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Barlow Plaza gets major facelift

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A $5 million redevelopment project at Barlow Plaza will give the storefronts a "much more contemporary look," including changes to the storefronts, parking lot, sidewalks and landscaping.
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Construction is gearing up for a $5 million redevelopment project to update Rochester's well-known landmark, the 34-year-old Barlow Plaza.

The commercial center at the corner Civic Center Drive and 11th Ave. NW, owned by Steve Barlow, is getting a major upgrade spearheaded by leasing and property manager, Cushman & Wakefield/Northmarq, of Minneapolis.

"We're bringing it up to date and enhancing the public spaces around it," said John Breitinger, Cushman's executive director of real estate development.

While Weis Builders crews started work this week, a ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for Thursday in the tasting room of Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits. Breitinger said the hope is to complete the revamp of the 46,590-square-foot shopping center within eight months or so.

"I think it's fun that the people I worked with designing and building Barlow Plaza in 1981 and 1982 — architect Chris Colby and Joe Weis of Weis Builders — are still here working on this renovation," Barlow said.

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He added that this project is being financed without any public dollars, like tax-increment financing.

"While we have a good relationship with the city of Rochester, we aren't asking for anything," Barlow said.

The seed for the center was Barlow Foods, which Barlow's father opened in 1969. The shopping center was later built with it as the anchor. Barlow and his sister, Cathy Mestad, sold the grocery store to Hy-Vee in 1997, but they retained ownership of the commercial center as well as the popular Mestads Bridal & Formal Wear store.

The project will give the center a new facade, make some changes to the parking lot and generally upgrade the entire center.

"We're going to give it a much more contemporary look," Breitinger said. "We think it's overdue."

Two tenants — Mega Express Laundry and Mestad's Bridal and Formalwear — are making big changes of their own as part of the project.

Mega Express is moving north from its high-profile spot along West Circle Drive to a space in the corner of Barlow Plaza's L-shaped building. That will make it easier to access for customers. The center remodel is adding a sidewalk, outside benches and chairs and additional entrances on the back of the building.

Moving the laundry opens up a prime space for a tenant, like a restaurant, that needs high visibility, Breitinger said.

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Mestad's Bridal plans to utilize the center's height and create a mezzanine level within its store.

In addition to the building work, this project will also involving the changes to the parking lot, sidewalks and landscaping.

"We're re-doing it to make it work better. We're going to take out some curbs, add more signage and clearing mark areas for pedestrians and bicyclists," said Breitinger of the parking lot improvements.

Sidewalk space in front of the Hy-Vee grocery store anchor will expanded to allow for outdoor seating for its in-store cafe. Improvements are also scheduled in front of Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits, which anchors the other the end of the center. Hy-Vee accounts for about two-thirds of the center's retail tenant space, according to Breitlinger.

While Hy-Vee is the main tenant, the center is known as a base for many local homegrown businesses such as the La Poblana Mexican restaurant and the Von Klopp Brew Shop.

Barlow said that philosophy will continue as the center evolves.

"We expect to be fully leased by the end of the construction," he said.

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