Macy’s is stealing the headlines in St. Paul this week, but there’s another big department store not far from downtown that could be on the cusp of change. And this one isn’t going anywhere.
The Sears store on Rice Street is planning to add retail, housing, and office space into the mix, said Cecile Bedor, the city’s planning and economic development director. The company would like to take advantage of the nearby Central Corridor light-rail system that will begin service next year, she said.
“Sears has identified about 10 sites across the country that they think are prime for redevelopment, and this is one,” Bedor said.
With its sprawling parking lots and uninviting entrances, the Sears complex may not be much to look at today. But in an interview yesterday, Mayor Chris Coleman described it as “thriving.” Responding to criticisms from brother and journalist Nick Coleman that one can’t even buy a toaster downtown anymore, the mayor responded:
“If I want a toaster, I can walk 10 minutes away from my office in downtown St. Paul and get a toaster. Sears is not only alive, but it’s thriving. They’re planning an expansion of their parking lot to take advantage of their store’s success.”
Sears will only confirm that it’s in “the early stages of discussion” regarding a project that would maintain the store’s presence. The store has served Rice Street since 1963.
Sears will present to a committee of the Capitol River Council Tuesday more detailed plans, the Pioneer Press reports. Here are some conceptual plans, courtesy of the city of St. Paul:
In the meantime, Chris Coleman yesterday addressed a common complaint among women about downtown shopping: the lack of places to buy a nice dress. Coleman, who admits that practically everything in his wardrobe is outfitted by Heimie’s Haberdashery, said owner Anthony Andler has been talking about starting a woman’s clothing shop for some time.
“There’s no question” such a store would be successful, Coleman said. “But government isn’t in the business of making those decisions. Government can only support those decisions when they’re made by the private sector.”
Heimie’s Andler told my colleague Curtis Gilbert that he’s indeed interested in the idea of opening a women’s clothing shop — but he would need more space than his 4,800-square-foot haberdashery currently allows.