“I’ve been working and living and breathing this thing pretty extensively here,” Johnson told the City Council on Tuesday.
The new center will have space for one to two more tenants. Although Johnson said he could easily fill that space with another restaurant, he said he’s looking for a “quality service tenant” in order to be sensitive to parking needs on the property.
He added that he can afford to be selective because the project has already hit the occupancy goals necessary for financing.
“If I wanted to slam in another food use, I promise you I’d be 100 percent occupied,” he said.
Residents should see minor work begin on the property within a few days as workers begin removing BP signage and other vestiges of the site’s former use. Demolition and groundbreaking will take place this fall. Solomon is aiming for a July 2013 opening.
The project has a busy few weeks ahead for that to happen. It actually involves three pieces of property: the BP site, a sliver of land owned by Cambridge Towers and a property owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, part of which is in St. Louis Park.
St. Louis Park will give final review of its parcel Oct. 15, Johnson said.
The Hopkins Zoning and Planning Commission will review the project Oct. 22, said Kersten Elverum, the city's director of economic development and planning. That will be swiftly followed by City Council review Oct. 23. Hopkins expects to have a second reading on the zoning ordinance Nov. 7.
“Lots of moving pieces still, but we’re working to pave the way for a smooth process,” Elverum said.
Solomon is starting on the project late in the construction season because it bought the property at a sheriff’s sale. In such sales, Minnesota law gives the original commercial property owner six months after the sale to pay off his debt and reclaim the property.
Consequently, Solomon didn’t actually take ownership of the property until Sept. 28
Johnson asked the city to kick off the approval process before the company took possession of the property, but the council agreed that city ordinances only allow owners to apply for the types of approval the BP site requires.
Hurdles aside, officials are pleased to see an end in sight for such a prominent parcel.
“I’m just excited to see something happen,” said Councilwoman Kristi Halverson.