Panera Bread moving into new Duluth development near mallPanera Bread is one of four retailers going into Hansen Center, a mini-mall to be built this year on the former Ground Round site just west of Miller Hill Mall.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Panera Bread is coming to Duluth.
It’s one of four retailers going into Hansen Center, a mini-mall to be built this year on the former Ground Round site just west of Miller Hill Mall, according to Beth Wentzlaff, a spokeswoman for the developer.
“They’re signed, according to the owner,” she said. The owner of the development is General Realty based in Florida.
The site, along Maple Grove Road near Miller Trunk Highway, will be the specialty bread company’s first venture in northern Minnesota.
Panera, however, isn’t going public just yet with its location.
“I can confirm that Panera has plans to open a bakery-café in Duluth, however the location and opening date are still to be determined,” Mandy Burns, Panera LLC’s public relations/ marketing manager told the News Tribune.
Wentzlaff said Panera will have a bakery, café and drive-through at Hansen Center, as well as a production area where it will make its dough from scratch and bake its breads, bagels, muffins and other baked goods. She is president of Consulting, Management & Realty Associates in Duluth, which has handled key aspects of the project.
Typically Panera Bread has several sites in a metro area, but makes its dough at a centralized location to serve them all.
But the closest Panera stores currently are in the Twin Cities.
“We can’t do that up here, because it’s so far away,” Wentzlaff said of the central production site. “So they will do most of their production here.”
Based in St. Louis, Panera has nearly 1,700 locations in the United States and Canada. Its quick-casual style restaurants serve sandwiches, hot panini, salads and soups.
Hansen Center’s other three retailers will be the Vitamin Shoppe, which will be new to Duluth; Sleep Number, which has a store in Miller Hill Mall; and Verizon Wireless, which will move from its temporary kiosk at the mall to become the anchor store in a striking curved front building.
Starbucks had been a contender, but talks dragged on and ended unsuccessfully.
“Starbucks changed their mind,” Wentzlaff said. “That’s what took so long with this project. After Starbucks changed their mind, Panera has aggressively gone after it.”
Panera will occupy one of the three buildings. It not only is going into space earmarked for Starbucks, but also in space next to it that had been reserved for a restaurant.
“We’re just excited to see them come,” Wentzlaff said.
Plans for Hansen Center have been in the works for more than a year. Initial site plans were adjusted in recent months to accommodate the final lineup of retailers.
Starbucks and Mattress Firm were out; Panera and Sleep Number were in.
With the revised plan review approved by the Duluth Planning Commission this month, the project is moving forward, which will return retail to the vacated site. Demolition of the 5,200-square-foot Ground Round building is expected in May, with construction of the new mini-mall this summer and fall.
Hansen Center should open by 2014.
The three buildings — set in an L-shape on the 1.6-acre site dotted with trees — will have parking in the center and feature a modern design, glass fronts and sections rising two stories high.
Craig Bender, who recently opened Bender’s Shoes & More next door at the building formerly occupied by Verizon Wireless, was pleased to hear Panera is coming and the project is moving forward.
“Were thrilled to have other development in the neighborhood, for sure,” he said. “People will have other reasons to stop in the neighborhood. We’re happy with the way things have gone so far without a neighbor. It will be even better with a neighbor.”
The interior of Bender’s Shoes at Maple Grove Road and Mall Drive was remodeled before it opened March 1. When the weather warms, Bender plans to put up new signs and spruce up the exterior. But with Hansen Center going up at his back door, he says he’ll finish off the rear of his building as well.