Though tenants who experienced delayed move-ins during the fall will begin the new year in the finished Muinzer apartment building in downtown Chauncey, the accompanying Target store is unlikely to open until the latter half of the semester.
Expectant renters who had already entered into lease agreements with Muinzer Management received a letter just weeks before the established move-in date of Aug. 15, 2019, informing them of the delay. The document provided sparse details about temporary living situations for renters whose plans were now unsettled, stating only that Muinzer would provide “comparable” housing “at its expense.”
Owner Marc Muinzer said in an interview that Rise on Chauncey and Campus Edge on Pierce were two of the apartment complexes tenants were diverted to then.
West Lafayette Director of Development Erik Carlson said he and other city officials were unsurprised by the postponed opening, as the project wasn’t approved until 13 months ahead of the desired opening date, an “ambitious” timeline for such work.
Muinzer said tenants moved into the company’s apartments on Nov. 15, 2019, three months later than expected. He attributed the construction delay to inclement weather during the previous winter and various other factors beyond the control of the company hired to build the apartments, Summit Construction.
The uncertainty does not appear to have detracted from the company’s ability to sell leases for the future, as all but a few of the building’s 36 units are leased for the fall semester, he said.
Meanwhile, the Target store occupying the building’s bottom floor is still under construction. In its bid to open the first small-format Target in the state of Indiana, the retailer originally forecasted a fall 2019 opening date.
“Construction delays happen,” Muinzer said. “Target is on schedule to open in March 2020.”
City building commissioner Chad Spitznagle predicts Target will be open for business on April 1, according to Carlson.
Target expects its pared-down version of the generic store to cater specifically to the needs of college students in a setting where they’re ubiquitous. Muinzer said the new building’s location on the corner of State Street and Northwestern Avenue was a lucrative option, attracting more than two dozen businesses to inquire about leasing the space. He said part of his decision to choose Target was what he called the “brilliant” small-store concept.
“The students wanted Target. The city wanted Target. Purdue wanted Target,” Muinzer said. “And Target wanted the Muinzer building. It’s a team effort.”
Carlson said the negotiations with Target were competitive on both sides of the transaction. Other apartment complexes, including Rise on Chauncey and Hub on State Street, were hoping to boost their image by securing the retailer as a tenant, he said, but Target ultimately chose the Muinzer property for its “marquee” location on a prominent State Street intersection.
“When you drive up the State Street hill, that is the first building you see,” Carlson said. “We’ve seen, with these smaller format stores, they want to make sure they’re in the right footprint.”
The 11,800 square-foot store pales in comparison to Target’s traditional 125,000 to 180,000 square feet of shopping space. This size disparity calls into question the resemblance its offerings will bear to the array shoppers have grown accustomed to.
In its original press release, Target said it plans to curate a “quick-trip shopping experience” with three prominent product categories: dorm and apartment necessities, cosmetics and food-and-beverage items.
According to previous reporting from The Exponent, Carlson believed a produce aisle is part of the floor plan, though the company wrote in its press release that “grab-and-go items, snacks and meal solutions” would comprise the majority of its food products.
“What we’ve seen in one of the other stores, such as the one in Minneapolis, all have a combination of grab-and-go food and fresh produce,” Carlson said.
The Minneapolis store is on the University of Minnesota campus and was the first ever small-format Target to open. It occupies approximately 20,000 square feet, according to the company’s website.
Target communications representative Liz Hancock said the company would wait until the store’s official grand-opening date is determined to announce more details about the store’s offerings.
Carlson said the city’s position during negotiations was that Target represented an important opportunity to expand the community’s grocery options within walking distance of downtown residents. Still feeling the pang of disappointment from the closure of the Fresh City Market on Northwestern Avenue, he said the city was willing to make accommodations to seal the deal.
Carlson said when he was touring the facility in Minneapolis, West Lafayette city council president Peter Bunder nagged him with two specific requests.
“He wanted some place for students to be able to buy cucumbers and shoelaces,” Carlson said. “So I texted him photos of both, available at that small-format Target.”