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Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice

Gero Breloer, Associated Press

Withering Glance: Once again, doing our civic duty

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK
  • Star Tribune
  • March 31, 2012 - 4:30 PM

CP: Go on, civic improvement ambassador: Spill. You know you want to.

RN: Thank you for allowing my inner Barbara Flanagan to run free. Let's start with the former Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. building in downtown Minneapolis. In this digital age of ours, isn't it time to retire that 70-foot antenna "crown" that ruins the building's art deco lines? It's the architectural equivalent of the fascinator that Princess Beatrice stapled to her head at last year's royal wedding -- and just as hideous.

CP: It is very "Black Swan," isn't it? That topper has been there so long I thought it was part of the 1932 original. What else?

RN: When you mentioned that Jason Statham was on the cover of the new issue of Details, my first inclination was to rush to Shinders and pick up a copy. Then I remembered: Outside of Barnes & Noble and Walgreen's, both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul are newsstand-free. Bummer.

CP: A feature of downtown Portland that I would love to see here is Powell's, the always-busy indie bookplex.

RN: One of many lessons Minneapolis and St. Paul could take from that shining capital of urbanism. Portland's fabulous micro-distillery culture, for example. Or its handy streetcar network, or its penchant for cutting-edge park design.

CP: Adding bike lanes on the newly widened and repaved Washington Avenue would help make that historic throughway more than just an I-35W on-ramp.

RN: Rybakapolis might also follow Chicago's green example, and go on a tree-planting binge. Over the past 20 years, Chi-town has boosted its leafy canopy by planting an astounding half-million trees.

CP: And don't forget all the tulips and hanging flower baskets festooning the Windy City in spring and summer. I remember when the near West Side along Madison was straight-up Skid Row. Now it looks like freakin' Rotterdam.

RN: How great would it be to see a beer garden in, say, the soon-to-be-renovated Peavey Plaza? Or somewhere on the riverfront? It seems to work well for Munich, and lord knows we love our beer here.

CP: I know they cost more than tulips, but would it kill us to greenlight a snappy new skyscraper for the Emerald City? How long has it been?

RN: Too long. And would it kill Best Buy to follow Target's lead -- and Lunds' and Whole Foods' -- and open a downtown Minneapolis store?

CP: Now that Lakes Calhoun and Harriet have commissaries, what about something, even a smart coffee kiosk, for Lake of the Isles?

RN: Heck to the yes. Also on my wish list: The gorgeous Julie Snow Architects-designed Lowertown ballpark for the St. Paul Saints. Come on, Legislature, cough up the dough.

CP: You've become such a tax-and-spend sports nut.

RN: In the civic arena, sports rule, baby. Didn't you get the memo?

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