Barbara Flanagan: Change is good, as long as it's thoughtful

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2011 - 8:44 PM

Minneapolis would do well to honor its past when considering its future.

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Downtown Minneapolis workers and shoppers crossed 6th Street on Nicollet Mall.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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The Flanagan Memo -- Re: Minneapolis shapes up -- again, or is it still? Making a historic TV bit. And a wave from San Francisco.

• • •

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a nice guy I have known since his newspapering days at this paper, is always, or should I say usually, the optimist.

And he loves his job as mayor. His feelings about this town burble out when he talks about it. "Oh, Barbara," he said recently, "you are going to love Peavey Plaza." I said, "I hope so," but he continued, "and the new, improved Nicollet Mall and transit and so much more."

As I said, I hope so. We will see.

Now, I am for an improved Peavey Plaza, but I haven't seen plans, as yet, so I don't know. Changing the Nicollet Mall is OK, I guess, particularly if the architects involved look back at the original plan. There has been talk of widening the street, but I don't think that includes the downtown mall.

Actually, if the city really wants to improve Nicollet, I suggest they reopen it at Lake Street. You will recall that a Kmart blocks it now -- ever since an earlier City Council was desperate for money and, apparently, sold out.

Nicollet used to be our longest city street, and it worked. There are other blocks where a Kmart would fit in. Moving it should work.

Actually, if Nicollet were reopened, the proposed new streetcar line from downtown to 46th Street would be much smoother.

We now have 31,502 downtown residents. It is a figure from Russ Nelson of Nelson Tietz & Hoye, a real estate consulting firm here. The city would like to see that number grow, and so would I.

But I do not favor doing it with 33-story buildings in the center of everything. Such a building is currently being considered for the corner of 5th Street and Nicollet Mall, where the former Powers department store once stood. Its developers have already given us the Carlyle, a too-tall apartment across from the Minneapolis main post office at 100 S. 1st St. It is too high for its site and looks out of place. Ditto for the proposed new building. Trim the number of floors and build it. Yes, I know that means less money for the builders, but consider the skyline, please.

Getting back to Rybak, he didn't mention the Minnesota Vikings stadium, and that is OK. But he recently announced that if the Metrodome is sold to help build a stadium in Ramsey County, Minneapolis is due more than $30 million. I'm for that. Aren't you?

• • •

Channel 2 asked me to say a few words on camera about some of my favorite old restaurants, such as Richards Treat and Charlie's Café Exceptionale, and I said, "Yes." We met at another restaurant I like that isn't so old, but seems wonderfully comfortable -- the Monte Carlo. It fit in perfectly because its owner, John Rimarcik, has acquired some of Charlie's old artifacts, and that includes recipes.

So I raved about Charlie's famous potato salad and Richard Treat's superb ham loaf, plus their Wellesley fudge cake, while John talked about the restaurant business.

His mother was a great cook, he said. He knew at age 10 that he would probably end up somewhere in a restaurant. Now he owns several, including the Monte Carlo, the Convention Grill, Annie's Parlour and a new entry, Rachel's. It is near Surdyk's on E. Hennepin.

John and his wife, Julie, a stunning brunette, are very hands-on in their business, so it should not surprise you to know that last month, John cooked at Rachel's. He obviously loves it and everything else about the business. He may show up for kitchen duty again this month.

The TV program will air in December.

• • •

San Francisco is a dandy town to visit, enjoy and eat in. When we go, we always plan on visiting the Yank Sing restaurant, where the best dim sum is served. And what is dim sum? A little bit of everything, starting with dumplings galore filled with shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, you name it.

As always, the San Francisco Chronicle has great Page 1 stories so typical of San Francisco. On my visit, I saw one headline that read, "At least cover up your seats." It referred to nudists who occupy seats at the city's sidewalk cafes. Never a dull moment.

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