Tag Archives: Downtown Chaska

Chaska Area News and Notes: April 23, 2012

Assorted news and observations from the last few days:

  • I finally got down to Patron Mexican Restaurant over the weekend, and I highly recommend it!  Good food and fairly priced.  Service was a touch slow, but I was willing to live with it because it was nice to see a downtown Chaska restaurant that was busy.  Check out their Facebook page for more information.
  • Chaska Middle School West math teacher Michelle Schnaare was named District 112’s Teacher of the Year on Saturday night.  Schnaare receives a $3,000 grant to use on a classroom project of her design.  Congratulations to her and the other finalists:  Chris Commers (Chaska High School, Social Studies), Sara Falkofske (Chanhassen High School, Science), Marie Foster (Chaska Elementary, 4th grade) and Angie Kissock (Chanhassen High,  Physical Fitness).
  • I attended the first annual Pride of Chaska BBQ Bash on Friday night benefiting Chaska High School.  A great event that raised about $50,000 towards building a competition-caliber softball field at the school as well as acquiring a marimba for the music program.
  • After a series of neighborhood meetings, the plan for Griep Park is being finalized and will be reviewed by the Chaska Park Board at next month’s meeting, which will be on Monday, May 14 at 7 p.m. at the Chaska Community Center.
  • Supporters of Ron Paul for President have been very successful in getting their delegates through to the upper levels of the Republican caucus process.  Over the weekend, it was reported that Paul supporters earned 20 of the 24 Congressional District delegate spots, despite finishing a distant second to Rick Santorum in the non-binding vote at the precinct caucuses in February.  This is not going over well in some quarters of the party.

Chaska Herald column, April 5, 2012: City needs to stick to the plan

Below is the commentary I wrote for this week’s Chaska Herald:

There has been significant angst expressed in the Chaska Herald’s letters to the editor and in various online forums about some of the recent happenings in the city’s business environment.  Let’s put a little perspective around some of these events.

In January, the abrupt closing of the Chaska Rex movie theater again raised concerns about the viability of businesses in downtown Chaska.  Letter writers in the March 15 and March 22 editions of the Herald called for more attention from the City Council, media outlets, and residents to the situation.

The challenges that downtown Chaska faces didn’t just develop in the last couple of years; it’s been an ongoing process for a long time.  I haven’t lived here as long as many of you (nine years and counting now), but one letter writer pointed out significant business closings downtown going back to the late 1980s.  People can and will go back and dissect things the City Council did or didn’t do, ways society has changed, and ways our community has changed to determine why things developed the way they did.

But what we need to focus on as a community is: how do we go forward from here?  Many of the critics point the finger at the City Council.  I’ll certainly agree that the Council has at times seemed slow to recognize or react to the problems downtown.

The Downtown Master Plan should change that equation, though.  The final chapter of the document sets out a number of guidelines for implementation of the Plan.  It is critical that the Council and city staff follows the prescriptions in that Plan and start addressing some of the “low-hanging fruit” that can provide immediate benefits to the downtown community.

I’m hopeful this can occur.  A few years ago, questions about parking downtown would be answered by references to statistical studies that showed that their formulas said there was more than enough parking downtown – ignoring the real facts that people don’t park their cars based on statistical studies.  Now, the city seems to understand that if people think there’s a parking problem, then there’s a parking problem.  Perception is – in cases like this – reality.

The Plan calls for annual action plans to be created and published, so the public can be aware of how progress is being made on these objectives.  Key things that can be done now include:  improving signage in and around downtown and across Chaska to funnel people to the downtown region, continue work with key partners (like Southwest Metro Transit) to improve parking options downtown, and develop marketing strategies and collateral for attracting businesses, customers, and tourists to downtown.

A great deal of time, effort, and taxpayer expense has gone into the creation of this Plan.  It is up to us as citizens to hold city officials accountable for carrying through and making the changes prescribed in the Plan, however.  It is also up to us as citizens to recognize that the city can’t do everything on its own.  The city can do much to make Chaska an attractive place to own and operate a business, but it is ultimately up to those business owners to elect to invest in Chaska.

This point brings us to the second event that concerned some in our community:  the approval of the building of a second McDonald’s location in the city.

Everybody has got their own personal favorite restaurant or retail store that they’d love to see in Chaska.  From Taco Bell to Whole Foods, from IHOP to Trader Joe’s, just about every name has been bandied about by someone.

In the end, though, what we would like has to bump up against the reality of who wants to make the investment in our community.  The Hazeltine Plaza development was platted in 2006 to have up to three small- to medium-box sized retail stores next to Kohl’s, plus two small Chaska Commons style strip malls that could each hold up to nine businesses each, plus two fast-food restaurant pads.

Yet, Kohl’s has sat up there alone since September 2008.

It would be nice to turn up our noses at a second McDonald’s because there’s a long line of other companies willing to snap up that spot and build there instead.  But, unfortunately, that isn’t the case right now.  And yes, there’s concern about whether or not this area can support two McDonald’s.  On the other hand, no company has a better record of picking sites across the globe than they do.

So, let’s welcome McDonald’s investment in Chaska and hope that their example inspires others to follow.  With hard work and cooperation across our city, we can build thriving business communities in downtown and on top of the hill.

Chaska Herald: Patron Mexican Restaurant opens

The Chaska Herald reports that Patron Mexican Restaurant opened yesterday in the former La Quebrada/River City Pub/Chestnuts location at the corner of MN-41 and Second Street in downtown Chaska.

No website is yet available for the restaurant.

Feeling a little Surly? [UPDATED]

After its successful drive last legislative session to get approval to build a “destination brewery”, the Surly Brewing Company is moving forward on identifying potential sites for the building.  According to the Star Tribune, one of the cities stepping forward as a suitor is Chaska.

Don’t get your hopes up yet, as Surly’s current home — Brooklyn Center — is expected to make a strong pitch to keep the brewery.  Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was one of Surly’s biggest cheerleaders during the legislative session and city staff have already reviewed 20 potential sites with Surly officials.  But if nothing else, it’s good for Chaska to be in on the conversation and it demonstrates the city’s aggressiveness is pursuing new, unique opportunities for economic development.

[UPDATE]:  The Chaska Herald reports the city is pitching the Chaska Building Center site to Surly officials, so far to no response.

Chaska facing $400,000 deficit in 2012

The Chaska Herald reported on Monday’s City Council Work Session, at which City Administrator Matt Podhradsky unveiled the updated five-year financial forecast.

The forecast projects a deficit of over $400,ooo for 2012, and higher deficits in the remaining years of the forecast.   On the good news side of the ledger, the projected 2012 deficit is smaller than the 2011 deficit of $650,000 which was closed using a tax rate increase and deferrals of equipment purchases.  Also, TIF District No. 4 closes in 2014-15, which will free up funding for the Street Reconstruction Program.

While the 2012 deficit should be relatively easy to resolve, the City is going to have to get serious about addressing the long-term structural issues in the budget, as I pointed out when the 2011 budget was finalized.  You can’t put off equipment purchases forever, and there is substantial activity ahead — whether it’s the Downtown Master Plan, renovation of Athletic Park, and the maintenance required at the Chaska Community Center (such as the planned replacement of the ice making systems). 

While the City has been quite successful in obtaining grant money to supplement critical projects, we can’t assume such funding is going to remain available — especially given the fact that the federal and state budgets are going to be crimped for the forseeable future.  And while there are signs that development activity may be beginning to come back to life, we can’t expect a building boom comparable to what we saw in the last decade.

Residents of the City would be well served if the Mayor and Council would make moves to eliminate some of the structural issues in the budget starting in 2012 instead of waiting for more severe measures down the road.

La Quebrada closed

Commenter Kristine alerted me to the fact that La Quebrada appears to be closed.  Calls to their phone number come back as disconnected.

Looks like the restaurant wasn’t able to overcome its rough start.  Let’s hope we can get something new in its place soon.

What would you like to see take the place of La Quebrada?  Leave your comments and let’s have some discussion!

Chaska Herald: Kelley’s Bar owner opts not to renew liquor license

At a meeting with city officials earlier this week, bar owner Kelley Sharp indicated that he would not be renewing his liquor license. The city’s current liquor licenses expire at the end of June, meaning Kelley’s will be closed by July 1.

Read more at:  Kelley’s Bar owner opts not to renew liquor license | Chaska Herald.

Updates: Kelley’s Bar murder case, Le Bistro Tourville review, Brad Hand

Some updates from around the Chaska area:

  • The big story, obviously, has been the stabbing death outside of Kelley’s Bar last Friday.  Concerns about unruly patrons at Kelley’s have been bubbling below the surface for a while, but the recent robbery combined with this tragic event have brought those concerns to the fore.  Owner Kelley Sharp will be meeting with city officials today to discuss the path forward, especially as it relates to the renewal of the bar’s liquor license.
  • My family ate at Le Bistro Tourville for the first time over the weekend.  The food and service were both quite good.  I had the Chaska Cheesesteak and my wife had the Margherita flatbread.  Portion sizes were best suited to lunch, as opposed to dinner.
  • In case you haven’t heard yet, Kwik Trip is going in at the former Gas Depot location in Jonathan Square.
  • 2008 CHS grad Brad Hand makes his major league debut today for the Florida Marlins, starting against the Atlanta Braves.  Hand was 7-1 with a 3.53 ERA for Florida’s Double-A team in Jacksonville this season.

Chaska Updates: SWCHS and the Downtown Business Alliance

The next week is an important one for the proposed new location of Southwest Christian High School on the Francis Hammers farm property on Bavaria Road. 

Tonight, the site plan will be reviewed by the Park Board, which has to recommend to the city whether to accept a piece of land in the southeast corner of the property as fulfillment of the parkland dedication requirements or whether to instead ask for a cash payment. 

Wednesday, the Planning Commission will review the site plan and make a recommendation to the City Council as to whether or not the site plan should be approved.  The City Council could then take action on the development at next Monday’s meeting.

In other news, the Chaska Herald reports on the creation of the Downtown Business Alliance, which is a group of downtown Chaska businesses that have broken off from the Southwest Metro Chamber of Commerce in order to ensure a tight focus on downtown Chaska’s issues and opportunities.  The group of businesses in the alliance have been vital in the development of the Downtown Master Plan and will be just as vital in the nuts-and-bolts of implementing it.

La Quebrada Under New Management

It’s come to my attention that La Quebrada has new management, and I’ve heard good things about the food and service lately.  Let’s hope the trend continues!

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