Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hong Kong International Building Sold to Kemps, Rumored to Be Slated for Demolition and a Parking Lot

Photo from the "Old North Minneapolis" Facebook page.

The storefront and office or living space at 404 West Broadway, the Vietnam Hong Kong International building, has been in limbo and a source of speculation in north Minneapolis.  Today on a thread in the Old North Minneapolis Facebook group, some answers came forward, and they do not bode well for the building.

Reportedly the property has been acquired by Kemps, and that part can be verified as the Minneapolis property information website lists Kemps as the owner.  The speculation that follows, however, is not yet confirmed.  But there seems to be only one potential use that Kemps would have for the parcel...

...and that would be a parking lot-slash-eighteen-wheeler-entry-point.  Of course, that would also necessitate the demolition of the building, because if we can't move houses instead of tearing them down, then what chance does a structure of this magnitude stand of being moved?

I've made no secret that I'm no fan of surface parking in general, and especially not along our commercial corridors where it's about the worst possible land use designation.  There are times when a compelling case can be made that such use is needed.  I cannot conceive of one here.  The wonderfully detailed StreetsMN blog has a comparison of what West Broadway along 3rd-4th Streets looked like then and now.  Furthermore, the Getting Around Minneapolis site shows an aerial view of how much surface parking we already have long the corridor.


Even that map is deceptive, in that Kemp's loading dock areas are not shaded in above, although they function as yet more surface parking from a land use perspective.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear:  This is not a case of the community lacking a plan or a vision for West Broadway, and then whining when Kemp's proposes something of their own.  The north Minneapolis community, and the city as a whole, has adopted and supported the West Broadway Alive plan.  That plan calls for pedestrian-friendly storefronts and businesses along the corridor.  Demolished buildings and surface parking take us farther away from that plan than anything else.

There may yet be a compelling proposal from Kemp's to make their case.  For now, the bar is set quite high.  Even the specter of having them move out of the community should not be enough to grant either a demolition permit or a parking lot.  Whatever their proposal for the site, it must be a net gain for north Minneapolis and West Broadway.

20 comments:

  1. Kemps is a thriving business and employer. STFU and let them build their business.

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  2. thanks for the link. in terms of street design, what would you do to west broadway to make it walkable?

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    1. Well the first step (see what I did there?) is to play defense and keep storefronts like this from being demolished, and keep more surface parking from appearing.

      Other than that, it's a bit of a chicken vs. egg conundrum. People need places to walk to. But many of those places aren't there yet, so the infrastructure gets shifted towards non-walkable developments.

      Broadway is also plagued by a lot of poor urban design choices of the '70's and '80's that eliminated pedestrian-friendly storefronts and gave us the shopping centers at Lyndale as well as Hawthorn Crossings. Hard to undo that now.

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  3. I dont support most demolition especially for the purposes of surface parking... however, this building is blighted. Its ugly. It makes broadway look like crap. It took a couple years for me to even realize this building had an active business inside.

    Considering the fact that the current owners have done NOTHING to improve the facade of this building I will be glad to see it dissappear... unfortunate to hear a parking lot might be the replacement but i would rather have asphalt than blight.

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    1. Which building? The white brick one or the Hong Kong store? Yes, there's blight. But why is demolition the answer to that blight? What about restoration of an existing structure? Up until recently, the Hong Kong store was a functioning business, so one would assume that that building at least is salvageable.

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  4. Not surprisingly, when someone wanted to make a film about a bleak, unpedestrian friendly stretch of corridor in Minneapolis, guess what they filmed? Jump to minute 2:33.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFN6vQCxQsw

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  5. Oh good, more ass-phalt, as if that end of Broadway isn't already devoid of anything resembling green, organic matter.

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  6. Nice catch and nice coverage, Jeff.

    And by the way...

    It's spelled "spectre."

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    1. As far as "specter/spectre" goes, I've seen it spelled both ways. And blogspot tells me that "spectre" is incorrect, although I grew up with -re as the right way to spell it.

      I may change it to spectre just for the James Bond reference.

      I did notice that I inconsistently spelled Kemps as "Kemps" and "Kemp's." That I will definitely have to correct.

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  7. Before you get your panties in a bunch why don't you wait and see what their plan is?...and get a real job.

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    1. It's been my experience that waiting to see what a plan is makes it too late to change anything. I'd rather put them on warning now.

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  8. On the OTHER hand, if Kemps would fix up those buildings and sell cut-rate ice cream right there next to where it's manufactured, THAT would be great.

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  9. You failed to recognize, and mention for consideration, the NUMBER 1 REASON to allow Kemps' a big-ass curb cut on West Broadway, there. So far you are unable to reason out the big advantage and benefit to Kemps; and the community. Gee, it is so big it would run you right over like a semi trying to turn off of West Bro onto 4th street to access their facility. Duh.... I toast you gaining wisdom in the New Year.

    Keith Reitman

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    1. Oh, I did consider that aspect. I just didn't consider it relevant. Specifically, I'm not convinced that making it slightly easier for semi trucks to turn is worth the demolition of two structures and further departures from the sustainable community development plans espoused through West Broadway Alive.

      It's worth it to Kemps, to be sure, just not to the community.

      And I do speak from some degree of personal experience here. Three years ago I was biking and making a left turn from 4th onto Broadway. I was in the left lane for cars, as I should have been. A Kemps truck was making a right turn and was "bullying the lane" so that the car in front of me had to kick into reverse.

      The truck driver didn't see me, and neither did the car forced to back up. He ran over the front tire of my bike before I could move. So yeah, I see how the 4th/Broadway connection isn't ideal. But is it worth the destruction of two buildings to fix? No.

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  10. Both of the buildings are ugly and blighted.

    Kemps now owns the property so saving the structures seems like a dead end to me. No?

    I would love love love to see the buildings saved and improved but that seems like a pipe dream... isnt it too late for that anyway? Blight is tolerable only if there is real hope for restoration/renovation... but it seems to me that hope has been extinguished since Kemps is now the owner.

    Permanent (or decades long) blight is unnacceptable.

    Thanks for putting this on our radar Jeff... and thanks for continuing to volunteer in our community even though you have a full time REAL JOB!

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    1. From a property rights standpoint, if the building or buildings do not meet historic designation or potential historic status, there may not be much that could save them. And Kemps would legally be allowed to tear down the structures.

      Then comes the land use element. Surface parking is not a benefit to West Broadway, especially to that segment of the corridor. Any request for a change in land use/zoning should be roundly defeated. And if Kemps' end goal is a parking lot, but they are unable to get that, then perhaps they would have second thoughts about demolition.

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  11. Ahhhhh..... I see.

    So it's still possible to stop land use changes, and since ownership has changed hands there might actually be potential for the buildings to be repurposed and un-blighted?

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  12. The Odd Fellows building might be ugly, but it's actually a quick fix. The building might need more investment for functionality purposes, but for the visual blight, it literally is just paint. The original storefront was not removed, simply covered over. The upper windows are intact and fit with their original openings. It literally is just peel off the crap on the front and paint - and presto! The building will look just fine. It literally is that simple of a fix for this one.

    Here is my thought: Instead of viewing the situation through the lens of "property rights" and what processes can force them to stop (HPC, Planning Commission, etc), what if the beginning point were to build bridges? Could there be a meeting with KEMPS representatives, the West Broadway Coalition, and city officials where it was discussed that their plan in not in accord with the land use planning for the area, but that partners in the community would like to hear what their concerns are driving this and see if there are other ways to meet their concerns / needs that also leaves these buildings in place. If that could be accomplished, the next conversation could be to look at ideas for how to repurpose these buildings and it sounds like there are lots of ideas already out there. These aren't long vacant buildings - there was a functioning business there up until now. But the beginning point is seeing what Kemp's needs are because that is going to be their first priority.

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