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Continued: Minneapolis' Uptown boom causing tension

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 26, 2013 - 9:40 AM

A common complaint of longtime residents is the growing presence of retail chain stores, particularly the lineup on the 3000 block of Hennepin Avenue that includes an Apple store.

“That’s what the Mall of America is for,” said Charlee Weekes. “I don’t like new stuff.” She also complains about “the young, well-off people” who have moved into the neighborhoods. “It’s given the area a different vibe,” she said.

Refurbished landmark

Weekes sounds like a grizzled old-timer, but she is 25 years old. Ironically, she tends the new bar on the mezzanine of the recently renovated Uptown Theatre, where moviegoers can relax on plush seats and sofas. “It’s lost its charm,” she said. “There used to be seats where you could feel the springs in your butt.”

The chain store arrivals also chafe Tom Schoenberger, general manager of the Uptown Cafeteria. “The soul of Uptown is not what it used to be,” he said. “It’s not as gritty.”

Kate Turnbull, a sales associate at North Face clothing store, one of the chains, acknowledges that people miss the “homey neighborhood feel,” but said Uptown “is a lot safer than when I was a kid.”

Indeed, safety is what women often cite as a factor in moving to Uptown. Kate Rude, 27, and Amanda Norcross, 26, were standing at the bar at Bar Louis on a recent Saturday night and said they planned to walk home at 1 a.m. to their apartment at 26th and Hennepin. “I feel safer in Uptown than downtown,” Rude said.

Pricing out some people

There is rarely an open storefront these days, said Maude Lovelle, executive director of the Uptown Association.

And developers are filling the Uptown apartments as fast they can build them. The vacancy rate for apartments in southwest Minneapolis, which includes Uptown, was 1.5 percent in 2012, even lower than the citywide rate of 1.8 percent, according to figures from Maxfield Research.

It is making Uptown a pricer market for both renters and homeowners.

Joe Oakley, 66, a retired bus driver, has seen property taxes rise on his house on the 3300 block of Aldrich Av. S. “I can’t afford to live here,” he said.

Daniella Strasburg, 29, moved to Uptown a year-and-a half ago from Eagan because she was “looking to meet more people and have a more active lifestyle.” She said her landlord raised her monthly rent from $750 to $800 for “competitive reasons,” and another increase is coming. She worries “they are going to drive people like me out of here.”

A short walk from her apartment house, a glitzy new seven-story structure called “The Walkway” opens on Lake Street in November, a block east of Hennepin Avenue. It will include a public and private parking ramp, 92 high-end apartments with a concierge, bellman and wellness director, retail stores and two restaurants with a lot of patio seating on the sidewalk and second level. A 20-foot-wide walkway along Girard Avenue will feature sidewalk sculptures and artwork on the building walls.

“It’s going to be elegant and over-the-top,” predicted Clark Gassen, the developer.

 

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224





 

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