Look forward to a starry, starry night in June

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2008 - 12:31 AM

The Flanagan Memo - Re: A jolly new Minneapolis neighborhood and another place for a bronze plaque, perhaps.

When did I begin writing about saluting our famous with stars on downtown Hennepin Avenue? Oh, I don't know -- some 35 years ago, perhaps.

Now, maybe, just maybe, it will happen -- in June. Yes, this coming June -- next month!

The problem, of course, is money, but Robert Roessel, the Minnesotan who is sort of movie-mad, is working on it. He has talked to many Minnesota stars and he knows that the first "stars" will be embedded in Hennepin's concrete in June.

Before then, on May 28, a benefit for Minnesota Proud -- Walk of Fame will be held at a performance of "Spamalot." Seats will be $250 each at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis that night and the money will go to Minnesota Proud, mainly to buy the stars. "The same as the ones they have in Hollywood,'' Roessel said. "And we will start with several stars, as many as 16, and we will stage the event at the State Theatre.''

Two questions -- of mine -- are how much per star (Roessel said about $5,000 each -- Wow!) and who will be the first star? My vote is for Judy Garland, originally of Grand Rapids.

"It could be Judy,'' Roessel said. "Her family knows about it, and they are thrilled." Once again, may I say, Wow!


How about a "ballpark neighborhood"? They certainly work, or they used to.

Years ago, Nicollet Park, home of the mighty Minneapolis Millers, occupied the corner of Nicollet Avenue and W. 31st Street. The park was surrounded by the city with houses and stores and several restaurants, including the President Cafe.

Every once in awhile, the great Babe Barna used to hit a homer over the right field fence onto Nicollet Avenue, and, occasionally, it would break a window at the President. Ah, those were the days, right?

It all ended when the Millers moved to the new Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington and were eventually replaced by the Minnesota Twins. Nicollet Park was torn down and built over again. I think a bank is on that corner now.

So what of the ballpark neighborhood? Well, Chuck Leer sees it making a comeback and he is excited. Leer is a lawyer who works as a developer and a gent who likes to improve our town by rehabbing the old and dingy. Among his efforts have been several of the loft apartments on the riverfront. The Tower Lofts is one of them.

On the side, he has been working on the new ballpark neighborhood. Toward that end, he has organized 2010 Partners, an organization designed to address the major problems regarding our new Minnesota Twins ballpark downtown.

At the top of the group's list is finding ways to connect pedestrians to the place. Among the necessary items to be included are the 5th Street bridge connecting the transit hub on N. 5th Street to the park. The transit hub will serve the Hiawatha LRT plus several other transit lines.

A pedestrian bridge to the park over Interstate 394 is also a necessity. After reading about an unusually tall staircase leading to the ballpark from the ground, I also vote for an escalator. Leer agrees, but points out that there is no money to pay for an escalator.

Getting to the game should be just as much fun as seeing the game, Leer believes. To make that happen, sidewalks, streets, plazas and parks need to be made as lively as possible and that means 365 days a year, Leer said.

It is a great idea. Can it be done? Let's hope so. The Twins, and more important, those of us who are fans of an amazing team, deserve the best we can afford.

Why can't some of the major business firms give to a special fund? Certainly, we want an A-Number-One ballpark and not some ticky-tacky mess.

We will have to see, apparently.


Several things happened last month that inspired comments from almost everybody. Now it is my turn.

• First, the death of Ralph Rapson, an architect with a sense of humor and a superb talent for creating buildings that work. The original Guthrie Theatre was one.

We met at CUE - the Committee on Urban Environment -- which Mayor Art Naftalin created in 1968. Rapson was a member who devoted time and thought to how our town was expanding and how it should look. I was always impressed. Rapson was one of our very best.

Northwest Airlines will merge and disappear -- or so the current story goes. I don't know who is for it, but to me, it is a regret. Yes, NWA was often a pain, but it has had its moments. For me, it was my first airplane ride. That was extraordinary because I was the reporter who accompanied Beatrice Bella (BeBe) Shopp to New York when she became Minnesota's first Miss America in 1948. And what did we ride? A brand new Boeing Stratocruiser with an upstairs and a downstairs. It's a spectacular memory.

• Finally, the firings of Paul Douglas and John Reger by the management at WCCO-TV were a blow -- to them, I am sure, and to many of us. Awhile back, I noted that Reger and Dennis Douda were the two anchors who could succeed Don Shelby. They still should. As for Douglas, it is a shock. He is missed, but maybe not for long. He said he will "pop up" and I bet he will.

Barbara Flanagan, longtime columnist for the Star Tribune, writes on the first Monday of each month. Her interests are the metropolitan area -- what's good and what's bad -- and the fascinating people who live here. She can be contacted at barb-flanagan@comcast.net.

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