Redevelopment plans for Lakeville's Antlers Park will include a place to buy food and beverages — and that building will take the form of two 40-foot shipping containers sitting side by side.
"I think it's going to add a permanent and reliable eating option for the visitors to Antlers Park," said City Administrator Justin Miller. "We're looking forward to it."
The city, which passed a $38 million parks bond referendum last year, is putting $11.5 million into renovations at Antlers Park, in southwestern Lakeville. The project will add more parking, picnic shelters, a new playground, a volleyball court and a pavilion with restrooms and a meeting room.
Council members were also interested in the idea of a restaurant, though the parks and recreation committee unanimously voted against the idea and some neighbors objected to it at an April work session. They said the public hadn't been consulted on the plans and worried about the availability of alcohol, traffic and added noise.
Earlier this year, two companies created restaurant proposals and the City Council chose a walk-up food and beverage counter concept from Lakeville Brewing Co. that would sell burgers, fish tacos, beer and wine. Lakeville Brewing has a brewpub in downtown Lakeville and also owns Inver Grove Brewing in Inver Grove Heights.
The concessions building, which will be about 1,280 square feet but have only outdoor seating, is tentatively called "LBC on the Lake."
Last week the City Council passed several changes to city code to allow the restaurant to sell food and beverages and have a patio. The council also approved a concession agreement with Lakeville Brewing.
Council members voted 4-1 and 3-2 on the measures. Council members Michelle Volk and Joshua Lee voiced concerns about the project.
Lee, who voted against both measures, said he would have preferred to wait until the park was redone to discuss a restaurant.
"I didn't feel that there was sufficient community support for the park changes … and we haven't resolved how this will impact traffic and parking," Lee said.
Volk said she wasn't sold on the concept of a restaurant in the park.
The restaurant will be open from May 15 through Sept. 15 beginning in 2024, with flexibility for a longer season if weather permits. Beer and wine, which are already allowed at the park, must be consumed on the covered patio if purchased from LBC on the Lake.
The city will fund the concrete pad, fencing and a dumpster enclosure and set up utilities at a cost of about $123,000.
Lakeville Brewing will buy the shipping containers and outfit everything inside at an estimated cost of $348,000. Lakeville Brewing will pay 7% of its profits to Lakeville for the duration of the five-year lease, which can be renewed.
The city should recoup its investment in three years, said Don Seiler, a co-owner of Lakeville Brewing, who said he's feeling "very positive" about the plans.
"The city stands to get some income, which could offset the rest of the park's costs," he said.
Seiler said his business partner is putting together the menu for the place. The business owners will be meeting with the city to discuss design options, over which the city has final approval.
Most of the containers' exterior will be covered by typical commercial building materials such as brick or stone.
"We want the building to blend in. We don't want it to stand out or be ugly," he said.
Lakeville Brewing suggested the shipping containers because the city was struggling with the high cost of a fixed structure, Seiler said.
Initial estimates were near $1 million to build the restaurant's shell. The containers are "far more cost effective," he said.
Seiler said the shipping containers will, in a way, pay homage to Antlers Park's past. A century ago, the park was on the rail line from Minneapolis and city dwellers would visit the park and Lake Marion as a getaway. There was once a bandshell, dance hall and restaurant.
Seiler said he knows not everyone favored putting a restaurant in the park.
"But … we're going to do our best to be very good neighbors," he said. "We hope to make people happy with it."