Commission recommends Dinkytown for heritage preservation

While agreeing that Dinkytown should continue to grow and change, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission unanimously recommended on June 9 that most of the four-block business district be designated for historic preservation. The HPC decision came after hearing about two hours of testimony, some of it impassioned on both sides, but most of it in support of the plan to try to preserve the character of the small business district adjacent to the University of Minnesota in Southeast Minneapolis. About 20 people testified, raising first principles, such as the balance between free enterprise and urban planning and questions like what is history, what can be preserved, and what is Dinkytown. HPC’s action is a recommendation to the Minneapolis City Council, whose zoning and planning committee will take up the plan at 9:30 a.m. on June 25, and the full Council could vote on it at its July 10 meeting. If the HPC had rejected the plan, it would not have gone to the Council. Continue Reading

Minnesota Senate Building nears halfway point

The Minnesota Senate Building, nearly half completed and almost closed in, should be open by the end of the year, according to the Senate’s project manager, Vic Thorstenson, on an exclusive tour that included the Daily Planet on Friday, May 22. “The Republicans got a lot of mileage – and maybe picked up a few seats – by attacking  this project,” Thorstenson said, “but they’re happy to be moving into updated offices.”

Thorstenson and Greg Huber, project manager for Mortenson Construction, led about a dozen Senate staffers and Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, on the tour of the controversial building site. Standing in a future hall in front of soon-to-be locker rooms, Thorstenson said, the locker rooms are for people who run, walk or bicycle to work or want to change for other reasons. “We have no work-out rooms or reflecting pools,” he said in response to charges from critics about the building’s original design and price tag. Continue Reading

Stakeholders divide over Dinkytown preservation

Homeowners favor, landlords oppose, and business owners appear mixed on whether portions Dinkytown should be declared a historic district in the four blocks across University Avenue from the original entrance to the University of Minnesota in Southeast Minneapolis. Their debate is over the “Dinkytown Historic District Designation Study” written by Minneapolis planners that will be considered by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission on June 9 and by the City Council, probably in July. The HPC’s public hearing will be at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, in Room 317, Minneapolis City Hall.

Principal city planner Haila Maze presented the report to the board of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association on May 19, which voted unanimously to support historic designation of the district, and to the Dinkytown Business Alliance on May 21, which rejected the idea after much discussion.

In February 2014, the HPC imposed a moratorium on development in Dinkytown pending a study to determine whether some of the area is historically significant and worthy of preservation. The city’s Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) posted its study and solicited public input from April 20 through May 25 . Additional comments may be still submitted to be included with the appendices. Continue Reading

City debates historic preservation of Dinkytown

Opposition to development emerged after the Opus Development Company proposed the Venue mixed-use apartment building two years ago that opened last fall with a Starbucks, Great Clips and an upscale Goodwill store on the ground level.

Opponents say new buildings will require more rent, forcing locally owned businesses out while encouraging chain stores like Starbucks and Target Express, the anchor store in the new Marshall mixed-use building on the site of Marshall High School. Continue Reading

Dinkytown panel compares 1970s, current activism

For one month in 1970, protesters occupied two buildings slated for demolition to build a fast-food restaurant called the Red Barn in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.One predawn morning in early May, police in riot gear cleared the protesters while bulldozers leveled the buildings. Within a day, the demonstrators built a peace garden on the site and, a year later, Red Barn gave up the idea of building another fast-food store in Dinkytown.Subsequent efforts to stop development in Dinkytown haven’t gone so well. Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown in an unsuccessful effort to stop a much larger development two years ago, said he felt awe and jealousy as he watched Al Milgrom’s “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film about the Red Barn protest.Hawbaker and a panel of other neighborhood activists and residents compared notes April 20 with Monte Bute, one of the protestors featured in the film.“We went with a more political solution,” said Hawbaker, who noted that they came close to having the City Council block demolition of buildings to make way for the mixed-use Opus Development, now called Venue. “The projects that are proposed are not the best shot for independent business,” he said. “We got a Starbucks, a Great Clips and an offshoot of Goodwill.”He and Lynn Nyman, a manager for Loring Café and Varsity Theater, said that more than 60 percent of Dinkytown’s businesses are still local, adding that the area has been and continues to be an incubator of small business.Another panelist, Hung Q. Russell, chairman of the Marcy-Holmes Land Use Committee, called the film a well-drafted story narrative. Continue Reading

Former and current Dinkytown activists will compare notes

Dinkytown activists from the 1970s and those of today will compare notes on a panel discussion from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 20, in the back room of Pracna on Main at 117 Main St. S.E., Minneapolis.The discussion will follow a showing of “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film by Al Milgrom about the month-long demonstration in which protestors occupied buildings to stop construction of a fast-food franchise called the Red Barn. The film traces the lives of prominent leaders of the 1970 protest to see where they are today.Some protesters in the film will participate in the discussion that is free, and admission to the film is not necessary to attend the panel.Panelists will include Monte Bute, who was among the protestors who successfully kept the Red Barn out of Dinkytown, and Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown two years ago. This more recent group failed to prevent the demolition of businesses to construct a mixed-use midrise apartment building that opened last fall.The panel will explore contrasts and similarities between the two protests and the changing nature of the small business district near the University of Minnesota.Bute, an associate professor of sociology at Metropolitan State University, was among the 1970 organizers featured in Milgrom’s film. Others featured in the film may participate as well.“I came to realize that by our mid-40s that [the philosopher] Camus was right,” Bute said in the film. Continue Reading

Al Milgrom’s long to-do list: Second of two parts: Film Society founder becomes filmmaker

Al Milgrom, who founded the first long-lasting film society in Minnesota, has become a filmmaker himself with his first feature length film, “The Dinkytown Uprising,” on the demonstrations to stop construction of a fast-food restaurant. [Link to great trailer:]During the takeover, the protestors – some of whom were university and high school students – cooked their own food in the former diner, published their own newsletter, and created a “hotel” for staying on site, where one of Milgrom’s subjects admitted to losing his virginity. The film “Easy Rider” was listed on the marque of the Varsity Theater across the street.In 1970, Red Barn, a chain that folded in the 1980s, would have faced competition in Dinkytown from Burger King, which went out of business in Dinkytown in the late 1990s, and McDonald’s, which has been in Dinkytown since 1960. Bob Lafferty, who owned five Twin Cities Red Barn franchises, met occasionally with protesters and Milgrom shows some tense but friendly banter between them.With speakers on a megaphone in the background, Milgrom caught some of the personal exchanges. “You need fast food on a campus,” Lafferty said. Continue Reading

Al Milgrom introduces film and history to generations

Dinkytown Short Trailer Al’s Version from Albert Milgrom on Vimeo.Al Milgrom spent 50 years introducing Minnesotans to films they would not otherwise see and now he’s working to show them the history they’ve forgotten.“When I’m talking to kids in Dinkytown,” says Milgrom who has spent most of his 92 years around the University of Minnesota, “they have no idea what went on – right there on the sidewalks they walk on, on their way to the U.”To improve their historical awareness, Milgrom will premiere his own film, “The Dinkytown Uprising,” at 6 p.m. April 12 and 2 p.m. April 20 at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, an event he created 34 years ago.The festival, which opens April 9 will screen more than 200 films this year at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Southeast Minneapolis.Milgrom’s first feature-length documentary tells the story of a month-long protest in 1970 that involved a cast of hundreds, perhaps thousands, to protest the demolition of small businesses and the construction of a fast-food restaurant in Dinkytown, a quaint business district adjacent to the University’s Minneapolis campus.“The whole idea was there was a ‘70s generation of activists, idealists – some went so far as to call themselves revolutionaries – who aren’t here anymore,” Milgrom said. “This was the baby boomer generation that was liberal politically. They ended up out of step with the conservative turn of the United States, even today.”“The Dinkytown Uprising” has literally been 45 years in the making, beginning when Milgrom filmed the takeover of two Dinktytown buildings on April 1, 1970, by protestors who wanted to prevent their demolition to make way for a Red Barn fast-food restaurant. Continue Reading

Minneapolis Central Riverfront becomes St. Anthony Falls Regional Park under a new park plan

Imagine St. Anthony Falls as it looked when Europeans first saw the Mississippi River cascading over limestone rocks four centuries ago in the only natural waterfall on the river.A scene like that could become reality if the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board accepts a proposed update to the board’s master plan for the Central Riverfront Regional Park. The plan is open for public comment for until Jan. 18. MPRB will host a public hearing on the plan on Feb. Continue Reading

What will become of Dinkytown’s Southeast Library?

Dinkytown could soon lose its public library, but Hennepin County will ultimately decide if that’s worth it, or if they should replace or upgrade it.The four neighborhoods that surround the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis are underserved by library services and space, said a consultant who organized a study that could be the first step toward determining whether the Southeast Library at Dinkytown will be updated or replaced.Steve Kelley, senior fellow at the University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, was the lead consultant to coordinate the 25-member, four-month Southeast Library Engagement project for Hennepin County. He summarized their report on Dec. 15 to the directors of the University District Alliance.Kelley said his report will be transmitted by Dec. 31 to the Hennepin County commissioners and the library administration, which will decide whether to remodel, replace or close the current Southeast Library at 1222 Fourth St. S.E. Kelley’s task, however, was to discover what activities the four university neighborhoods – the West Bank/Cedar-Riverside, Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park, and Southeast Como – need in library services and space, separate from any particular location.His graduate student researchers and community meetings demonstrated a strong desire for a traditional library with stacks of books that can be browsed, with places to meet and study, and large and small meeting rooms.Libraries are still strongly associated with reading, he said, and with children. Continue Reading