Prime parking spots outside a handful of Minneapolis business have been transformed into tiny, portable public parks -- complete with tables, chairs and plants.
The city's first three "parklets" made their official debut Tuesday, as three council members checked out purple tables and chairs parked in front of Juxtaposition Arts and Urban Homeworks at 2007 Emerson Ave. N.
Council Member Lisa Bender said the city's goal is to create places along commercial stretches where people feel comfortable gathering and chatting with their neighbors. The spaces are hosted by businesses, but open to the public. Other cities, including San Francisco and New York, have installed dozens of them.
"Parklets are a really simple, but extraordinary way to transform public space," Bender said.
Minneapolis' other parklets are located at 212 Third Ave. N., hosted by Martin Patrick 3 and Transwestern, at the Colonial Warehouse, and at 2451 Nicollet Ave. S., in front of Spyhouse Coffee. They'll remain on the streets through October, packed up for winter, and reassembled in the spring.
It looks handsome on the outside, but let developers into the onetime luxury apartment building at 628 E. Franklin Av, and they shy away from taking on this rehab project.
The job of making the gutted 1904 building habitable again for the first time in 18 years attracted only one offer when the city asked developers for proposals. That offer will likely be rejected because it doesn't meet the city's financial terms, according to Cherie Shoquist, a city project coordinator.
But she said the city hasn't given up hope for bringing the hard-luck building it owns back to life, although she was surprised there wasn't more interest.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful building that we thought the time was right for," she said.
One reason she's still optimistic is that one contractor might have bid on the project but for a cash-flow crunch caused by a delay in closing on the sale of a duplex he's selling. Charlie Browning said he's not surprised others shied away.
“There’s not a whole lot of people like myself that are ambitious about restoration work," he said. "When you walk in there and see a few dead pigeons and a dead hawk and you don’t have a vision.it's a little intimidating.”
The structure was built as luxury apartments, but has fallen since on hard times. It sits not far from the 5th Avenue S. freeway entrance, between the major commuting routes of Portland and Park avenues.
The city in essence bought the building in 2012 from the Sabri family trust after Azzam Sabri, the building’s most recent owner, died of cancer in 2011. The purchase went through the Twin Cities Community Land Bank as an intermediary. Sabri got the building after a court fight with previous owner Jason Geschwind, to whom he provided financing.
The development agency insisted that he follow through with Geschwind’s commitment to create condos. Sabri wanted to switch to commercial reuse, but ignored the city’s requests for details on financing, marketing and other specifics.
Regular litter and graffiti cleanup, new banners and holiday decorations are among the improvements in store for W. Broadway, under a plan approved by Minneapolis officials this week.
A council committee gave its OK to the plan from the newly created West Broadway Improvement District, which will collect funds from a special assessment paid by property owners in the area. It's expected to generate nearly $104,000 next year. The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition will chip in another $31,644 for the effort.
Business owners will get a chance to give the assessment a thumbs up or down before it becomes final, but officials say most appear to be supportive of the plans.
"We’ve had very very little dissension on this at all," said Jackie Cherryhomes, president of the WBC's board of directors. "Everybody has been really receptive, thinking it's a really good idea."
Council Member Blong Yang said boosting the area's status as a hub for business is crucial to the overall development of north Minneapolis.
While Yang noted that the money collected with the assessment is "not going to make that huge of a dent," he said it's an important step in the process.
"It's certainly better than zero," he said.
Hillcrest Development closed its long-awaited purchase of the former Minneapolis schools headquarters for $4.05 million Monday.
"Work started today," Scott Tankenoff, managing partner for the development company, said Tuesday. "We've been waiting to purchase this building for a really, really long time."
Tankenoff said that the building's 165,000 square feet would be converted to office space, with an expected emphasis on creative occupations such as photography or graphic design studios. He said he expected initial tenants to move in early in 2015.
The Logan Park neighborhood emphasized using the landmark brick complex at 807 Broadway St. NE in a way that creates new jobs.
“It’s in a neighborhood that we have a very large investment in in northeast Minneapaolis," Tankenoff said, noting other nearby building renovations by Hillcrest. "It’s where our heart is. It’s in the center of gravity for us.”
Tankenoff said he thinks that the former light bulb factory's brick and timbered interiors will be attractive to tenants.
Hillcrest originally planned to close by the end of 2103, but a title issue delayed that.
The money from the sale will be used by the school district to help pay for the $41.,7 million new headquarters at 1250 Broadway that the district occupied two years ago. Hillcrst was chosen from a field of seven developers that put forward proposals for the property.
When Brent Fuqua moved the expanding bike shop he co-owns into a newly refurbished storefront across Central Avenue last summer, he suddenly had thousands of square feet in which to stash the bikes the business had stored in rented garages across northeast Minneapolis.
That new space included a big second floor. Meanwhile a buddy, Juston Anderson, had accumulated somewhere between 40 and 50 vintage bikes in 27 years of collecting.
“I thought people should see these bikes,” Fuqua said.
So during Sunday’s Open Streets event, in which bikers will take over 8-1/2 blocks of Central for six hours, the Cycling Museum of Minnesota will debut in the upstairs of Recovery Bike Shop, 2504 Central Av. NE.
From 19th century boneshakers, including one with a 60-inch drive wheel, to trendy Pusgley fat-tire bikes, cyclists will get a glimpse of cycling history that highlights important advances in biking from technology to alliances with good roads boosters to changing social mores. They’ll see those how changes affected bike safety and speed.
It’s a coming-out party for the museum, which organizers say is only in the formative stages and won’t be open regularly until sometime next year. “It was just a bunch of dudes with bikes,” Fuqua told a sneak
preview Thursday night that was intended to elicit interest and funds from an invitee list that dressed from cutoffs to suits.
The organization’s nine-member board has incorporated and plans to put on educational programs, conduct community rides, host family events, present lectures and show films.
The collection includes beginner bikes for kids, BMX bikes, mass-produced bikes by Sears, hand-made frames by some of the state’s noted builder, bikes on which some of the state’s best-known racers sped, and vintage machines such as a locally made tandem designed for courting couples.
But there are also prosaic bike collectibles, such as the 1950s prototype of a Park Tool Co. bike repair stand. It features such parts as a concrete-filled World War II shell casing, kitchen table legs and a 1937 Ford truck axle.
Anderson, 42, of Arden Hills, remembers looking at pictures as a kid of the high-wheeled bikes that dominated the 1880s but were typically affordable only to wealthy young men with strong legs. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how you could balance on something like that,’” he said. But earlier this month he completed a century (100-mile) ride on one at a collectors meeting.
The nursing home janitor said he takes a frugal approach to collecting. He said he reminds his wife: “There’s other hobbies I could get into. I could get into hunting or gambling or drinking.”
(Above: Recovery Bike co-owner with a bike that mimicked automobile streamlining; below: an 1897 courting tandem made by Deere and Webber of Minneapolis.)
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