Eitel meets with the BCBA for one last round

Brooklyn Center’s business development director issued one final look at the state of redevelopment in the city to the Brooklyn Center Business Association before his upcoming December retirement.

At the BCBA’s Thursday, June 22, luncheon at the Brooklyn Center Doubletree Hotel, Gary Eitel presented his final annual overview of Brooklyn Center development activities to the association, as he is set to retire at the end of the year. Among the various projects and opportunity sites on the docket, Eitel highlighted the 2018-2020 strategic plan-targeted redevelopment sites at Brookdale Square and the old Brookdale Ford site.

“The Brookdale Ford property … we acquired in 2008 shortly after I came here,” Eitel said. “When we acquired the (Brookdale Square) site and removed all of the buildings with the exception of the Ocean Buffet, … the plan right now has been to study (with) different developers. We’re currently working with the Devon George group. There’s a concept for a mixture of market-rate apartments.

“They have sized down considerably,” Eitel continued. “We’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of two buildings, 180 to 200 units. We’re talking assisted living, independent living. Once we have that plan, it’ll go back to the EDA to see if this is now consistent with their vision for the redevelopment of this site.”

Meanwhile, the fate of the 4.8-acre redevelopment site at Jerry’s Market is still up in the air, according to Eitel.

“(The owners’) position is, ‘We don’t want anything that goes in there that’s going to compete with Cub,’” said Eitel. “So they’ve decided to hang on to the property for a while. I know we had a potential developer that was saying (that with) the regional transit at this location, that would be a great site for market-rate housing, … so there’s a residential interest for that site.”

Eitel also discussed progress on a number of senior living facilities in Brooklyn Center, including The Sanctuary and the addition of new senior apartments at the Maranatha senior living community at 69th Avenue. The latter is set to open this fall, with 34 units under construction.

“They’re telling me that (of) the eight people that have already signed up for (living at the site), the average age is 80 years old,” Eitel said. “So that’s a good sign for anybody who’s going to turn closer to 70, it means you’ve got years left.”

As far as the proposal of a new HOM Furniture franchise taking over the former Brooklyn Center Kohl’s site goes, Eitel mentioned that the process is still alive.

“HOM Furniture is still interested, and Gatlin Development is interested in moving along, but the deal’s gotten a lot skinnier,” Eitel said. “They would add about 12,000 square feet on the northwest side of the building.”

The biggest Brooklyn Center development news as of late, however, was the deal for the Brooklyn Center Regal Cinema building to be razed and replaced with Minnesota’s first-ever TopGolf facility, a massive golf entertainment complex with an event center and restaurant.

“It was an application that was presented to the Planning Commission,” Eitel said. “It is on the old Regal Theater site on 252 and 694. They’ll take down the 20-screen movie theater and build in its place a 65,000-square-foot, three-level golf driving range facility with an event center.”

Although Eitel is set to retire at year’s end, he still offered optimism toward the city’s goals of reinvigorating its businesses and development projects.

“It’s just one continuous step of how you plant seeds and create opportunities,” Eitel said. “How do you work with these people, and how do you create optimism in their minds? That positive future for the city of Brooklyn Center is what it’s all about.”

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]