The Target in West Lafayette Village would offer groceries and ‘dorm and apartment essentials’ and is part of the company’s push into campus locations
The Target location – featuring groceries, electronics and “curated assortment of dorm and apartment essentials” – would take the 11,800-square feet of ground floor retail space of a five-story, mixed-use project proposed for a corner that has been vacant at State Street and Northwestern Avenue since 2012.
Marc Muinzer, developer of the project two blocks from Purdue University, expects construction to be done in time for Purdue’s fall 2019 semester.
“The best retail tenant took the best corner next to one of the best universities in the nation,” said Muinzer, a Lafayette native who runs the Chicago-based South Street Capital LLC. “It’s that simple.”
Target is in the midst of planning small-format stores on or near college campuses, including Big Ten towns at Maryland, Minnesota and Penn State. The company aims to open 130 small-format stores in campus, urban or suburban settings by the end of 2019.
The near-campus stores are concentrated more toward the quick-trip, student market – grab-and-go meals, snack items, phone chargers, toothpaste and other household essentials – than the more comprehensive offerings at full-scale locations, such as the Super Target at South Street and Shenandoah Drive in Lafayette.
The Lafayette location already is a draw for Purdue students. At the time, a Target spokeswoman said the company had no plans for a location near Purdue.
Since Target first tested the small format concept in 2012, the company has opened 65 across the country, said Jacqueline DeBuse, a spokeswoman for Target. She said the West Lafayette location would be part of a growth plan that includes 30 more small-formats by the end of 2018 and another 30 by the end of 2019.
DeBuse said the stores are “designed to be nimble,” and not every one of the small-format stores will be the same, given that some are geared for city neighborhoods and others go into campus towns.
“What I’d say is that every store is offering the best of Target,” DeBuse said. “So guests can expect to see the categories they’d see in most Targets. What we do is really tailor the assortment and the variety in what we offer in those categories for the neighborhood.”
“You can expect that sort of (customization) at the West Lafayette location, too,” DeBuse said.
The hopes for a Target – or a retailer in that league – has been an issue as West Lafayette puts so much time and money into a denser, walkable downtown with the $120 million investment into a redesigned State Street.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said that during the public sessions leading up to the three-year State Street project, city officials asked residents and students: What do you want in a new downtown.
“They said, ‘We need a place for groceries, we want a national brand, we want a place we can walk to and just get the things we need,’” Dennis said. “They said everything but, ‘Give us a Target.’”
Last summer as the city weighed plans for Rise at Chauncey – a three-building, 16-story complex on the southeast corner of State Street and Chauncey Avenue, and one of three developments of 10 stories or more in the works along or near State Street – council members moaned that implied promises for a Target or another big-box retailer had seemed to fade for that project.
At the time, Peter Bunder, the council president, commented: “If we mean to attract folks who will stay here beyond 36 weeks, I would hope we could get a retailer where we could get shoelaces and cucumbers and the rest.”
That goal of recruiting near-campus retailers was exacerbated when Fresh City Market, a small grocery at 720 Northwestern Ave., closed in December 2017 after three years on the ground floor of the Fuse development, across from Purdue’s Mackey Arena.
City officials vowed then that getting a grocery store and a pharmacy would be a priority to serve the additional 2,100 beds being added by the three high-rise projects.
“This is a huge win on multiple fronts,” said Nick DeBoer, a West Lafayette City Council member who represents that part of the city. “Getting a trusted brand like Target into the heart of our downtown demonstrates the State Street project is a success, luring major business into the city. Second, this fulfills our promise of bringing a grocer to the densely populated First District.”
Dennis said that as developers have moved quickly to add beds to the housing component of the State Street project, persuading retailers hasn’t been quite as easy.
“Getting Target, that’s just like seeding the garden,” Dennis said. “Here’s to more like it.”
The Target news aside, the corner and the blight it’s been in the Village is a story in itself.
The previous tenants – including the Where Else? Bar, which moved across State Street to Chauncey Hill Mall – left the buildings in 2012 to make way for a mixed-use project called State Street Corner. That project never got to the demolition stage when developers ran into financial problems. The storefronts sat vacant for so long – a makeshift sign that says Where Else? Bar moved is still taped to the glass door at the entrance – that the city commissioned an artist to install a mural on the boarded windows.
It’s been called an eyesore more than once through the years.
Muinzer picked up the property in a deal that surfaced in September 2017. In the deal, Muinzer’s South Street Capital took the South Street Corner property, as well at the Chauncey Annex, a two-story retail building at State Street and Chauncey Avenue, across State Street from Chauncey Hill Mall. Chauncey Hill Mall, a 2.5-acre strip center built in 1979 at the top of State Street, landed with Lafayette developer Loren King, whose Trinitas firm is weighing redevelopment options.
Muinzer’s plans are similar to what the West Lafayette City Council approved in 2012 for State Street Corner. It would include five stories, with the Target store filling the first floor retail space and four floors of apartments. The rezoning application lists 36 fully furnished units with 96 bedrooms.
The Area Plan Commission will consider a rezoning request for the property on Wednesday. If approved there, the plan would go to the West Lafayette City Council on May 7.