Major Changes Coming to The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes
The Maple Grove City Council took the first step Monday night to changing the pedestrian-friendly center of The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes to accommodate vehicle traffic. Property managers say without that change, they will lose more tenants and have a difficult time attracting new ones.
Representatives for The Shoppes told the Maple Grove City Council that retailers are not interested in locating to the center area like they once were. The center includes stores like H and M, Williams-Sonoma and White House/Black Market. Concept plans include adding more than 40 parking spaces to make stores more accessible to shoppers.
“Cloud Hanging Over Retail”
The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes opened in 2003 as a destination shopping location offering stores, restaurants and entertainment right off I-494 and I-694. City Council members are proud of its pedestrian-friendly features and peaceful atmosphere that takes shoppers away from the hustle and bustle of traffic. But representatives for The Shoppes say the retail playbook has changed.
“There’s a cloud hanging over retail nationally,” said Mike Smith, director of real estate for Washington, D.C.-based Streetsense. “The effects of decades of overexpansion, and more recently the proliferation of e-commerce, is finally being felt, and being felt in a big way.”
Property managers point to tenants already lost. The list includes Banana Republic, J. Crew, Coldwater Creek, Anthropologie and Ann Taylor. Additionally, Express and Victoria’s Secret relocated away from the center of The Shoppes.
Taking Things “That Were Beautiful and Destroying It”
Council members expressed deep concerns about the proposed changes. Council Member Judith Hanson says the plans reminded her of what happened to Nicollet Mall, which she “found disappointing as well.”
“It’s taking a lot of things that were beautiful and destroying it,” says Hanson, speaking about the concept plans. “I’m just really, really struggling with that because I think it looks lovely. It’s unique. We’ve won awards for that.”
Maple Grove Mayor Mark Steffenson says it’s something that has to be done to keep the mall up and running.
“I also know there is a real reality here staring us in the face,” says Steffenson. “If we don’t do something to allow that streetscape to exist and whatever amenities we want along the way to exist, this shopping mall may be one of the malls that is shuttered nationwide. I think that’s a real reality we need to address.”
Steffenson says he has visited other shopping complexes and the picture isn’t pretty.
“I’m not happy about it, but it is what it is,” said Steffenson. “West End is supposedly a dynamic place for retailers. I was down there not too long ago. I think there’s two retail stores left. Southdale I visited about a month ago. If that’s an idea of what we want. It was miserable.”
Concept Plan Could Change
The Maple Grove City Council decided to approve the concept plan that allows opening up the plaza to allow vehicle traffic. The plan includes retaining all the existing amenities of the pedestrian plaza area, but would move them to make room for vehicles.
“This is a tough one, because I really empathize and believe all of the things that you told us about retail and the difficulties with it,” said Hanson speaking to representatives of The Shoppes. “I think we all know that that’s true. I was surprised to see how many vacancies there were and that was really sad.”
While the initial concept plan will likely change, the vehicle traffic part won’t. Steffenson believes it’s a concession the city has to make.
“I’m deeply concerned that if we don’t — five, 10 years from now — we can all be out there operating a bulldozer because the place is gone.”