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City ripe for more retail stores, services

Cottage Grove has the demographic makeup to support more retail stores, restaurants and services, according to a report delivered to the Economic Development Authority last week, a study city officials say will help the city focus its efforts to recruit more business at a retail convention next month.

A number of factors make Cottage Grove ripe for further commercial development, according to the report on retail sales potential by real-estate consultants McComb Group, including an average household income of $85,084 in the city's trade area, which includes St. Paul Park, Newport, and portions of Woodbury, Hastings and Prescott, Wis.

It's a figure comparable to neighboring Woodbury, Jim McComb of the McComb Group told officials, and a surprise to Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey, who said the data can be used to attract retailers to the city at next month's International Council of Shopping Centers trade fair in Chicago that the city will attend.

Retailers "are all looking for a certain type of demographic to facilitate them coming to Cottage Grove," Bailey said. "And a lot of the statistical data is showing them that, yes, indeed we can support" more retail and restaurants.

Officials said the report detailed no earth-shattering surprises, nothing that significantly altered their view of the city's retail potential. What it did do, city administrator Ryan Schroeder said, is give the city officials attending the council of shopping centers convention next month a more detailed game plan.

City will 'target our efforts'

The retail sales potential study pinpointed specific sectors where Cottage Grove could support further immediate retail growth, including supermarkets, drug stores, hardware stores, full-service restaurants, fast-casual restaurants, women's clothing, electronics stores, sporting goods stores and physical fitness facilities.

"The goal in hiring the McComb firm was to target our efforts, to try to figure out" what types of retail and services the city should strive to draw to Cottage Grove, Schroeder said. "As we pursue retail end-users we don't want to just shotgun it. That's pretty inefficient."

McCombs's report also studied the current makeup of Cottage Grove's major retail areas, and Bailey said he sees real value in statistics detailing traffic counts through the 80th Street retail area.

Daily average vehicle trips on 80th Street east of Highway 61 total fewer than 2,000 more per day than the west side of the highway, and by 2030, the report estimates, the gap will narrow to just 1,000.

Bailey says that's important because of recurring reluctance from retailers to locate new businesses on the still-vacant Norris Marketplace site at the corner of 80th Street and Hadley Avenue.

City officials have heard repeatedly from retailers the site is "on the wrong side of the highway," Bailey said, and the mayor said he hopes the statistics will rid possible tenants of that perception.

Schroeder, though, said the city should exercise caution in its expectations of what the report means.

"There has to be a realization that, one: things take time," the city administrator said. "Two: we're in a very poor expansion market now in the Twin Cities. So, just because we have a document that says a store of (a particular) type should be able to locate here and do well, that doesn't mean a retailer will agree with that assessment."