The Flanagan Memo

Re: Minneapolis is blooming, plus, anyone for meatballs -- Swedish meatballs?

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Yes, our town is blooming. Oh, I know there are still some critical areas, but there always will be. But I do not agree with my friends and colleagues, columnists Rick Nelson and Claude Peck. In their Sunday "Withering Glance" column recently, they wrote: "Downtown looks deader than a doornail these days."

Oh, come on, fellows, you have been snowed in all winter so of course it looks deadly. But basically, things are looking up compared with the way they were when I wrote "Hennepin Avenue needs work." That was more than 40 years ago. We are still working, but look at the progress.

Even the Downtown Council reports that employment, hospitality, entertainment and mass transit are up. Now all we have to worry about is a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, plus Peavey Plaza, downtown gambling, Block E again, the Upper Mississippi River, the Handicraft Building at 10th and Marquette Avenue, and several dozen or so other hot spots.

Let's take them in order:

• The Vikings need to stay in Minneapolis, so get going on a new stadium or redo the Metrodome, please. As for the money, it is time for Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature to get together on it and step up.

• I am not certain about Peavey Plaza plans. To me, it has been a delightful place that was ignored by the city -- due to lack of funding, I am sure -- and it needs rebuilding. But do not dump the fountain or the pool or wintertime ice skating or outdoor music events, please. And consider turning it over to the Minneapolis Park Board to manage.

• Downtown gambling is a fascinating thought, but I think the Minnesota Indian tribes should be in charge. After all, we boast about our Indian heritage to tourists, so why not give them a stage? Block E could come alive with proper supervision.

• The Handicraft Building is a gem and it should be preserved and used. Its offices and studios are -- or used to be -- delightful. It could be great again. Let's hope the Pohlad family, possible buyers, get the message.

• Meanwhile, as we chew over what to do next, consider this reminder from a letter to the editor -- do not forget how important green plants are downtown. Landscape architecture is needed now. Maybe the Loring Park community should be consulted. They have done wonders for the park. Go see for yourselves.

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The Swedes always seem to have some good fun. I know because I am Swedish.

Oh, yes I am, one-quarter Swedish plus one-quarter English (from Canada) and then one-half Irish, very Irish.

So, even with my Irish name, I have served some Swedish causes, including a stint as a member of the board of the American Swedish Institute, our marvelous museum of Swedish history.

Coming up soon is "How Swede It Is," a festival that will feature a Swedish meatball contest. I've been invited to judge it and I said yes. It is on April 16, the birthday of my late, very Swedish grandmother, Alma Agnes Lund Barnes.

Other judges may include weatherman Sven Sundgaard, baseball star Kent Hrbek and super good cook Marjorie Johnson.

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Southdale is being redone, and it's about time, too.

The nation's first enclosed shopping center has hit on some bad days in recent years. It has gotten so empty that the late Frank Lloyd Wright would have been overjoyed.

As a young reporter in 1956, I stood by as the architect took his first look at Southdale and trashed it. You see, he did not create it. Victor Gruen, a charming native of Vienna, did.

So, now, somebody has bought it and is about to redo it. Well, do it.