Plans to replace a vacant real estate building with a Goodwill store in Cottage Grove are headed toward final city approval.
While preliminary plans for the for-profit retail store don’t divulge project costs yet, Goodwill developers have their eye on the vacant Coldwell Banker Burnet property on the corner of 80th Street and Hardwood Avenue.
The Cottage Grove Planning Commission recommended last week that the project go forward.
Minnetonka-based Welsh Companies, a commercial real estate firm, has partnered with Coldwell Banker Burnet to redevelop the roughly two-acre site by demolishing the empty building, lowering the site elevation by four feet and building a 19,000-square-foot store.
Earlier this month, representatives for Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota remained tight-lipped about plans to locate a store in Cottage Grove. However, John Patterson, partner with Fendler Patterson Construction, said the retailer has eyed the site for a while.
“It’s been a target for a number of years and (Goodwill has) been working on finding a site for a long time,” Patterson said. “When this site popped up, they jumped at the opportunity.”
During its meeting last week, the commission examined a 3-D model and digital renderings of the proposed space, which include a 75-stall parking lot, drive-thru donation drop-off, and a sidewalk connection from the corner of 80th Street and Hardwood Avenue to the corner of Hardwood Avenue and Hardwood Court, which will be the store access road. A stormwater runoff pond also is planned.
Patterson detailed the exterior aesthetics as being a combination of complementary brick, block, bands of stone and EIFS, or exterior finishing insulation system, which is made of composite material that helps insulate and waterproof a building. Commissioner Lise Rediske said the building appearance was an important factor.
“My concern with it being a Goodwill on a hill in Cottage Grove is that it might deteriorate into one of the ‘old Goodwills,’” she said, adding hesitancy with the proposed 10-year lease Patterson said was common with the organization. “If you have this nice beautiful building that goes vacant after 10 years then that hill is vacant again. I think that’s a concern we all have.”
Representing Welsh Companies, John Johannson, the senior vice president of the commercial real estate firm, said it is not the intent to build “an ugly building” and once the lease expires the building is designed with reuse in mind.
“The image of Goodwill is different,” he said. “They are a very socially redeeming corporation and they have helped bring in many retailers to communities and have improved building sites.”
While Goodwill will provide residents of south Washington County with reduced-price goods, Majel Carroll, board president of Basic Needs Inc., which operates Stone Soup Thrift Shop, said her business will remain a staple community figure.
“We have so much community support at Stone Soup that I’m not concerned,” Carroll said. “We give so much back to the community that I’m not worried about losing our support.”
Stone Soup Thrift Shop, a nonprofit retail outlet, offers many products at low to no cost to area residents. Serving roughly 1,700 shoppers per month, Carroll said the thrift shop will continue to hold its own.
“I think the community support is very strong,” Carroll said. “We’ve been here for 16 going on 17 years. People in the area know what we do and are aware of our cause. I think we’ll be fine.”
As part of the preliminary approval process, the site, which is currently zoned as a limited use, must be rezoned to retail use per the city’s 2030 comprehensive plan, Cottage Grove Senior Planner John McCool said.
The commission’s recommendation will go before the Cottage Grove City Council at its Aug. 7 meeting.
Johannson said he anticipates work to begin by fall with the building being completed in roughly four months. Johannson said other retailers traditionally have supported Goodwill.
“It is a use that other retailers respect. They don’t run away from Goodwill,” he added. “(Goodwill runs) a first class operation and the mission with their operation is to be an anchor of the community. And the stores reflect the community.”