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

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

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

Dinkytown religions influenced students’ lives

The Rev. Bill Teska, who leads a small Minneapolis Episcopalian congregation that meets in the University Baptist Church at 1219 University Ave. S.E., and Don Olson, who spent 20 months in federal prison for disrupting draft offices in 1970, led a discussion on Nov. 22, on the role of religion in the peace and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

Many of their old meeting places near Dinkytown in Minneapolis no longer exist.

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Dinkytown fans rally for historic preservation

Don Olson saw Dinkytown through some of its most memorable social and political movements during the 1960s.As Vietnam War protests flared up at colleges across the country, the former student activist, who dropped out in 1967 to focus on activism full time, was at the front lines of the University of Minnesota’s movement. Around the same time, a fast food restaurant called Red Barn was proposed in place of five businesses in the area. Olson supported a protest of the establishment that would become one of the most famous in Dinkytown’s history.Read more TC Daily Planet coverage of Dinkytown.Olson was among more than 100 people with ties to the area who gathered Sunday in the Varsity Theater to share personal stories and to watch presentations about the district’s history. The gathering was put on partially in hopes of assisting the city of Minneapolis with its historical designation study of the area.If city leaders decide the district qualifies as historic, it could preserve about 30 buildings.Preserve Historic Dinkytown, an organization that resulted from the historical study’s announcement early last spring, held the “Dinkytown Reunion.” Though it wasn’t sponsored by the city, the event was held in part to help city planner Haila Maze gather physical and oral histories related to the area that she may not have had access to otherwise.“It doesn’t simplify things to bring an oral history,” Maze said, “but it does sort of [add] a richer, deeper definition to the discussion.”As short films and presentations played out on the theater’s stage, supporters of the area’s preservation reminisced at tables and couches.Yearbooks from 1950 and 1960 were laid out among a timeline, historical photos and maps from the University dating back to the 1930s.Nancy Smith was a student at the University from 1961 to 1966. Formerly a regular in Dinkytown’s various shops and its art scene, Smith attended Sunday’s event to support the area’s preservation.“I guess I have a soft spot for Dinkytown, and I want to see that its integrity is maintained,” she said.Later in life, Smith became friends with Laurie Savran, who also graduated from the University in 1966 and married Bill Savran — owner of Savran Bookstore, which had a location across the river in Cedar-Riverside.Laurie Savran remembers frequenting various coffee shops in Dinkytown, like the Ten O’Clock Scholar. Continue Reading

Dinkytown’s new alliances

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu

Ten months ago, Dinkytown was at one of those unmistakable crossroads of change rife with both crisis and opportunity. The businesses in Dinkytown are survivors of change, so this was nothing new, but this time, a perfect storm of factors came close together. On the plus side, the City of Minneapolis and Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association were taking much more notice of Dinkytown. But at the beginning of 2014, Skott Johnson, the longtime leader of the Dinkytown Business Association, known as DBA, closed his business at 1300 4th St. S.E., Autographics, and left the Twin Cities. The old Marshall High building, UTech, had been demolished and the House of Hanson would follow close on its heels. And local developer Kelly Doran was proposing to build a hotel on 4th Street, which would entail taking out yet more old low-rise buildings housing small shops and restaurants. It’s no exaggeration to say the future of Dinkytown’s identity was up for grabs.

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Should Southeast keep its library without a building?

Should Southeast Minneapolis keep its library and, if so, should it remain near Dinkytown?Southeast Minneapolis residents have been invited to suggest where and whether a new library should replace the current facility adjacent to Dinkytown at the corner of Fourth Street and 13th Avenue Southeast.But some have complained that the public meetings, scheduled to begin this weekend, will not allow residents to support renovation of the current building, a classic of modern architecture designed by the late prominent Minneapolis architect Ralph Rapson.“Participation is not only important in terms of providing your feedback and learning about the process, but your presence will help demonstrate community support for the Southeast library – our library,” said Hung Russell, co-president of the Friends of the Southeast Library.The public meetings are in neighborhoods a consultant has determined represent the major stakeholders of the library. The meetings are:9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, October 18, at the Van Cleve Recreation Center, 901 S.E. 15th Ave.;6-8 p.m. Monday, October 20, at Marcy Open School, 415 Fourth Ave. S.E.;9-11 a.m. Saturday, October 25, at Brian Coyle Community Center Community Room, 420 15th Ave. S.; and7-9 p.m. Thursday, October 30, at Luxton Recreation Center, 112 St. Mary’s Ave. Continue Reading