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Solving a neon mystery on Lake Street

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 29, 2014 - 12:25 PM

Travelers along West Lake Street recently may have wondered just what is going on at a glowing building near Grand Avenue.

The building is a beacon on the streetscape, with blue or purple neon illuminating a pyramid-shaped structure. Paper lamps, glowing blue, hang over a balcony.

So just what is this mysterious structure?

MPLS asked the owner of the building, Basim Sabri, a developer most known for spending time in prison for bribing a city council member. Sabri also developed the fortress-like Karmel Mall just blocks away from the Grand Avenue property.

The entire glowing structure is actually a new addition atop the massive one-story commercial building, a former warehouse that Sabri has recently converted into a maze-like indoor mall. He said the intent of the balcony and indoor space is to eventually provide common seating for the tenants of the building, including diners from a restaurant downstairs.

But while he designed the structure to attract attention, Sabri is now considering modifications to remove the top three shapes. "It’s just a little too gaudy," he said.

He said all of the buildings he rehabs include balconies. "I think it’s a good thing to have. It keeps eyes on the street and it keeps communication between the neighbors," Sabri said. The balcony is empty now, but expect to possibly see people up there starting this summer.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the GrandView restaurant was closed, as were most of the small storefronts inside the building. Proprietors at others, like a travel agency and a felafel shop, awaited customers.

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