Too tall? No, it's wrong site

  • Article by: Barbara Flanagan
  • Star Tribune
  • November 6, 2011 - 4:30 PM

The Flanagan Memo - Re: Some readers who love multi-story apartments are angry with me. Can't I have an opinion, too?

Readers are annoyed because I wrote last month that a 33-story building was too tall for its proposed site at 5th Street and the Nicollet Mall.

Yes, we need new spaces for living downtown, but why not at a better site -- such as between 9th and 10th streets on Marquette Avenue? It, too, is a parking lot and the site is convenient -- next door to the Young-Quinlan building and one block from the Mall and Target. It could fit in cozily, leaving the former Powers store site available for low- and midrise structures.

No, I am not against tall buildings in downtown. I lived in the 27-story Towers Apartments for 10 years. I loved it. In 1966, when I moved in, I had a great view of our cityscape and a not-so-grand view of oh-so-many parking lots.

My beef is the idea of putting up a tall building that towers over its neighbors for no apparent reason except to shout, "I'm the tallest on the block." To me, the Carlyle on our riverfront is typical of that kind of thinking. It could be a block or two back toward Washington Avenue and residents would still have a river view.

There are other good sites downtown for tall or taller apartments. Why not shape up the Handicraft Building at 10th and Marquette and put a tower in the middle of it?

Westminster Presbyterian Church wants to build on its block at 12th between Nicollet and Marquette. It would be an apartment with special services for older residents -- and, yes, it would be tall. At that site, it would stand surrounded by tall and taller heights. I hear the problem is that the church hasn't made a deal for the apartment at 13th and Marquette, where a young J. Paul Getty once lived before he became an oil billionaire.

Well, you get the idea, And I'm sure that the 33-floor apartment will go up if the money is raised. Who knows, maybe we will like it.

• • •

A recent headline saluted a "new push" to make Hennepin Avenue an "arts avenue," and I am for that. I have been a nag about that street since 1965 when I noted that "Hennepin Avenue needs work."

Happily, it has been and is being worked on and its new liveliness -- except for Block E -- shows.

So I have one question:

May we keep up the "stars in the sidewalks" campaign saluting top performers in show business and creators of books of note and art?

Some readers nominate possible "stars." Jeanne Arland Peterson, a mother of five very musical kids and a great musical talent herself on the piano, is the latest nomination from reader Harriet Callander Karlson. I agree. Jeanne is top-notch and deserves a star.

• • •

Neal Karlen is a young Minneapolitan who writes for all of the hotsy magazines such as New Yorker, New York, Vanity Fair and, coming up, Vogue.

On the side, he is doing a book on Minneapolis nightlife for the Minnesota Historical Society.

So, he took me to lunch at my favorite, Peter's Grill, and gave me a little gift -- a matchbook from the 620 Club at 620 Hennepin where Block E stands today. The book says, "famous for our turkey sandwich" -- and it truly was.

Its owners, also named on the cover, were Ernie Fliegel and Max Winter, a couple of ex-boxers. Recognize those names? Winter owned the mighty Minneapolis Lakers pro basketball team before they were sold to L.A. and then became Mr. Minnesota Vikings, as the team's first owner.

Karlen wanted to hear anything I knew about Hennepin Avenue and its past, and it was flattering. I even gave him my memory of Augie Ratner, proprietor of Augie's. One of his stars was Sally Rand, famous as a fan dancer. Sally told me that Augie was a "true gentleman." That's the way it used to be in the 1930s, apparently.

• • •

Musical concerts for young people in Minneapolis will celebrate 100 years Nov. 10 at Orchestra Hall.

For the occasion, the Minnesota Orchestra is doing "The Tin Forest." And Mayor R.T. Rybak will do the narration.

Bravo to all!

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