Development in Dinkytown, part 9: Seeds of renewal

Ninth in a ten-part series. Previously, part 8: Memories and hopes.The Opus development could be the seed of renewal, said Tom Dale, a.k.a. Tom the Tailor, whose leather shop started above Gray’s Drug in 1971. He now works in his home at 1052 19th Avenue.“Unfortunately, they’re bringing down more history in the process,” Dale said. “The Book House along with the Podium and Al’s Breakfast are beloved by the community.”The “most storied and legendary” places should be preserved, Dale said, “but I just think Dinkytown has been looking for ways to exist ever since students got cars and moved off campus.”“The funny thing is that part of me wants to go back to Dinkytown,” Dale said. “I dream that I found a spot that I could afford and go back there, but I still have the customers I had in Dinkytown.” “Being upstairs of the drug store was like being at the Vatican,” he said. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 8: Memories and hopes

Eighth in a ten-part series. Previously, part 7: Park it…where?Many people, newcomers and old-timers, have ideas about what Dinkytown should become.“It would be hard to say what to keep. I think there is a community,” long-time resident Walter Johnson said of Dinkytown. “I think the business people have a community there but those kinds of things come and go—develop and disappear—I don’t think anything like that is permanent.”“As far as I’m concerned,” said Walter Johnson, “I’d rather see more of a general shopping area than what it now. I think it’s patterned; it’s changed by the changing clientele. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 7: Park it…where?

Seventh in a 10-part series. Previously, part 6: Keeping the town dinky.Where did the name Dinkytown come from? That depends on whom you ask. Some have said it came from the appearance of a dinky town; another suggested it came form the name of the Dinkytown Dime, a long-standing dime store in the area. Others say a switch engine in the adjacent rail yards was called a Dinky and the workers stopped for lunch and other breaks. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 6: Keeping the town dinky

Sixth in a ten-part series. Previously, part 5: A friendly zone.The planning process can’t solve every issue, such as the problem with small-scale businesses that don’t have deep pockets, city planner Haila Maze said.“When new space comes in, the per-square-foot rent will be higher. The new spaces are less likely to be affordable to small-scale businesses,” Maze said.Some places, like Grand Avenue in St. Paul and Uptown in Minneapolis, have managed to preserve some local character while welcoming new developments.“Grand Avenue is a very successful and prosperous commercial strip, but it has some national names like Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware. Dinkytown has a lot less room to work with,” Maze said.To protect the less dense traditional areas, Marcy-Holmes has proposed more intensive development along 15th Avenue going north from Dinkytown, but developers have not assembled the necessary contiguous parcels for high rises there.Planning can help with those issues, such as parking, traffic flow and public safety, that are bigger than any one project. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 5: A friendly zone

Fifth in a ten-part series. Previously, part 4: The Book House fights for its life.The current building at the Dinkytown site proposed for development by Opus is only one story because the site is zoned C-1 for commercial use to keep the business area low density. To build for more height and density, Opus would need the city to rezone the site C-3A, the same as the Sydney Hall site on the opposite corner across from Dinkytown. Opus may also need a variance from parking requirements.Other zoning categories and variances allowed the construction of higher multiuse developments on the UTEC site and the building that houses the Purple Onion coffee shop and café at 1301 University Avenue—both at Dinkytown. “There is an ability to obtain up-zoning if it’s consistent with policy and the city plan,” Maze said.Rezoning and variances were required for nearly a dozen developments already under construction or on the drawing board in the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood within blocks of Dinkytown and the riverfront. These requirements provide an opportunity for groups, like the Dinkytown Business Association and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, to influence the City Council on the developments. MHNA President Doug Carlson said the Opus development is the first one that gets into the commercial blocks that define the character of Dinkytown.“It could be worse,” Carlson said. “It could be an out-of-town developer. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 4: The Book House fights for its life

Fourth in a ten-part series. Previously, part 3: The House of Hanson and the price of convenience.Kristen Eide-Tollefson, who owns the Book House, is not happy to go. “I have spent the last three years investing heavily in preparing the store to be run by a new generation because I want the store to stay here, so the university has access to the kinds of books the Book House provides and the services the Book House provides,” Eide-Tollefson said.She said her used bookstore recycles ideas as well as books. “So this is a pretty big shock to my hopes and dreams and to me and to my staff, who are very committed booksellers,” Eide-Tollefson said. She said she has discussed relocation with the developers. “It’s not easy to relocate a store as large as mine. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 3: The House of Hanson and the price of convenience

Third in a ten-part series. Previously, part 2: Threatened by success.Change seems to be the one constant in Dinkytown.Dylan wrote that he made three to five dollars every time he played at the Ten O’Clock Scholar, which he described as “a Beat coffeehouse” at the corner of Fifth Street and 14th Avenue. That site had also housed McCosh’s bookstore, which later moved to Fourth Street.The Scholar site became a Burger King and its parking lot; today it has a yoga center, a Subway, a Pizza Hut, and their shared parking lot.Across 14th Avenue, the House of Hanson, the Book House and the Podium may be torn down for the new Opus mixed-use, multistory apartment building with commercial businesses on the street level. Much of the space behind them is Dinkytown’s largest parking lot, the hair salon, and a pizza place that will be taken.Across Fifth Street from them, the University Technology Enterprise Center, called UTEC, is being torn down to make room for another multistory mixed-use apartment building. UTEC’s building was Marshall University High School until 1982. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 2: Threatened by success

Second in a ten-part series. Previously, part 1: “There’s a nice vibe; it’d be easy to mess that up”The city plan classifies Dinkytown as an activity center, like Stadium Village and Uptown: a dense, busy, active business area. “The unique character of Dinkytown is in some ways intangible,” says Haila R. Maze, city planner whose responsibilities include Dinkytown. “It’s an urban small-scale commercial space that has managed to survive over the years. Having survived is a major accomplishment.”Maze said Dinkytown is a human-scale, eclectic mix of businesses with some local unique businesses. “I hope that there are ways to do infill development that can change it but keep what people value about it,” she said in a recent interview. “We should keep being a place where something is interesting and happening, but we don’t want it to be so successful that big players come and squash it,” Maze said.Dinkytown is threatened because of its success; some small businesses have succeeded and new developers seem to find it lucrative. Continue Reading

Development in Dinkytown, part 1: “There’s a nice vibe; it’d be easy to mess that up”

This is the first article in a ten-part series.When Bob Zimmerman moved into a fraternity house in Southeast Minneapolis, he traded his electric guitar in for a double-o Martin acoustic, browsed record stores to hear new music in the listening booths, changed his name to Bob Dylan, and listened to and performed folk music at local coffee houses—all beginning in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.“The area around the university was known as Dinkytown, which was kind of like a little village, untypical from the rest of conventional Minneapolis,” Dylan wrote in his memoir, Chronicles, Volume One. “It was mostly filled with Victorian houses that were being used as student apartments.” Dinkytown consists of the four square blocks that meet at the intersection of 14th Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast, said Skott Johnson, president of the Dinkytown Business Association.Dylan, who lived in the area for about 15 months beginning in 1959, rented a room above Gray’s Drug Store on that corner for $30 a month. “Above Gray’s, the crash pad was no more than an empty storage room with a sink and a window looking into an alley. No closet or anything. Toilet down the hall. I put a mattress on the floor, bought a used dresser, plugged in a hot plate on top of that—used the outside window ledge as a refrigerator when it got cold,” he wrote.None of the businesses Dylan mentioned remains in Dinkytown, and the last music and guitar store, the Podium, could be displaced by a proposed new development that may fill almost half of one of those four blocks.Opus Development Company has proposed a multistory, mixed-use apartment house that would displace several businesses, including the House of Hanson grocery.Even when Dylan lived there, Dinkytown was not the village it was 10 years earlier when Dayton’s had a Dinkytown branch, and neighborhood children attended Marshall High School in the next block. “I remember much more of a little village, a self-sustaining village than it is now,” said Walter Johnson, who graduated from Marshall High School in 1946. Continue Reading

The future of the Southeast Minneapolis Library, part 6: Bringing a community together

This is the final article in a six-part series about the future of the Southeast Library in Minneapolis. Previously, part 5: What does the community need today?The Southeast Library serves diverse neighborhoods that include minorities and international students, says Southeast librarian Eric Heideman.“University students use it a lot,” Heideman said. “It serves a very diverse group, including many different ethnic groups and cultures. There has been an increase in the number of parents with small children in recent years.”Heideman, who began as a children’s librarian in 1998, became head librarian for the building in June 2001. He continues with weekly story time at 10:30 a.m. most Saturdays for families with children ages 2 and above. Continue Reading