Biz Buzz: Retail building added to Gander plans - Earlier development plan back on the front burner

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Brainerd Dispatch

Biz Buzz: Retail building added to Gander plans - Earlier development plan back on the front burner

BAXTER—Plans have changed for the redevelopment of the Gander Mountain site in Baxter, meaning a second building is back in the mix.

Tom Ryan, from Oppidan Investment Co. which owns the site, was at a Baxter Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week. Oppidan and the developers for the buildings, Retail Partners Baxter, requested the change. Those plans are expected to go before the Baxter City Council on Tuesday.

The Gander Mountain site, which was originally a Walmart store before it moved farther south, is being redeveloped to serve as the retail site for several businesses. Gander Outdoors, Camping World, Overton's and a multi-tenant retail development. Gander Mountain and Ashley Furniture once shared the existing building before the furniture store left the building and Gander Mountain closed.

Gander will open with new ownership as Gander Outdoors sharing the building with camping and recreational vehicle companies. In front of the Gander building was a parking area built for Walmart, which was much too large for its current use. An initial plan was to put in two retail or restaurant pads on the end of the parking lot near Edgewood Drive and closest to Highway 371. More recently, that plan was changed to have one building off the frontage road and to use the rest of the space to display RVs. And one building was constructed last year, which now has Aspen Dental and Caribou Coffee with Einstein Bros. Bagels.

The Gander Mountain site has Cub Foods on the south and The Light Depot on the north.

There was an extensive discussion at the Baxter City Council in terms of landscaping, screening for the RV display and there have been a number of conversations as to whether RV parking was the best use of prime space in the middle of the city's commercial district. But that seemed to be the way the development was going until Oppidan and Retail Partners presented a new site plan, that actually goes back to their first idea—with two buildings along Edgewood Drive.

The plans presented Tuesday show a second building that could be divided into three retail or restaurant sites or be used for a single tenant.

According to numerous sources, developers in the area are chasing some of the same potential tenants in restaurants Panera, Chipotle and other names previously mentioned as being interested in a Baxter location. Other names that have popped up over the years include Noodles and Company and Panda Express.

Pedestrian connections

Rick Mileski, president of Baxter Edgewood Properties, who has The Light Depot and the leased building—including the Verizon store—in front of it next to the Gander site, asked the city to consider foot traffic as it looks at ways to link the commercial properties.

Mileski said connecting his two buildings with the Gander development would enhance pedestrian safety and connectivity. An email indicates Oppidan agreed to and planned to connect the Gander building site with The Light Depot. It would be a cost to the applicants on the development to pay for a sidewalk conditioned as part of the plan, unless an agreement was made with a neighboring property owner. It would also mean a loss of some parking, although there is more parking than required by the city for the development.

The submitted plan, and the one ultimately recommended by the planning commission, included the pedestrian connection with The Light Depot, but not the eastern building with Verizon. Mileski told the commission he has foot traffic going through his property with regularity as people staying at the nearby hotel walk to Cub Foods or other restaurants. He said they often come back and sit in his outdoor furniture display to have a snack. Giving those people a path off Edgewood Drive would be beneficial by making safe and accessible connections, Mileski said.

The planning commission noted there is a connection for pedestrians, including a ramp access, but it won't be a direct one. The pedestrian access uses a crossing and a sidewalk that would run behind the newest retail building that would ultimately create connections to a trail on the northwest side and to the southeast.

The flowering crab trees at the site were removed with the site development to date. Plans call for pine trees to screen a loading area and for parking islands with trees on the end caps without islands in the middle of the parking lot.


The Gander site was originally developed for a higher intensity commercial use with Walmart. The new developer is proposing to make 174 parking spaces on the Gander Outdoors site, where the city calculations call for 291. A difference of 117 parking spaces. The developer believes 174 parking spaces are sufficient for the site and provided the city with a plan to show the additional 117 parking stalls could be created if there is a documented parking problem on the site.

In regard to screening, the developer was proposing fewer trees than the landscape standard requires. A row of evergreen trees was planned to screen the parking and loading areas from nearby residential neighborhoods. Staff added a requirement to keep those trees irrigated and replace any that do not make it.

The city requires a tree island for every 10 parking stalls and the applicant is requesting one per 16 stalls by using the planned unit development flexibility. The RV display area would then move behind the front retail buildings and be surrounded by a 6-foot-high decorative fence but without the pillars previously discussed.

Construction work

Construction is ongoing for the CentraCare Clinic in Baxter next to Costco and on the Casey's General Store and gas station at the corner of Highway 210 and Baxter Drive, on the former Imgrund property.

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