Downtown Minneapolis: The Town Petula Didn’t Have in Mind
By: Eric Best
Any trip to downtown Minneapolis, via just a quick trip to your local 16 bus, will take you to the heart of a once vibrant, contemporary locale. But, if you have lived in the area or have seen the changes that have occurred over the past few years in Minneapolis, you will see that such a locale exists no more. Long gone are the electric neon signs of student-friendly dance venues such as Spin Nightclub, the newly forgotten art galleries that once lined the same stretch as the Orphuem Theatre, and the restaraunts that a student could actually shell out for.
Instead, we find a much different downtown today. If you are looking to go out dancing, Minneapolis’ most popular night clubs are traditionally gay bars and clubs, such as the Gay 90’s (which has gathered a notabely mixed crowd in recent years) and the Saloon, which might be the only club that may appeal to the 18+ crowd nowadays. Spin nightclub, one of the most visited clubs with students in recent memory, was shut down this past summer, and its void in the student community of cheap cover, as well as savvy drink specials, has yet to be replaced. Other clubs, such as Epic, Insomnia, and Aqua are still viable destinations for your next 18+ outing, though their covers ($10 most 18+ nights) and unused drink specials will hinder your experience. The only viable alternative to these clubs for a student budget is First Avenue. Thee most famous concert venue in the state, First Ave turns in to a dance club thanks to local DJ legend Too Much Love – but the best part is the reduced cover with a college ID.
Yet, despite a great venue like First Avenue in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the walk their will uncover some less than student-friendly options for a night out on the town. Bars, such as Sneaky Pete’s, Augie’s, and the Brass Rail have become the most popular options lighting up Nicollet Mall recently. The entirety of downtown has changed its audience to something that mirrors the 99% and 1% – a stretch of expensive restaraunts, such as Fogo de Chao with their $50+ entrée prices. Historical theatres fill up Hennepin Avenue, such as the Orpheum and the Pantages theatres, which don’t offer shows on a student’s budget. Despite these businesses caterring to those of us without student loans or rent (which is too damn high), there are still plenty of seemingly low quality options for a good time, yet even these alternatives do not fit with a student’s interests.
Economic factors have undoubtedly changed the face of downtown Minneapolis, which have deterred students from making the short trip over to the big city. In order to make the once hotspot breathe with new life once more, business owners and investers need to bring back those venues with low cost, yet contemporary atmosphere that once lined Hennepin Avenue.
Downtown and Me: A Love Story
Oh, downtown. Our love affair began in middle school when you were the easiest place to get to on the bus (because in eighth grade, having your parents drop you off somewhere is TOTALLY LAME!). I spent many a day off from school with my friends wandering through the skyways, pretending to be going to an elaborate wedding so that we could get a retail employee at Sacs Fifth Avenue (when it wasn’t an outlet) to help us try on dresses we would never be able to afford, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the 22 bus. In high school First Ave was the place to be; going to school the next day with a jacket that smelled like I’d smoked an entire pack of cigarettes was like a badge of honor. Yeah, I went to a show on a school night, suck on that! I didn’t even smoke a cigarette until my senior year of high school, but you gave me that fake bad-ass confidence.
I’ll never forget when the light rail opened and we took way too many free rides to get to you, or when the first two story target opened with an escalator JUST FOR THE CARTS! I’ll always remember being kind of robbed: being followed from the movie theater in Block E to the light rail by a somewhat friendly and talkative gentleman who ended our conversation with the words, “Now I don’t wanna have to rob y’all or nothin’, so could you just give me some money?” I was never happier to get rid of all the dollar coins in my pockets. Block E was probably what saved our relationship once I stopped paying such close attention to who was at First Ave (and once that smoking ban took away all my pretend hardcore credibility). The student discount makes seeing even the worst movies totally worth it, and the usual emptiness of the theaters makes for some quality alone time with that special someone if you can ignore the fresh urine smell that wafts around you.
Oh, downtown, I wish I could spend more time with you. But you’re not making it easy; I don’t want to go watch white people grind awkwardly on each other at Spin. I don’t want to buy overpriced food at the vaguely-offensive “Azian Kitchen.” Even the skyways have lost their mesmerizing appeal of an urban corn maze, what with all these maps and directions. And now that I’m older, I would rather pay a couple more dollars to sit in a movie theater that smells like a bathroom. No longer can I brave those hours of waiting in line during the winter without a coat to make sure I’ll be right up front at the show. Downtown, it’s time you took a long hard look at yourself and grew up.
A Newer Downtown
By: Lindsey Geyer
Downtown Minneapolis is a haven for those seeking an upscale restaurant experience, or a night at the theatre. The block E district especially, which consists of Hennepin Avenue, 6th Street, 7th Street, and 1st Avenue, caters to this type particular of entertainment so sought after in this city. However, as of late various new shops and buildings have been opening up providing the opportunity to bring something new to downtown.
Minneapolis over the years has become one of the foremost artistic centers in the Midwest, boasting the most theatres per capita than any other state besides New York. It was odd then that one of the most ancient and universal forms of artistic expression, dance, didn’t have a home until this fall. The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts opened this September providing a place where all Minnesota dance companies can come together on one stage. The center is built right on Hennepin Avenue, in an area known for a different type of dance scene, the dance clubs, yet this has not deterred its appeal. Many hope The Cowles Center will do for dance in Minnesota what the Guthrie did for theatre. That is, draw nation-wide acclaim and praise for the building and its purpose, and solidify Minneapolis’ spot as one of the artsiest cities in America. No need to fret though, the owners and investors in the project have agreed to keep ticket costs low, perfect for the college budget, and they are currently showcasing only Minnesota dance companies until June of 2012. Whether dance styles and performances from India are you style, or if you prefer the classic ballets like The Nutcracker, the Cowles Center is determined to provide a little bit for everyone. This new center could bring the relatively obscure Minnesota dance culture into the forefront Perhaps even serving as a stepping stone for graduates of the University’s dance program.
On quality outdoor gear, Timberland Company is opening its first store in Minneapolis on November 18th, right before Black Friday, and right before the heavy snow hits. The new store will offer its famous leather boots in addition to winter coats, gloves, hats and other apparel, everything you need for a long and bitter Minnesota winter. The company’s choice in Minnesota is obvious because our lengthy winters prove ideal for their sales demographic (cold people). Already extremely popular around the world, the company is bringing its rustic out-of-doors appeal to Calhoun Square in Uptown, and is making waves as Minnesota’s only stand-alone Timberland store.
The Minneapolis original, Lunds is opening a new store as well, but this time, right on Hennepin Avenue. The area (Hennepin and 12th Street) is an ideal location for the company since quite a bit of the area surrounding it is residential. Having a location next to a Davani’s Pizza and a Dominos, the new Lunds store will provide the healthy alternative to otherwise fast-food based surroundings. The high-end grocery store will also have a wine market complete with its very own urban rain garden. But what makes this set-up unique, is that the two will not be connected. The Lunds store itself will be on one street, and the wine market will be in an adjacent building nearby.
Opening this summer, the new Lunds, which provides healthy, whole foods, is sure to bring more traffic into the area, and provide a better dining alternative to the neighboring population.Whether new store openings strike your interest, or local dance, Minneapolis has a variety of new things to offer in the 2011-2012 season, all you have to do, is get out there and explore what this city has to offer!
Who even goes downtown anymore? When thinking about what you’re going to do on the weekend, do you and your friends ever say, “We should go downtown?” I haven’t heard that in a long time. The only reason I ever trek through that wasteland anymore is to go to First Avenue or to pass through on my way to Uptown or Nick and Eddies or something. This is a big problem and I don’t think people realize it.
When I looked up “downtown” in the dictionary it said: “of, in, or characteristic of a the central area or main business and commercial area of a town or city.” So we’ve got the central part down, but main business and commercial area? We need to work on that. Downtown doesn’t even register in my mind when I think to go shopping and barely shows up when I think entertainment. I’m not alone in this thought either, and established businesses are feeling the pressure. Then there’s the standing possibility of no NBA season. Downtown business may crumble faster than we thought possible.
So how do we fix this? Some legislators have convinced people that putting a casino in Block E will fix all our problems. It will generate a lot of money and make jobs blah blah blah. When you think of casinos, do you think of friendly, generous establishments that are looking to benefit the community? No. All I can see is an increase in the number of scummy bars (ie. Sneaky Pete’s), strip clubs, and pawn shops. What we don’t need is some gaudy monstrosity downtown that will be a big news story. What we need is a sustainable plan for downtown that will encourage new development and continued interest in the space, all while supporting our economy.
Here are my options, should anyone choose to listen to a college student:
Mall of America II (Mall of Minnesota)
Ok, I understand that this sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. Everyone loves the Mall of America, myself included. I mean, I am only really interested in Barnes & Noble and Nickelodeon Universe even though there are 500+ stores, but I still end up going there a lot. So why not turn Block E into a shopping mall full of local businesses? Get Burlesque of North America, You + Me, Shuga Records, Chef Shack in the food court—you get where I’m going. It would be a mall dedicated to Minnesota, and one that people would actually want to shop at.
We need more foot traffic downtown. Whenever I got to a thriving city, there are always people on the move. If we get more businesses, as in office/cubicle/tall building business, that will create an energetic atmosphere that will automatically make the city more friendly. No one wants to walk around a deserted downtown. And for real, downtown Minneapolis looks post-apocalyptic a lot.
What do New York City and Chicago have that we don’t? Central landmarks. This may seem like a superfluous idea, but they create the idea that a city has reached a certain level of importance. New York City has Rockefeller Center where tourists flock to, you can ice skate in the winter, and they hold events all year. Chicago has Millennium Park, and don’t tell me you went to Chicago without stopping by “The Bean.” Actually, Millennium Park has ice skating in the winter too. Ok, what we need is a landmark in the middle of downtown WITH ice skating. Maybe the Minneapolis yarn bombing team can think of something good.