Uptown residents and business owners have been anticipating the long-awaited redevelopment of Seven Points, formerly known as Calhoun Square, which is currently home to several small businesses and restaurants. The shopping center is due for a facelift after the exit of major brands such as H&M and Kitchen Window over the last two years.
The redevelopment plan includes the demolition of the southern portion of the building where Famous Dave’s and the CB2 furniture store were once located. Reconstruction includes residential and commercial space. Early reports suggested construction would start in fall 2022 but the building remains intact.
Seven Points is owned by North Pond Partner, a real estate investment firm out of Chicago. Blois Olson serves as the spokesman for North Pond.
“Ownership is so focused on getting the housing going because they think that the sooner you can get energy and excitement to Uptown and to Seven Points, the sooner you can kind of peel out of the current state of Uptown and the property,” Olson said.
Olson attributes the closing of H&M and CB2 to a national trend of large retailers shuttering their doors due to multiple factors including online shopping and changing consumer habits.
“I would put that in the macroeconomic trends,” he stated. “North Pond has a history of working with local, smaller, well-trafficked tenants: bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, [and] coffee shops. The thing that generates more than one trip a month multiple trips per week.”
Current business owners and operators inside Seven Points have taken a positive approach to the redevelopment and see it as an opportunity to bring in new customers with the flow of future residents and shoppers.
Andrew Avila is the manager of Arts + Rec Uptown. He believes that Seven Points and its future success can trickle out to the surrounding businesses and into the area that has been struggling.
“I think that can only help both us as a business but also Uptown as a community as well. So it's something that we're definitely very excited to see happening,” Avila said. “Renovations always have a little bit of disruption and things attached with them, but you know, that's part of that necessary pain.”
Avila said that being a part of Uptown’s new chapter was appealing to the owners of Arts + Rec. Founded by a collective of artists, Arts + Rec features the work of local artists and hosts several workshops and events geared towards platforming creatives.
Construction during the first phase of the redevelopment will assuredly cause some disruption for some of Seven Points’ business owners, however, management has made space available for entrepreneurs like Marquita Winters to temporarily relocate their business during construction.
Winters is the owner of Quita’s Kloset, a clothing boutique situated in the southern portion of Seven Points. She hopes that management can situate her in a space slightly bigger than where she currently operates her business and that the redevelopment leads to more foot traffic to the mall which has been beneficial to her in the past.
Winters held a grand opening for her boutique in June of last year after renting space at the Maplewood Mall. She struck a deal with a manager of Seven Points who had informed her of the coming redevelopment. As a clothing store, Winter’s boutique benefited from the presence of H&M since customers would find their way to her store after visiting the large retailer. With H&M closing last August, things have been difficult for her.
“I was getting foot traffic in, due to them and when they left, it was a drastic change,” Winters said. “Literally my sales were probably reduced a half or possibly even slightly above half.”
To help fill the void that H&M left, Seven Points recently connected with JSAW, a religious actions sports nonprofit, to create an indoor skatepark in the mall. The 4,500 square foot space that previously had racks of clothes now made up of quarter pipes, vert ramps, and rails for skateboarders to shred.
Ben VanOss of JSAW said that the deal with Seven Points came together in a matter of three weeks after a customer came into Help Boardshop, JSAW’s Edina location, and connected the two entities.
“We came up with this idea that's mutually beneficial,” VanOss said. “It's great for us cause we're all about serving riders and that's what we're doing. It's great for the riders because they have a space and it's great for them all cause it's bringing in people.”
The location is part of JSAW’s Uptown Park Project, which is a continuation of their efforts to provide skateboarders with a space during the winter months and connect with friends.
“They're kind of shoehorned into just a few indoor skate parks that are around the Twin Cities area and they get really crowded,” VanOss said. “So, being able to skate and still be exercising every day, relieving that stress mentally and hanging out with your friends who skate all winter is huge. And that's what this is all about.”
The Seven Points skatepark is open to skaters Monday through Saturday. The indoor skatepark will be available to the public until the end of April. It costs $5 to skate for three hours.
It’s been over a year since Aaron Blaser moved his business Curioso Cafe into Seven Points. He believed a brick-and-mortar location was never in the cards, but he made a deal with the mall’s management team and found it mutually beneficial.
“They were just hoping to have someone that is consistent, which we have been, that is adding somewhat of vitality and drawing people into the area cause there's nothing worse than looking like empty storefronts and empty areas,” Blaser said.
Aaron Blaser stands in front of the Curioso coffee shop inside Seven Points.
After creating a loyal clientele base from the local farmer’s market and events around town, Blaser has had steady business streaming into the mall. At first, he was hesitant at the idea of having a location due to the startup costs and the upkeep of the space. However, after seeing that the space they were offered was one of Dogwood’s earliest locations, things were essentially plug-and-play for Curioso.
As construction looms, Blaser’s business has been requested to move from the southern part of the mall for the time being. Once the southern expansion is complete, he hopes management will work with him to move the business back to its current location though he is open to a different location of the building if it’s feasible.
Around the corner from Curioso Cafe is Primativa Collective, an arts and jewelry store collective owned by Laura Merino-Franco that displays the artisan work of 40 other businesses. Merino is an Uptown resident and opened her store in Seven Points in May 2022 after her friend Mikayla held a month- long pop-up shop in the mall.
Hearing about her positive experience with the building’s managers, Merino reached out to discuss a possible location for her business. Merino said that the managers were generous and financially flexible with the terms of their agreement.
While Merino said that construction might temporarily hamper foot traffic to the mall, she believes that this new chapter in Uptown is a renaissance for small retail businesses, giving them a chance to innovate and explore new ideas.
Merino said that “having this opportunity to use the space and try out a new retail concept that we're trying to implement and inspire others, really highlights collaboration and how we can unite many small businesses to work towards the same purpose.”
During construction, Merino plans to move to a space within Seven Points alongside Curioso Cafe where the two businesses can hold private events, classes, and live music. She hopes this new dynamic could revive a sense of community and make mall goers see the business changes in Uptown in a positive light.
The redevelopment project is set to add 272 units of residential housing with an additional 10,950 sq ft of commercial space. To meet the demands of this expansion, an additional 218 parking spaces will be created in addition to the parking ramp on the north side of the building.
Plans for the residential area include amenities found in many upscale apartments around the city such as game rooms, coworking spaces, a club room, and a fitness area. There are also outdoor amenities planned including a pool, spa, and grilling station.
North Pond has tapped Minneapolis-based Doran Companies, a residential and commercial construction company with a portfolio of properties across the metro.
The City of Minneapolis’s Community Development and Economic department put out a report detailing the nature of the project and stated that there would be an increase in pedestrian spaces and better lighting on the street for patrons to enjoy outdoor dining spaces.
Blois believes that Seven Points and the City of Minneapolis are aligned with the community’s needs for housing as home prices have increased by nearly 8%.
“I think the city's been really good about making sure that they know that housing is a priority of the city and we want to make it a priority of the site,” Olson said. “After that, we'll figure out what the next priority should be or need to be.”
Online visibility has been a tough spot for Seven Points as the mall currently doesn’t have a working website and with the rebranding from Calhoun Square, it’s only operated under its current name for two years.
Winters of Quita’s Kloset shared that she believes ownership could do more to market the mall and support its tenants by highlighting what the center offers.
“People just don't know about the shops there,” she said. “I mean it's up to us as well to get our name out there but I think also the mall itself could.”
Blaser also identified marketing needs and stated that there could be a bit of a gap in communication due to the fact that North Pond isn’t in Minnesota and might be unaware of just how much support business owners in Seven Points need to get the word out.
“It is I think difficult as a Chicago-based company just a little bit delayed in communication sometimes,” he said.
Winters also adds that the inclusion of a big box store could do some good for small businesses like hers after the development.
“With the immediate neighborhood, there are not any big chain stores like how it was that also would help probably bring more foot traffic which leads to more people discovering the other smaller mom-and-pop stores that are here,” she said.
THE FUTURE OF UPTOWN
“It has gone through some different phases, but I think that the version of Uptown that everyone loved was more locally driven,” Avila said. Having the Uptown Arts Fair back in 2022 was also a great draw for Arts + Rec as they opened temporarily for a soft launch. “I'm very excited to be part of that moving forward. We very much see ourselves as a platform to be able to share the art that is created by the wealth of talent that we have here, both within Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities and the state itself.”
Blaser of Curioso also shared the perception that Uptown has held onto its cultural relevance.
“I think Uptown still has a cultural gravity to it that still draws people and it's not very in your face. It has been like, I think slowly building beneath the surface,” Blaser said.