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Recently, city staff has received a number of inquiries about the redevelopment of some of the big box stores in the City of Blaine. In recent years, the city has seen Kmart, Rainbow Foods, Gander Mountain, Toys-R-Us, and Best Buy close. Additionally, Walmart, in The Village, changed locations. These actions have left behind large empty buildings and the public wondering what will happen to these stores. Online retail sales changed the nature of how shopping works and some big box stores have struggled with this change. In the case of Blaine, many of these empty buildings have successfully transformed into multi-tenant retail buildings with smaller, destination specific uses.
The city is in contact with real estate brokers regarding potential users for these buildings. The market dictates what happens in these former big boxes. Then the city collaborates with building owners to see how the city can assist in redevelopment, either financially or through city approval processes. It is not in the city’s, or neighborhoods’, best interest for these buildings to sit empty for a long period of time, so when the city is approached with a viable option for reuse, it works to make sure the end product of redevelopment fits well in a neighborhood.
Whenever possible the city works to ensure the building ends up looking nice, meets city codes, and provides screening wherever necessary. The former Kmart is a good example of big box redevelopment where the city collaborated with the owner of the building to do facade renovations, parking lot improvements, and a rework of the screening wall on the north side of the site.
Several redevelopments have taken place in the last few years. There is still more work to do in this area but it is great to see vacant stores come back to life and return to being an active part of the Blaine economy.