A new Bremer Bank branch is planned for the site of Knollwood Liquor Store and Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza, to the northeast of the intersection of Highway 7 and Texas Avenue South.
The St. Louis Park City Council voted unanimously June 15 to approve a two-story building for the bank to replace the existing two businesses.
“Papa Murphy’s and Knollwood Liquors will likely find new locations as a result of this vote,” said Chris Duffy, vice president of Goff Public, in an email on behalf of Bremer Bank.
The new bank building, which would include a drive-up teller window and a drive-up ATM, would be located at 7924 Hwy. 7.
The bank’s current St. Louis Park location at 8800 Hwy. 7 has a lease through the next two years, according to Duffy.
“Bremer doesn’t own that building; they’ll just be moving out,” Duffy explained.
The existing one-story building at the new location would be torn down to make way for the Bremer Bank building, which the bank would lease from Frauenshuh Commercial Real Estate.
The space in the current, multi-tenant building Bremer Bank is leasing is larger than the bank needs, said Sean Walther, the city’s planning and zoning supervisor.
“The space that they’re looking at for this proposal affords them the opportunity to be a standalone use and to be able to have more control over the branding and appearance of their building and how that’s reflected to their customers,” Walther said.
Council members pressed representatives of the development about environmental aspects of the project, although city staff said that the city’s green building policy that sets requirements from developers that receive city assistance would not apply.
Project planners intend to increase the green space on the lot, which would reduce the amount of impervious surface and the amount of surface heat generated, said Associate Planner Jacquelyn Kramer. The brick cladding for the exterior would be locally sourced and would include recycled material. Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems would be installed, and the development would meet city requirements for bicycle parking and electric vehicle charging on-site.
Councilmember Rachel Harris, who said she could not access a virtual neighborhood meeting on the proposal, asked about the potential to add solar panels or wind power to the site.
Since the green building policy does not apply, Walther said, “We did not press those issues specifically.”
Councilmember Tim Brausen suggested that the city should expand its green building policy so that it would apply to such projects.
“This is just silly not to require the developer here to add solar energy and other important energy-saving and carbon emissions-saving features to this building,” said Brausen, who acknowledged the proposal nevertheless would meet the city’s current code.
He also pointed to the drive-up aspects of the plan.
“I’m generally not in favor of drive-through,” he said. “I mean, I don’t believe in them given the climate crisis we’re in. People sitting in cars running fluorocarbon fumes into the air while they get their banking processed seems ridiculous to me, but given COVID-19 it may become the way of the future, unfortunately, so I’ll reluctantly support this.”
Solar power is not planned for the building but could be evaluated, said David Anderson, senior vice president of Frauenshuh.
Bremer Bank purchases solar and wind energy for other buildings, said Jon Fahning, senior vice president and director of corporate real estate for the bank. While he said the bank had not analyzed the program for the buildings under development, he said, “It would be something that we would look at, as we look at all of our buildings in that same capacity.”
Mayor Jake Spano responded, “We appreciate the fact you’re purchasing your energy from renewable sources. That does not absolve us from the ability to do more. I think what you’re hearing from council here is we think you can do more here, and you should consider or at least take a look at options around that as you’re moving forward.”
The timeline for the project will depend upon when the existing businesses on the site can move from the property, Anderson said. Harris said she has received comments from residents expressing sadness that the businesses would be displaced. Walther said he did not know about plans of the owners of the existing businesses but noted that the city’s moratorium on new liquor stores has expired.
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