Minnesota towns seeking to fill their empty Shopko spaces

In Albert Lea, MercyOne, an Iowa-based chain of health facilities, has agreed to build a health clinic in space formerly occupied by a Herberger’s.

Posted: Jan 11, 2020 9:43 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Worthington director of community development, planning, zoning and building Jason Brisson considers his city’s former Shopko building, situated where Interstate 90 meets Highway 59, one of the best retail spots in southwest Minnesota.

It’s been closed since last year, when Shopko, which sold everything from clothes to home goods and electronics, shuttered all of its remaining stores as part of a bankruptcy plan. In Minnesota, most were located in small towns outside the Twin Cities metro.

Given its spot, Brisson says he’s a little surprised the once-Worthington Shopko hasn’t been bought or rented already. But at nearly 67,000 square feet, the former building is a big space to fill. Even some of the country’s biggest retail chains, like Target, Walmart and Macy’s have looked to do more with less space as online shopping eats away at brick and mortar store profits.

“The building is larger than most tenants are looking for,” Brisson said. “It just seems like the whole industry is finding it tougher and tougher. Commercial brokers are having a tough time leasing out buildings of that size.”

Worthington is far from alone. In recent years, the closures of Herberger’s, Younkers, Sears, Kmart, Shopko and other big box retail stores have rippled across Greater Minnesota, leaving consumers with fewer shopping options and city officials trying to figure out what to do with the open space.

Some Minnesota cities are hoping to court new retailers, whether one or more, to fill their former Shopko spaces.

___

The nonprofit news outlet MinnPost provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.

___

In the rural community of Mahnomen, about an hour from Bemidji in the White Earth Nation, the loss of Shopko means one less place to shop in Mahnomen — and in some cases, one more reason to drive down to Detroit Lakes to shop, said Mitchell Berg, city administrator.

Bigger cities like St. Cloud can more easily absorb the loss of a Shopko, Berg said.

“But these smaller communities … it’s a little harder. Not just because the retail aspects changed so much, but I look at it as a capacity issue in the sense of the city, we don’t have an economic development staff member. We don’t have a lot of robust economic development tools to throw at a project.”

Berg said residents have expressed interest in bringing an Aldi to town. But like a lot of retailers, the discount grocery chain has certain benchmarks required of communities it expands in.

“You go on their website, they want an average daily traffic count of 25,000,” Berg said — an average of about 25,000 people going past their store.

The city of Mahnomen has the road with the highest traffic in Mahnomen County, but Berg estimated its average daily traffic is around 5,500.

He has hope, though. There’s a market for retail in Mahnomen even though the community is small — roughly 1,300 residents within Mahnomen city limits, the surrounding area has around 7,000 people. Mahnomen is more isolated than, say, Kasson, Minnesota, a convenient 20-mile drive from Rochester, which also lost a Shopko.

Berg would like to see another retailer fill the old Shopko space. Maybe one that also has a focus on hunting, fishing and farming, like a Fleet Farm.

As far as options are concerned, retail is better for the city’s tax base than some of the other possible uses of the building. Shopko would have generated about $7,000 in tax revenue at its appraisal value. Its loss means about a 3% decline in tax revenue — not huge, but a bigger tax haul than the city would get if the building converted to, say, mini storage, he said.

Plus, Berg said, “If you’re going to have a prominent building located right off a major highway intersection, this is your building that people are going to look to when they come into town. Do you want it to be a mini storage lot or do you want it to be something more robust?”

In the age of Amazon, other cities — especially those where residents have lots of other brick and mortar shopping options — are looking at non-retail options for filling the former big box stores.

Glencoe, a city of about 5,500 residents an hour west of the Twin Cities, has a Coborn’s grocery store, a couple of hardware stores, a dollar store and small businesses.

“We’re pretty diverse with retail,” said Dan Ehrke, assistant city administrator, and unlike some of the smaller communities in Minnesota losing retailers, are about 20 minutes from larger Hutchinson, and not far from the Twin Cities’ western suburbs, so there’s always been some spill factor from residents shopping outside of town, he said.

Glencoe’s former Shopko site is adjacent to an industrial park. It could be used for retail again, but might also work well for light manufacturing, Ehrke said.

In Albert Lea, MercyOne, an Iowa-based chain of health facilities, has agreed to build a health clinic in space formerly occupied by a Herberger’s, according to the Albert Lea Tribune. In its initial phases, the clinic will focus on primary care. Later, it plans to expand to include OB-GYN, medical imaging and an ambulatory surgery center.

Other communities are considering repurposing former big box retail sites altogether.

In West Central Minnesota’s Fergus Falls, Shopko was one in a string of recent closures, including the closing of the local Target store and Herberger’s.

Mayor Ben Schierer doesn’t see many rural towns having big box retail the way they used to.

“I think very few rural communities are going to be able to have two retail shopping centers, just because of the sheer amount of online shopping,” he said.

Fergus Falls is paving the way in Minnesota in the creative re-use of former retail space. This year, the Fergus Falls school district bought the 89,000-square foot former Target building, which the retailer closed in 2018. Even though the sale to the school district means a loss of tax revenue, it will save the school district money when it’s repurposed as a hub for early childhood education, Schierer said.

Until it closed this year, the city’s Shopko anchored the east end of its downtown. “For a lot of people who lived in the downtown area, it was within walking distance. It filled a need,” he said.

Nonetheless, Schierer said the city’s master plan envisioned eventual redevelopment at the Shopko lot, which is right on the Otter Tail River, which runs through downtown.

If Schierer could see anything go onto the old Shopko site, he said he’d want some kind of civic building, like a community center or a theater, as identified in the city’s master plan. Something like that, he said, could spur development on a parking lot across the street to make what was once the fourth block of Fergus Falls’ downtown more vibrant.

“This national trend and the closures of these national chains in Fergus Falls came at a time when we were really looking at what is our identify, what is our future,” he said. “Our historic downtown and our beautiful river — that’s what we have to focus on, that’s our unique asset, that’s what makes us different.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 63723

Reported Deaths: 1739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin20063845
Ramsey7904270
Dakota4670106
Anoka3891115
Stearns293520
Washington225548
Olmsted180923
Nobles17819
Scott166922
Mower11172
Rice10488
Blue Earth9606
Wright9395
Carver9153
Clay79540
Sherburne75810
Kandiyohi7251
St. Louis63620
Todd4312
Lyon4273
Watonwan3842
Freeborn3651
Nicollet36313
Steele3632
Benton3273
Winona27216
Beltrami2670
Crow Wing26514
McLeod2400
Le Sueur2371
Martin2125
Chisago2111
Otter Tail2094
Goodhue2089
Cottonwood1800
Becker1641
Pipestone1619
Polk1614
Waseca1571
Carlton1490
Itasca14612
Douglas1441
Unassigned14446
Isanti1410
Dodge1360
Pine1320
Murray1251
Chippewa1191
Morrison971
Wabasha970
Faribault930
Brown922
Rock890
Meeker882
Sibley862
Koochiching833
Jackson810
Cass793
Pennington751
Fillmore730
Mille Lacs733
Renville675
Lincoln610
Grant574
Swift571
Roseau530
Yellow Medicine530
Houston490
Pope480
Aitkin421
Norman400
Hubbard370
Kanabec372
Redwood370
Wilkin353
Marshall300
Wadena280
Mahnomen271
Big Stone250
Lake240
Red Lake240
Stevens220
Traverse150
Clearwater140
Lac qui Parle90
Lake of the Woods70
Cook60
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51101

Reported Deaths: 965
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10800210
Woodbury378354
Black Hawk324566
Linn250389
Johnson216521
Dallas195135
Scott180815
Buena Vista180112
Dubuque177031
Marshall147527
Pottawattamie140029
Story120315
Wapello94336
Muscatine88048
Webster8678
Crawford7433
Cerro Gordo67119
Sioux6713
Warren5972
Tama56129
Plymouth49312
Jasper49028
Wright4851
Clinton4504
Dickinson3874
Louisa37814
Washington30710
Boone2783
Franklin25912
Hamilton2561
Bremer2407
Des Moines2262
Clarke2103
Clay2101
Carroll2082
Emmet1974
Marion1930
Shelby1931
Hardin1890
Floyd1753
Jackson1671
Benton1641
Allamakee1624
Poweshiek1608
Henry1464
Mahaska14417
Guthrie1425
Lee1415
Buchanan1401
Cedar1361
Jones1362
Butler1332
Madison1302
Delaware1291
Humboldt1271
Hancock1252
Lyon1242
Pocahontas1202
Clayton1163
Harrison1161
Cherokee1101
Winnebago1080
Winneshiek1061
Kossuth1020
Page1010
Taylor1000
Iowa981
Palo Alto980
Fayette960
Mills951
Monona931
Calhoun922
Cass901
Jefferson890
Osceola880
Sac870
Grundy861
Mitchell830
Union831
Monroe758
Lucas744
Worth710
Chickasaw620
Davis622
Montgomery624
Howard550
Appanoose533
Fremont450
Greene420
Keokuk411
Van Buren391
Adair380
Ida330
Audubon301
Decatur280
Ringgold241
Wayne211
Adams170
Unassigned50
Rochester
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 59°
Mason City
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 59°
Albert Lea
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 59°
Austin
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 59°
Charles City
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 61°
Sever storm chances return for Friday night
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Marching Band makes adjustments for Covid-19

Image

Virtual Wing Ding for Democrats in Iowa

Image

Improving Relations Between Law Enforcement and Communities

Image

Gov. Walz Calls for Unity After Imam Attacked

Image

Fan challenges Rochester Honkers to a win

Image

Essential Worker Convoy

Image

Olmsted County Election Prep

Image

Move With The Mayor

Image

Princess Kay of The Milky Way Is Crowned

Image

Rochester Events Cancelled

Community Events