A seven-year-old Blaine building originally built for heavy industrial uses will have a taekwondo academy and fitness studio operating out of it within the next two months thanks to a city code amendment approved May 16 by the Blaine City Council.
The 28,000 square-foot building at 1630 101st Ave. N.E. has remained empty since it was built in 2006. Continental Plaza, LLC, Feb. 1 bought the building for $750,000, according to Anoka County property records. This LLC is affiliated with Blaine-based Continental Development Corporation ownership.
Kukkiwon Taekwondo Academy and CrossFit Blaine could have never moved to this building had the council not amended its city code to allow personal care, health care, recreation or education related commercial services uses in its I-2 heavy industrial zoning district. The council unanimously approved the amendment and then conditional use permits for both businesses.
“We have a lot of these industrial buildings that continue to get tenant requests that we can’t accommodate under the strict restrictions of heavy industrial,” said Bryan Schafer, planning and community development director.
Schafer said the council made a similar change in its I-1 light industrial zoning district about 10 years ago when building owners were having trouble filling tenant spaces. Some businesses do not need the visibility that retail areas have, he said.
“It’s a beautiful building and it doesn’t really look like it fits into the heavy industrial part of it,” Mayor Tom Ryan said.
Kukkiwon Taekwondo Academy has been at 1469 92nd Ave. N.E. just east side of Highway 65 and Baltimore Street in Blaine for the past nine years, according to business owner Young Kim.
Kim said he was looking to move to a bigger and better building. The extra 400 square feet of space to get him to 2,800 square feet will allow him to expand his academy enrollment, which is now around 40.
His daytime job is a health teacher for St. Paul Public Schools. Classes begin at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and there will also be Saturday morning classes. This is not an open gym time. Students sign up ahead of time and classes that Kim leads are typically 12 to 15 but could be as high as 20 students.
“I’m looking forward to a fresh start,” he said.
Kim said it was challenging to find a new location that fit in with his budget. The retail spaces he looked at were more expensive than the rate he will pay for this industrial building space.
Charles Cook, who owns Continental Development Corporation along with his wife, said the per square-foot cost he is able to offer is one-third the cost of what it would be in a more visible retail district.
CrossFit Blaine owner Richard Jensen of Ham Lake said the other CrossFit franchise locations are typically in warehouses because the leases are more affordable.
Jensen would not have been able to hang any climbing ropes or Olympic style rings from the ceilings of retail buildings, he said.
The business model of CrossFit also does not necessitate high visibility because customers must schedule personal or group training sessions. There are no unscheduled visits.
CrossFit is a principal strength and conditioning program that Jensen first read about after he got back in 2007 from a deployment in Iraq. When he was deployed to Kuwait in 2011 and 2012, others in his unit were doing CrossFit workouts.
Once he retired from the National Guard after 23 years of service, he formed Generation Fitness, LLC and hopes to open more CrossFit locations in the future. The nearest CrossFit locations to Blaine are in Little Canada and Maple Grove. Most Twin Cities locations are in Minneapolis and the south metro.
Continental Development Corporation, which was established in 1985, owns about 100,000 square feet of retail space along Highway 65 in Blaine in the National Market Center developments.
Cook does not believe that opening up the I-2 heavy industrial zoning district to more businesses will negatively impact retail building owners looking to fill vacant units because not everyone cam afford leasing retail space, he said.
“This satisfies that market that would otherwise have trouble finding space,” Cook said. He credited Blaine city staff, planning and zoning commission and the council for “their wisdom and understanding about serving local business needs.”
According to Cook, a local home building company called Parent Builders, Inc. will be opening in another one of the units, so three out of the 10 2,800 square-foot units have been leased.
With the council expanding the type of businesses that can operate in the I-2 zoning district, he has been getting a lot more inquiries, Cook said.
Some are already designing floor layouts and he said the first three tenants will be able to move in within 45 to 60 days.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]