west of Pilot Knob.
Connextion, which will be owned and operated by North Carolina firm Five 9s Digital, will provide off-site data storage and disaster recovery options for telecommunications and Internet service providers as well as local and regional companies.
Senechal noted that Lockheed currently has a data center on the site that could be expanded upon.
He also expressed his dismay at the city’s plans to tear down a relatively young building.
“In Europe, they have buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries, and here we have a 50-year-old building that you’re planning to tear down to build a new one,” Senechal said.
Other residents had hoped the site would be converted into office space, and expressed concerns about whether the city can support additional retail.
But Palmquist pointed out that the current market has little demand for office space.
Office space vacancy is at 19 percent within the Twin Cities area, while retail vacancy is at 6.3 percent, Palmquist said.
“This is a market-driven decision,” Palmquist said, adding that the project would add up to $2 million to the city’s tax base.
Pointing to a recent market study, CSM officials said they are confident retail is the best direction in the current market.
The study conducted by Maxfield Research found that Eagan will have a strong demand for new retail over the next 10 years.
Although the Maxfield study indicates a need for retail, it also shows that any new retail would need to be options that are new to the city.
Palmquist said Central Park Commons would do just that.
CSM has already been approached by several interested tenants, such as an upscale grocer, a sporting goods retailer and a home goods store, Palmquist said, while declining to provide specific names.
Last year, the Minneapolis developer asked the city of Eagan to submit a comprehensive guide plan amendment to the Metropolitan Council that would redesignate 41.2 acres of the 51-acre “research and development” zoned site as “retail commercial.”
But now CSM is looking to redevelop 47 acres.
CSM’s plans will be presented to the Eagan Planning Commission next week. If the commission supports the plan, its recommendation will go to the City Council for consideration in May.
CSM intends to complete the project in 2014, one year after Lockheed Martin is scheduled to vacate the site.
Jessica Harper is at email@example.com.