New Rooftop Bar + Kitchen and Frandsen Bank coming to North Mankato's Belgrade Avenue

Aug 03, 2019


August 3, 2019 (Mankato, Minnesota) — What started out as a plan to convert a former convenience store into a new bar and restaurant is morphing into a major redevelopment on Belgrade Avenue. Frandsen Bank & Trust will build new offices next to the Circle Inn, while the Rooftop Bar + Kitchen will build next to the American Legion.

Demolition on the former Cenex Expressway and Frandsen Bank’s current drive-thru are set to begin this fall, with the new businesses opening next spring.

Frandsen and a developer are working on potential redevelopment of their current building, located next to the NaKato, across the street from the new developments, or they could sell the building.

North Mankato City Administrator John Harrenstein said there aren’t lots of steps needed for the project to proceed.

“They don’t require any zoning changes, and I believe they’ve already replatted (the properties),” he said.

The developers are submitting inspection documents to the city to show that the existing convenience store and drive-thru are substandard buildings under state definitions, which will allow the projects to qualify for redevelopment tax increment financing. TIF allows for a portion of the taxes paid from the additional valuation of the redeveloped site to be given back to the developers to help cover costs allowable by state law.

“We’re ready to go when they’re ready to go,” Harrenstein said. “They’ll just need a site plan review and the TIF process.”

Harrenstein said the downtown has benefited from a variety of factors.

“I think the project is the fruition of a lot of different great things about North Mankato. It builds on the legacy that Business on Belgrade and Jim Whitlock started; it builds on the planning efforts of the City Council, and it’s a real symbol of what good planning and strong partnerships can do for a neighborhood,” he said. “What it’s done is it’s created a safe place to invest.”

Last spring Julie Sabin announced plans to redevelop the convenience store, but talks began with Tailwind Group about a larger project that would include the bank and a new building for the restaurant.

Frandsen Bank

Nick Hinz, president of the Frandsen Bank location, said the move will give them a chance to update and combine services.

“Our building is getting older and we have more space than we need, so we’re shrinking down the footprint. And it will be more useful for customers with the drive-thru and offices in the same building. And we wanted to stay downtown.” The bank’s drive-thru is now across the street from the bank offices.

“Our model is local decision-making. Instead of automated teller machines, we want more in-person transactions with decision-makers on site. We may be a little old school in that way. Rather than all automated, we want more interactions with people.”

The two-story bank will have its drive-thru located next to the Circle Inn.

Frandsen has 38 locations in Minnesota and assets of $1.7 billion. Hinz said that while Frandsen is a large organization that provides all the latest technology and security, their model is for community-based decision-making. “Each location is run by a local bank president, so they’re setting rates and making decisions based on what’s best for each market. It’s kind of a unique model.”

Rooftop dining

Next door to the new bank will be the restaurant, with DeMars Construction handling the general contracting duties.

Max DeMars, who worked with Sabin on her original plan, said seeing the project grow to something much bigger was rewarding.

“It took a little more time, but it gave the restaurant more time to look at a new space rather than reusing an existing space. She could look at how the kitchen could be laid out best; it allowed more thought to it.”

DeMars said the new buildings will be set back about a foot from the the current sidewalk to provide more sidewalk area. Parking lots will be in the back of the buildings.

“It’s a cool, impressive project,” DeMars said. “A lot of things are happening down there with Business on Belgrade and all they’re doing.”

The second floor of the restaurant will have open air space and space for private dining.

Sabin has a wealth of restaurant experience working back of the house, as server and managing.

She grew up in Mankato and started at Bonanza while in high school. That closed a few months later and reopened as a steak house where she also worked before going to the newly opened Grizzly’s.

Sabin went to the University of Minnesota and started with TGI Fridays. She worked with them 13 years, going from an hourly to salaried employee and was moved to Austin, Texas, where she worked with the regional group there for five years before being transferred to Colorado for two years.

She then moved to a start-up, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, where she was part of the new restaurant opening team.

With young twin boys, she and her husband decided it was time to move back to Mankato.

To read original article from the Mankato Free Press, click here.

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