Lileks: Hennepin remake: Go with the Dough

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2013 - 4:10 PM

There's a new plan to make Hennepin Avenue an arts and entertainment corridor, stretching from the barren Gateway to the lush jewel of Loring Park. Having read the proposal, and being somewhat suspicious of grand plans, I see one big problem: They're probably not starting tomorrow. But next week would be fine.

It's straightforward: Fill in the gaps, spiff up what's there, add pocket parks, make it safe so they're not pickpocket parks, add lots of artists and diverse retail. Make it pedestrian friendly, but not car-unfriendly, unless you define the latter as forbidding vehicles to drive on the sidewalk when they want to pass a bus. If you remember the days when Hennepin looked like a set for a TV movie about runaway prostitutes, and had movies that dispensed with things like "dialogue" and "clothes," the conceptions of the end result are a reminder no neighborhood is ever lost for good.

There's one opportunity they may fumble: The Big Art Thing. There's a designated spot for big trademark art, something people in the future will call "iconic," unless they come to their senses and stop using the word. Planners will be tempted to put up something abstract that means nothing to anyone but makes people gawp for a moment. Or something whimsical, like a three-story Nerf wall that people can run into and bounce off.

No. This is an opportunity for something I've been pitching for years: an enormous colossus of the Doughboy. Imagine a 16-story-tall Pillsbury Doughboy straddling Hennepin, holding aloft a frosted cinnamon roll that glows at night. Like the old Weatherball, the roll would change color depending on the chance for rain or the direction of the temperature. Of course, when you poked his ankle, he would giggle. Of course.

The most obvious objection: Wouldn't it be a magnet for terrorism? C'mon. Everyone loves the Doughboy. Second objection: Why not a huge Paul Bunyan? The ax is too violent. It would have to be a rake.

No, go with the Dough. Just imagine hearing his trademark tummy-poke giggle amplified so it could be heard for a mile, sounding out the time at the top of the hour!

I went too far, didn't I.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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