As the Uptown apartment bubble continues to blow, at least one developer has set his sights on the Whittier neighborhood. If stars align, jean-jacketed barflies at the CC Club could one day step out for a smoke and gaze upon Rex 26 — a mixed-use building proposed for the strip across the street.
Developer Don Gerberding wants to plant a four-story building with 76 apartments and a ground level chain store in the long vacant property at the southeast corner of 26th Street and Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis.
Over the past few years, the Uptown and the Lyn-Lake area have seen the rise of swanky apartment complexes with cool pools and attractive tan people. But the spread hasn’t yet crept north of 28th Street.
“You can just see that stuff marching down Lyndale,” says Erica Christ, a board member of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood group.
Rex 26 would occupy the old Rex Hardware site, which has been used for gardening and another four residential plots. Gerberding could not immediately be reached for comment. But according to Christ, rent at the Rex would range from around $950 to $2,200 (or about $2 per square foot), depending on size.
As for the mystery chain store, Christ says it’s definitely not Trader Joe’s — the SoCal company that’s been knocking on the neighborhood’s door for years. At least not exactly.
According to the Southwest Journal, Gerberding accidentally tipped Aldi as the possible tenant. The discount grocery store is under the same ownership as Trader Joe’s, which struck out twice in recent years while trying to open up shop along Lyndale Avenue. Official word on which "national retailer" would go in could come by week's end, Christ says.
Mark Trehus, longtime owner of Treehouse Records across the street, has mixed feelings about the deal. On one hand, the nearby development could boost his property values (that’s good!). But he’s also worried about parking and congestion problems, although the building would have an underground garage. Describing its aesthetic as “vulgar,” Trehus doesn’t think the project in its current form fits the neighborhood’s vibe.
“My biggest concern is that this could really hurt the character of the neighborhood,” he says.
Christ is similarly on the fence. The longtime resident fears the area is becoming saturated with apartments. She would like to see more housing variety — maybe townhouses or at least more large units. Still, Christ doesn’t think Rex 26 or any one development can corrupt Whittier’s soul.
“I think that change is coming and we need to engage and pay attention to the projects one by one,” she says.