by Dan Rafter
Excelsior had long been known mostly as a resort town, one that attracted tourists from the Twin Cities — just about 12 miles away — and beyond during the summer months but was quiet when the temperatures fell.
And why not? This Minnesota city sits on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. And its population in 2010 was a smallish 2,188. That would seem to be the definition of a resort town.
But Joe Ryan, president of national property development firm Oppidan Investment Company, says that this is changing. Today, Excelsior is becoming a 12-month destination, he said. One that attracts visitors all year long to its shops, recreational activities and restaurants.
That’s why Oppidan has invested so much into its Excelsior Marketplace development. This development — which was just about completed by press time — is a retail and office project that sits on the former site of Mason Motors, Inc., at the busy intersection of Water and George streets in downtown Excelsior.
“Excelsior has changed over the years. It’s become a real destination in the Twin Cities area,” Ryan said. “The city officials have done a nice job keeping the historic nature of the community while expanding its amenities. You are seeing the housing stock improve nicely. Then there’s the lake. Excelsior is like a front door to the lake. You are seeing empty nesters settle in Excelsior. You are seeing younger families there. It’s a diverse mix of a community that is now taking off quite nicely.”
The highlight of the new development is a Kowalski’s Market grocery store. This store is just about finished, and is scheduled to open in the middle of the summer. Oppidan will move its corporate offices to the upper level of the retail and office building by the middle of July.
Miyabi Japanese Asian Bistro and M the Art of Hair salon, both of which are located on street level, will open their doors in the summer months.
“The Mason Motors site was full of potential when we purchased it, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see our vision coming to fruition,” Ryan said of the new development.
Oppidan bought the former Mason Motors building and adjacent property in 2012. Steele Fitness became the first tenant here in the early months of 2013. Soon College Nannies + Tutors, SportClips and YogaFit joined the development. That part of the project, a building of 8,744 square feet, remains fully occupied today.
Oppidan is now searching for three new tenants for about 4,000 square feet of remaining space in the retail and office building on the site.
Ryan is especially excited about the Kowalski grocery store. Grocery-anchored retail developments have been thriving. This makes sense: People need to eat whether they are thriving or struggling economically. And grocers attract a steady stream of customers. This helps the retailers that surround a grocer.
The Kowalski store will offer ready-made meals and organic produce. That’s a big selling point today.
“The grocery business is changing so much,” Ryan said. “To have a smaller, more neighborhood type of offering with high-quality produce and meat — yet in a smaller footprint — is very inviting. The organic play is an important part of this industry, too. The Kowalski organization is a leader in that field. The city is fortunate to have them as part of the community. We think it is going to be a spectacular fit.”