Twenty-Five on 25

For the Southwest Journal’s 25th anniversary issue, we asked 25 neighbors to comment on how Southwest has changed in the past 25 years, and to name their hopes for the next 25.

We welcome responses from readers as well. Post on FB at www.Facebook.com/SWJournal or email editor Sarah McKenzie at smckenzie@southwestjournal.com.

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Mary and Dan Hunter / Photo by Jim Walsh

1. Mary Hunter, Grand Café (Kingfield): “We’ve been here since 2006, but I worked at Bakery On Grand prior to that, and they were instrumental in gentrifying this neighborhood. We’ve been here nine years, and it’s been an explosion. It’s such a grassroots beautiful community of people. One thing that resonates with me and makes me happy is that this space that was a bakery 25 years ago was a meeting ground. We still have people coming in, ‘I remember coming in here for donuts and the sweet couple that ran it.’ [My hope for the next 25 years] is just keeping connected. Having each other’s back; supporting your local business. Keep out the chains!”  

2. Dan Hunter, Grand Café (Kingfield): “There’s a sense of people coming out in community a lot more than when we first got here. Businesses were very welcoming, and now it seems like neighborhood people are just talking to each other more. People are a lot more open. That’s what I’ve noticed in recent years.”

 Tom Vick and Jeff Gatesmith / Photo by Jim Walsh

3. Tom Vick (East Harriet): “I coached baseball at the parks for 18 years here, and my hope is that the parks programs stay strong. I think it’s an important part of development; my youngest ones still grab their gloves and go down to the field and play pick-up ball. 

4. Jeff Gatesmith (East Harriet): “We’ve lived here for 25-plus years, and one of the big things that has changed is cost of housing. There used to be a lot more families; diverse, blue-collar kinds of folks living in the neighborhood. It’s a lot more expensive to live here than ever before. The other thing is, places like Java Jack’s now Studio 2 and Patisserie 46 and Kings have become collection points. I’ve met neighbors I never would have known otherwise, and that’s really solidified the neighborhood. Also, this neighborhood has continued to nurture all sorts of musicians. On this block alone, six of the kids are in small garage bands, so we’ve got the old guys on the block doing the dad band stuff and professional musicians, too.”

David Jones / Photo by Jim Walsh 

5. David Jones (Central): “I’ve lived in my house for 25 years, and when I first moved here this block (3300 S. Clinton) it was a lot of African-Americans and white, and now there are two white people and the rest is Latino, or Ecuadorian or El Salvadoran. It’s gotten a lot better lately. A lot less drug use and prostitutes, all due to the neighbors on the block calling 911 and not being afraid. The Latinos are sometimes afraid to talk to the police, for immigration or whatever reason. But this block has worked together, and my hope is that that will continue.”

6. Chrissie Dunlap (Linden Hills): “My answer is obvious: Why is our city allowing developers to take over Southwest Minneapolis? Does greed have to win every time? The neighborhood was designed for smaller houses, many of them cottages. In fact, the area from Lake Calhoun to 40th Street was called Cottage City —t he lots are smaller and were designed so working-class people could afford living near the lake. The cottages are being torn down one-by-one, and replaced with mostly large boxes covered in shiny fake material, filling the small lots with no regard for scale, architectural integrity, or respect for the history of the neighborhood. Big plastic boxes on every block. … My hope for the future is that somebody in power will stop this before it is the ugliest neighborhood in town — surrounded by beautiful lakes and parks.”

7. Fancy Ray McCloney (East Lake): “South Minneapolis has greatly improved. I remember 25 years ago there was an open-air drug market at Park and Franklin. Thankfully that has stopped and just the other day I walked around Chicago and Franklin at night and was totally comfortable. The light rail is great and many apartments are popping up along the line. There are so many great neighborhoods and restaurants. South Minneapolis is rich in diversity, culture and fun. In the next 25 years I’d like to see more Fancy Ray murals on Lake Street!”

8. Amy Jo Hyde (East Harriet): “I grew up in Tangletown and Uptown. It’s gotten noisier and busier, with more airplane noise and traffic. There’s more walkable destinations, and the public schools are better. My hope is that the sense of community is as strong as when I was growing up here, but that new people feel welcome to live here, and that it’s accessible to people of different incomes.”

9. John Beggs, (owner of Roadrunner Records, Kingfield): “I think for us, and many might say this, but the Kingfield neighborhood has improved so much with regards to owner-occupied housing, keeping rentals more or less confined to Nicollet and the main streets. The new nightlife scene hasn’t hurt either with Low Brow and Revival. The Kingfield market has continued to grow and is constantly bringing new people to the neighborhood. I’ve lived Nordeast for 20-plus years but am really fortunate to come ‘home’ every day to work. Sometimes I even think about taking the bars out of the windows!”

10. Carl Franzen (East Harriet): “There are a few changes that have occurred in the past 25 that I appreciate, and I would dearly like them to continue, grow or reappear in a newer forms:  1. The Elf on the south side of Lake Harriet; 2. The reinvention of Lyndale Avenue (and the photos and graphics on telephone distribution boxes!); 3. Margaret Fuller Soccer Club; 4. 46th Street food and community spaces, starting with Java Jack’s (now Studio 2A), and reaching up the street to the complete makeover of 46th & Grand; 5. Biking, the Greenway, designated bike streets. Each of these changes adds to our peaceful and creative neighborhoods, with the will to share space.”

11. Philip Auclaire (CARAG): “The biggest change is that on this block (3300 Aldrich), there used to be a ton of kids, and now it’s all geezers like me. Uptown and Lyn-Lake used to be kind of a sketchy area, and the Wedge area is now upscale apartments, so the profile has changed dramatically. Calhoun Square has gone through three different iterations, and now this latest one, and the changes go from here down Lake Street to the light rail. All the changes are good, though. It’s almost getting to be like a real city. We’ve lived here since 1986, moved from Providence. We have a canoe, and to be able to wander over in a city to Lake of the Isles and put the canoe in the water and watch the fireworks on the 4th of July… you can’t do that in Boston.”

12. Steph Smith (Lynnhurst): “We’ve lived in South Minneapolis for 20 years, in the Hale/Field neighborhood and Lynnhurst. I am most excited about the reemergence of a viable public high school and now another thriving middle school in our community. Successful public schools foster community like nothing else can. Washburn and Ramsey are helping us realize those benefits. I hope South Minneapolis continues to be a sustainable place to live for all families and all generations.”

13. Amy Salloway (The Wedge): “I’ve seen the loss of open spaces, the loss of single-family houses and ramshackle storefronts and multi-use buildings, a huge loss of locally owned businesses, and the cumulative loss of the personality and energy that all of those ingredients bring to a neighborhood. Taking their place has been dense, monetized, generic development. Condos, chain restaurants, bars, Starbucks, Caribou, Chipotle, and more condos. The ‘feel’ of so many areas of town is gone now; the ‘feel’ that made one set of streets different from another. It all just feels like generic middle-class growth now. Also, trees. The loss of trees throughout so much of South Minneapolis to Dutch Elm, the Emerald Ash Borer and several tornado-like storms has been heartbreaking to see. My block alone as gone from having gorgeous sections of thick, leafy shade coverage to feeling like a shaved leg.”

14. Brad Colbert (Kingfield): “I’ve lived with my partner in Kingfield for over 25 years, raising our two daughters in the same house. The biggest change is the dining opportunities.  When we moved in, there were, essentially, three places to eat in the neighborhood — Rick’s Ol’ Time Café (now Victor’s), Westrum’s (now the Driftwood Char Bar) and Curran’s. 

Thankfully they are all still here, and now there are literally more restaurants, bars, and coffee shops than one can count, and my friends and I marvel at the different options available, lamenting our inability to try, afford, or get into all the new places. As a result, our neighborhood is now almost completely self-contained; there’s no need to go very far when there are so many amazing places so close. When the Seward Co-op opens, my world is going to shrink even further — and I mean that in the best possible sense of that phrase. Truly one of the joys of the neighborhood is that everything we need is within a mile of my house. Kowalski’s, which is all of 2.2 miles from my house, sometimes seems too far to go. And if I go the suburbs, I feel like I have to pack a lunch. It’s tempting to be nostalgic, lamenting the changes, worrying about encroaching hipsters or generic gentrification, but it doesn’t feel that way; our neighborhood still seems really cool.”

15. Pablo Jones (East Isles): “The biggest change has been the evolution of the restaurant scene and the dominance of wealth. Everything is a little sexier, more sophisticated, and crowded. The boutique dining experience on 38th and Nicollet is great, but it comes at the cost of pushing former residents into the suburbs. Likewise, the packaged nightclubs and high-ceilinged condos of New Uptown are directly responsible for the demise of Cheapo’s – which had been foreseen since the Apple store struck down the Uptown Bar in cold blood. There’s nothing inherently bad about these changes but they don’t seem very inclusive and that bothers me. It would be great if alongside the $4,000-a-month luxury condos, there were some $700-a-month efficiencies — if the upscaling of a neighborhood didn’t automatically price its lower-income residents out. I’d also like to see more dedicated bike lanes/streets.”

16. Maggie Macpherson (Tangletown): “My favorite part of the neighborhood is the Minnehaha Creek; miles of great walking. I’ve always loved the area, most fond of the neighbors, the kids to and from Washburn, the quick walk to Lake Harriet, the great homes and gardens. I didn’t grow up here but there are some things I miss. When I first bought my house, the high school marching band used to practice on my street. I loved that! I miss the little store that used to be next to Guse Hardware. It’s now the Green Grocer, which is great, but the little store (Ron’s Market) was so neighborly. I love the new stores in the neighborhood: La Fresca, Mille, Charlie’s Bike Shop, The Animal Rights Coalition Store have all popped up within blocks of me. Of course the rest of the neighborhood has exploded with Patisserie 46, Kings, Cafe Ena, Corner Table, Revival, Wise Acre and of course The Grand Cafe!”

17. Larry Long (Longfellow): “I’ve raised three of my children and now a granddaughter in Longfellow. When we moved here there were lots of used car lots, and a scattered quilt of nonrelated businesses. The queen of our community was Diane Radke, who owned the Lake Street Garage.  She wanted to clean up this neighborhood by hosting litter-picking days in the summer. My children all helped out, as did I. Before we moved into the Longfellow community, I was inspired by Pete Seeger to build a campaign to clean up the Mississippi River. The greatest achievement of those years was the founding of a ‘clean rivers movement’ in Minnesota. Governor Perpich studied our work and now people are picking up trash along every river, creek, and watershed that feeds into the Mississippi River with help from the DNR. This river cleanup campaign got started by a bunch of ragtag long-haired volunteers who believe, as I still do today, that we can make a world of difference by simply changing the world by doing a zillion small acts of human kindness for Mother Earth. Small actions create big changes.

This is why I loved Diane. She wanted to get everyone in the Longfellow neighborhood to simply pick up trash on the street in South Minneapolis to make it look good for people driving up Lake Street into St. Paul.

Diane got cancer way before her time. We threw a benefit for her at the Lake Street Garage where the fiddles, banjos, guitars played and people were given the chance to love Diane up and down for all the good she did for South Minneapolis. I now have a photograph of Diane and all of us together from that day.

Today, South Minneapolis is truly expanding in ways one would have never imagined. When my wife and I first moved here, we were the youngest couple in the neighborhood. We were one of the few families who had children to raise. Neighborhood schools were folding because of lack of children to attend them. Now those schools are exploding with young couples — straight and gay — with children looking for an education. Every time I turn around there’s a new brewery or restaurant opening up. South Minneapolis has become a mecca of intergenerational multi-cultural cross-pollination. Nobody wants to live in the suburbs anymore. Why would they?”

18. Mikkel Beckman (Lynnhurst): “I’ve lived in Lynnhurst 17 years, before that in Field. Has the neighborhood changed or is it me? The Elms are gone, the Ash going, replaced by Maple & Honey Locust: all beautiful constant friends. Neighbors arrive, then go, either to the great block party in the sky or to far-flung jobs or tragic separations. Yet they all yield a constant kindness and helpfulness. Twenty-five years from now? My fear is that we, in the words of Wilder Foundation President MayKao Y. Hang, are creating a two-tiered community based on race and exclusion. My hope for the future of our neighborhoods is that they are more diverse, economically equal, and therefore richer. That is the hope as we speed deeper into a post-modern turning. Joe Strummer always said the future is unwritten, yet it gets written day-by-day in the ordinary choices we make about our lives.”

19. Leandra Peak (Linden Hills): “Twenty-five years ago it was the rare person who commuted anywhere by bike, now we have lanes, rentals, snow tires, and lots more biking. I love that my gay and lesbian friends are supported constitutionally. It’s a big win for families, neighborhoods, and our whole city. Environmental awareness has moved from the fringe to a more mainstream location, but I’m not sure if it has real traction yet. We’re boxed into a corner on it, but I think we keep looking for imaginary ladders. I’m hoping this will change.”

Linda McHale / Photo by Jim Walsh

20. Linda McHale (CARAG): “It’s much more diverse than it used to be, and the population has just exploded here in this neighborhood (around The Corner Store on S. Bryant and W. Lake). That’s the main thing. That, and the 82,000 apartments. The other thing I see is the loss of retail. If you go block by block — look at 29th and Lyndale over there; there’s hardly any retail over there any more. It’s all food and bars. I would love to see Nicollet Avenue [at Lake Street, now dead-ended by KMart] open in the next 25 years.”

21. Samantha Loesch (Kingfield): “Twenty-five years ago there weren’t as many restaurant options. Mostly just pizza joints and mom and pop places. Housing was more affordable. I hope the next 25 years brings us easier and faster public transportation.”

22. Robyne Robinson (CARAG): “I’ve lived in South Minneapolis for more than 10 years. Overcrowding has always been a big problem for CARAG residents, but now it’s worse. With the renaissance of suburban owners moving back into the city, street rezoning has been made to cater to leisure lifestyles — namely, narrowing 36th street to accommodate Nice Ride bikers. It’s frightening to watch buses jump a curb to make a tighter turn from Hennepin onto 36th street. My hopes: That South Minneapolis won’t push people out in favor of higher income development. Affordable housing is important, [as is] recognizing the neighborhood infrastructure can only hold so much in the Uptown area.”

23. Jim Meyer (Hale Page Diamond Lake): “Orange and blue were the colors of my old high school, but also the color scheme of the most garish dirty bookstore exteriors South Minneapolis has ever seen. Who could forget Ferris Alexander’s sex shops that roared like gargantuan bookends at Chicago-Lake and old Lake and 4th? As a kid growing up on Chicago’s #5 line, I rolled by the Chicago location a thousand times. Memory fades but I might have even gone in maybe that one time. Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for kink in your life, and right now that place is about every 100 yards in the lower Warehouse district, or two clicks away from anywhere on your mobile device. Years of clouds that seemed to hang over the old Johnny Baker Legion Post have now been replaced by numerous ethnic restaurants and markets. Even the Plasma Exchange has to be considered an upgrade. At Chicago, kitty corner from the shiny Allina Clinics and the vibrant Midtown Global Market, the bookstore corner has been replaced by a workforce center. And though it’s not a great deal prettier, it’s a beautiful thing nonetheless. 

These days, Ferris Alexander’s two former eyesores mark the boundary of a slow urban revival that’s squeezing the mop water out of central East Lake Street from both directions. Last month, the ‘for sale’ sign at Kim Y’s massage-parlour-in-a-shoebox resembled nothing so much as a white flag for the black markets of my youth. Combined with the closing of Champions Bar on Blaisdell, it feels like the waves of Calhoun Beach have overflowed under the 35W overpass. I think Kim and I both see the same future for that once-seedy area south of the Greenway, we just see it a little differently.”

24. Joan Vorderbruggen (Whittier): “I’ve lived in the Whittier neighborhood since 2009; we moved back after living in Brooklyn, N.Y., for eight years. As we were considering neighborhoods I knew I wanted to live in South Minneapolis because it had the diversity I felt I really needed to be submersed in, and Whittier specifically felt so much like New York to me, so much more so than other areas. The ma and pa businesses that line Nicollet are incredible, and having the Minneapolis Institute of Arts right there is amazing. Whittier is experiencing a bit of a renaissance with so much new development as is happening everywhere. My hope for the future is that we continue to value and prioritize maintaining independent businesses and creative entrepreneurs. I also feel there are endless opportunities to continue to weave art and artists into the landscape! More murals! More sculptures! Happy 25th Southwest Journal!”

25. Julia Klatt Singer (Kenwood): “I think the Minneapolis of 25 years ago was a Minneapolis that was much like it had been for decades. The restaurants and neighborhoods were recognizable; things hadn’t changed much. There was white bread. There was weak Lutheran coffee. There was Vescio’s and the Lincoln Del. Biking was a thing kids did, once spring had finally arrived. And in these ways Minneapolis has transformed. We are caffeinated, we are on our bikes, we have miles of trails and designated bike streets in the city. We’ve got new, vibrant restaurants and local breweries popping up in almost every neighborhood. I’m not saying that all the mainstays have to go — Nye’s being a prime example of something that has been here, has defined Minneapolis for all these years, should be here in 25 more. Tearing down the places where our hearts and souls live isn’t what Minneapolis should be doing. So too, I hope many of the ‘new’ restaurants and brew pubs, the ones that capture our hearts and minds, are mainstays in 2040.

The Minneapolis I see today is a more connected city. The Green Line is only going to make our Twin Cities closer, and better, too. So I’m hoping we have more spokes to the light rail, that SWLRT gets the support it deserves, and a north spoke goes in, and a southeast one too. Trains make the metro area accessible to all, and also more accessible to each other. In our cars, even if we are stopped in traffic, there isn’t the desire or the opportunity to say hello or bump into folks we know — a common occurrence on the Green Line and the bike trails.

And of course I’d like to have music, live music, on every corner, every night of the week, since you’re asking. And afterwards, crickets to sing us home.”

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at madripple@earthlink.net.