In the spring of 2016, we who live in St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland neighborhood are waiting for all manner of things to open or re-open. Here’s a status update on a few of them.
It seemed endless when Ford Parkway and the sidewalks on Snelling Ave. were torn up in the process of gearing up for St. Paul’s first “Bus Rapid Transit” route. In fact it has been only a little under a year, and service is due to begin tomorrow, June 11th.
The BRT concept features frequent service (every 10 minutes), high-amenity stations including on-demand heating and kiosks for ticket purchase, rapid unloading and loading, and priority at stoplights. The line will run from the 46th Street station in Minneapolis (connecting with the Blue Line to downtown Minneapolis, the airport, and the Mall of America) to the transit terminal at the Roseville Mall. Along the way it will also connect to the Green Line at University Ave.
CVS at Grand and Fairview
Whole Foods moved out of the neighborhood on March 15th. There has been a rumor that they somehow invoked a rule mandating that no new grocery store could occupy the space at the northeast corner of Grand and Fairview Avenues; I don’t know if this is factual or not. I can’t see how it would be possible unless Whole Foods owned the building.
This colorful wall, a remnant from Whole Foods’ tenancy since the 1990s, will probably not survive the CVS transition.
In any event it will be a CVS Pharmacy (and an unnamed second tenant) that reanimates this desirable commercial space. When? It’s anyone’s guess. CVS corporate makes it as difficult as possible to talk to an actual human being to ask such a question. I spoke with the office of St. Paul City Council member Chris Tolbert. The word is the building permit for renovation is ready to be issued, but CVS has not requested it yet.
In January the St. Paul Planning Commission had denied CVS’s request to build a drive-through facing Grand Ave. and only 8 feet from the neighboring apartment’s lot line, and in February the City Council voted 7 to 0 to uphold this rejection.
Black Coffee & Waffle Bar
This companion to the no-longer-newly-opened Heirloom restaurant, at the corner of Marshall and Cretin Avenues, has been eagerly awaited. By us, anyway. We stop by whenever we are on foot in the neighborhood, peer in the windows for signs of life, and look for any posted updates.
The website’s FAQ page still says, “Our plan is to open sometime between mid-winter and early spring.” That obviously isn’t happening, with only 10 days left until summer. But such plans often prove optimistic given the realities of financing, permits, construction, etc.
Grand Central wine bar
This fine space, midway in a busy and cheerful commercial block featuring Patagonia, French Meadow Bakery, the Meat Shop, and Frattallone’s Ace Hardware, has been vacant since we moved to town nearly a year ago. Early on, it would still come up in searches for coffee shop in the neighborhood. In recent months there has been increasing activity in and around Grand Central, which is owned by the folks who run Shish next door on Grand Ave.
The business’s Facebook page has been active in the interim with almost daily postings, but rarely with news or projections about timetables. See above re: plans vs. reality. Last weekend we happened to run into someone coming out of the construction zone and asked him when we might be able to go in for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The encouraging reply: “Next week??”
The “new concept” where once Scusi was
We loved Scusi. This upscale Italian joint, modeled after something from the streets of Capri in about 1964, was only a couple of blocks from our house. We indulged on a number of occasions in their Tuesday Night Date Night, where two people could eat sumptuously and well, with a bottle of wine, for $45.
In fact the final Date Night we enjoyed, the evening after voting in the Minnesota caucuses, was the last one ever: the restaurant closed with scant warning the following Sunday. We were informed that all of the staff, some of whom had become rather dear to us, had secured places elsewhere in the Blue Plate Restaurant Group’s operations.
At time of the closing in late March, management said they were shooting for a reopening in early June. See above re: plans vs. reality.
All we know about what will come in Scusi’s place is that it will be a “new concept,” more of a casual neighborhood joint than a special-occasion destination, and that it will include a full bar. The changeover was prompted, apparently, by a rules change in St. Paul that made more full liquor licenses available.
The old Scusi’s website now says that the restaurant’s new incarnation will open “later this year.” I reached out to Blue Plate co-owner Stephanie Shimp via social media, and she pinned it down some more: “Sometime this fall… after the State Fair.”
So, there ya go then. Some of the eagerly anticipated openings and re-openings are now imminent, and the others we shall await with what good grace we can muster.