Peavey Plaza, Block E: Worth talking about

  • Article by: Barbara Flanagan
  • Star Tribune
  • June 5, 2011 - 4:23 PM

The Flanagan Memo -- Re: Good old Block E or good old Peavey Plaza, which one shall we argue about first?

• • •

Do any of the newcomers to the scene do any so-called historic research before telling us what we need to do with Peavey Plaza or Block E?

From recent remarks by visiting expert Danny Fuchs, my guess would be "no way." Fuchs, billed as "a consultant" in New York, was in town recently telling people that the plaza would need "a new management group" to make it successful.

Oh, really. Maybe we should wait a minute and ask why the Minneapolis Park Board isn't managing the plaza and tending to it right now. They do it for nearby Loring Park and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. What's the difference?

The city has managed it since its beginning in 1973 or so, and when money was unavailable, we all saw what happened. Peavey, designed by M. Paul Friedberg, is just two acres of downtown land, big enough for a plaza, but not a true park. Nevertheless, it had water that froze in winter for ice skating, plus tables around the pool in summer. We used to go down for a bite and a bit of outdoor music. It was lovely.

In recent years, events continued to happen and people made do. The plaza needed the Park Board's touch, however. Why hasn't the city passed it along?

Fuchs said Peavey Plaza could become "a signature park" in the future. Well, it has been and is now a signature plaza and it works fine if it is just kept up. It draws crowds now and will continue to do so, but with the redo of Orchestra Hall, now is a great time to shape it up. So please forget the experts and get to it.

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Now, how about Block E?

I said I was not against having gambling there if Minnesota Indian tribes were involved. If not, there is always Wal-Mart. Rumor has it that the store is seeking downtown space.

As for some of the ideas offered by passersby, two things to know:

Chicago's spectacular Millennium Park is a splendid idea, but we don't have the acreage that such an attraction needs.

And someone said bring back the ordinary bars that once occupied Block E. For me, only one deserves a rebirth -- the dandy 620 Club at 620 Hennepin Av. S., where turkey was king and sports heroes and Minnesota poets hung out. Its owners and friendly greeters were Ernie Fliegel and Max Winter (before he took on the Minnesota Vikings). And they even included a chef carving a turkey in the front window. Those were the days.

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We have loads of sidewalk cafes -- now we are going rooftop.

They are already in place at Stella's and the Cafeteria in Uptown, and at Brit's, Seven and Joe's Garage downtown. Crave will soon open a spot on Hennepin above its new restaurant at 825 Hennepin Av. S. In Uptown, look for new rooftop seating above Amore Victoria on Lake Street at Irving Avenue S.

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The other day I received part of the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune for March 9, 1950. It was a morning newspaper in those days and I was a reporter working for it.

That day I had a story on Page One. It was a followup to the crash of a Northwest Airlines plane on the night of March 7, 1950. A house at 1116 W. Minnehaha Pkwy. was hit and there were casualties.

Now, 61 years later, People for Parks hopes to put up a memorial marker on the parkway at Emerson Avenue S.

If all goes well, it will be installed in September. Mark Kaplan, a former City Council member, sent me the front page and asked for memories.

Since 15 people were killed and five were injured, it isn't easy. The memorial is a good idea and I hope People for Parks is successful.

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