As development looms, worries of gentrification consume Loring Park

With a development firm angling to purchase more than half of the 1400 block of Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, many business owners and neighborhood residents are worried about the gentrification that may be on its way to Loring Park.

Reuter Walton Development is working on a project to reshape the historic block with a large apartment building, forcing businesses like Market Barbecue, Salsa a la Salsa and the Red Eye Theater to announce their departure in recent weeks--with more likely on the way out as the project gets closer to fruition.

While Reuter Walton says it's working with current owners and tenants on either moving into the new development or relocating, some who have been in the neighborhood for years are suspicious of the firm's intentions. 

Disapproving Loring Park residents say they're planning to attend the Minneapolis City Council meeting Thursday in an attempt to keep their cost of living from rising and their favorite businesses from moving.

"During the last election cycle all of the candidates for mayor and city council talked a lot about progressive values, and they talked about people of color, immigrants and small business," said Elizabeth Sowden, a Loring Park resident who moved to the area three years ago. "But here we have 40,000 square feet of commercial space that’s going to be reduced to 10,000 square feet. It really flies in the face of everything they promised during last year's campaign."

The firm said in a statement that at least several of the businesses set to be displaced by the project--including Market Barbecue--have already expressed interest in the new development. For the others, Reuter Walton is using "all of [its] local real estate resources, including outside brokers, to find acceptable new locations."

"We are confident we will be able to assist each of the tenants in developing a satisfactory relocation plan over the next 180 days," Reuter Walton's President and Owner Nick Walton said in a statement. "We are excited about the new energy that our project will bring to the Loring Park Neighborhood."

Those who frequent the popular strip, however, want the company to consider options that prioritize and reflect the needs of people who are already here.

"We want to know the exact reason why this is happening," Sowden said. "We don’t feel it benefits the neighborhood ... it benefits someone else."