Minnesota Avenue set for resurgence

By Jodi Schwan and Rosemary McCoy

Minnesota Avenue always has had a lot going for it.

It’s the central route many use to commute between downtown and the booming south side of town.

It’s the gateway to the Sanford USD Medical Center in many ways.

It’s an easy stop for students at Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls.

Over time, though, properties along the heart of Minnesota Avenue have become underutilized, many in development agree.

That appears to be changing, with new projects and renovations sprouting up between 18th and 33rd streets.

“We wanted to show how something with higher density along the Minnesota corridor could bring people into the center of town in a really efficient way,” said Jonah Luzier, one of the owners of a new apartment project under construction just off Minnesota at 23rd Street and Spring Avenue on property that used to be single-family houses.

His project is near the new Slim Chickens, which replaced an aging office building.

“It’s a unique project,” he said. “It’s going great.”

Modern apartments

Minnesota Avenue apartments

Luzier’s apartments will be one more step in changing the landscape around Minnesota Avenue. The first phase is a three-story, four-unit building designed for people who want to live close to downtown and might work at the nearby hospitals and universities.

The 2,400-square-foot units include four bedrooms, a two-car garage and a modern design.

Gil Haugan Construction is the builder, “so it’s commercial-quality, which is nice,” Luzier said, adding there are double walls between units and “huge windows, a lot of glass and light … and a metal balcony on all the units off the living room on the second floor.”

Amenities include hardwood floors and stairs, solid counter surfaces and a contemporary kitchen design with a built-in bar area, higher-end appliances and a washer and dryer.

Rent starts at $2,500, and the expectation is many tenants might decide to share units.

“That’s part of the reason we’re phasing it. We wanted to see where demand was and where we were seeing the market evolve, so we could tweak the design if we needed to,” Luzier said.

The owners have more land available and are approved for up to 11 units on the lot. The first phase is scheduled to be done in early November.

New retail options

New and existing retail properties also are in transition along Minnesota Avenue.

Developer Jim Bruns is planning to turn old, vacant houses into a retail center just south of 28th Street.

Bruns bought three houses and part of an empty lot on the east side of the street from developer Craig Rickert.

“We’re starting to look for tenants,” Bruns said, adding that construction could start later this year.

The former Bagel Boy location at 1911 S. Minnesota Ave. is on the market after being empty for years. Owner Chris Pappas, who recently closed Pappy’s the Original downtown, decided the time was right to try to  fill the space, said Ron Nelson of Nelson Commercial Real Estate, who has it listed.

“The building has been vacant for five years, but there’s no negatives at all with that property,” he said. “I’m excited about it.”

The 3,320-square-foot building includes a new concrete parking lot, space for outdoor dining and the setup inside for a restaurant, which adds to its appeal, Nelson said.

“There are so few restaurant-ready opportunities, and it’s so expensive to convert a non-restaurant space to restaurant space,” he said.

“But the big thing is that location. There’s an intoxicating mix of proximity to the colleges, the center of the city and downtown, and you literally can’t get that anywhere else. And the college market is just huge.”

There has been solid interest in the space from restaurants, he said.

“One would be new to the market, and another would be another location in the market.”

Farther north on Minnesota Avenue, a vintage clothing store is moving into a larger space at 18th Street and expanding its offerings.

Megan Brennan started Modstash Vintage out of her home in 2011, selling online and at flea markets and pop-up shops. Last year, she opened a shop in a 400-square-foot space at 310 W. 18th St. last year.

Now, she’s taking over the former Twice Nice Clothing Consignment space at 318 W. 18th St.

“I’m going up to 2,000 square feet, so I’m adding in midcentury furniture and home decor and the display of local artwork,” Brennan said.

Some of her friends are artists and makers, so she wants to offer a space where they can sell their work.

Modstash carries “upstyled and recycled fashions” for men, women and children.

She hopes to be in the new space by the end of the month. Her lease on the smaller space runs until February, so she plans to remain open through the transition.

Restored office building

A prominent office building with new owners on Minnesota Avenue also is slated for major improvements.

Co-owner Dan Brendtro is part of an investment group that bought the building at 1320 S. Minnesota Ave. last year and renamed it the Sherman Building in recognition of the Sherman historic district where it’s located.

A rendering of the improved Sherman Building by Natz & Associates.

“I think it’s part of a larger-scale revival of that section of Minnesota Avenue, and it’s perfectly positioned because of its proximity to downtown, you’re halfway between both hospitals, and Minnesota Avenue is a road everybody takes,” he said.

The owners are planning a total exterior and interior renovation that will start in the coming weeks. The 18,000-square-foot building is 25 percent leased. Brendtro Law Firm also will be a tenant.

“We have most of the rest heavily sought after. I think we’ve got a pretty good plan for the rest of it,” Brendtro said. “It was about 75 percent vacant when we took it over, so the goal is to refurbish the building inside and out as Class A office space.”

The building was constructed in three phases in the mid-1950s and was predominantly a medical clinic throughout its history, he said. The goal is to retain as much of the original structure as possible while refurbishing stucco, replacing windows, adding canopies and covering some aging brick in the back. The design is still being finalized.

Dan Brendtro

Brendtro, an attorney, also is handling the leasing and said a 2,200-square-foot first-floor space has drawn the most interest.

“We’ve had retail tenants look at it, a coffee shop looked at it, and financial tenants have looked at it. It has the ability to have doors that open onto a patio to the north,” he said, adding the owners are committed to adding landscaping and other amenities to help improve the surrounding area.

“We absolutely want it to be compatible with the residential and commercial uses next to it,” he said. “We want to bring the neighborhood a nicer, new neighbor.”

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Minnesota Avenue set for resurgence

Minnesota Avenue is changing, with new projects and renovations sprouting up between 18th and 33rd streets.

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