Barbara Flanagan: Time to stop talking and build rooftop planetarium

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • July 10, 2009 - 8:43 AM

Am I wrong or is there always something to fuss about, to march about or maybe use the telephone about? Except, nobody walks for the Minnesota Planetarium.

About a year ago, all seemed to be well for plans to make a new planetarium part of the recently completed Minneapolis Public Library downtown. True, money still needed to be raised for the $39 million construction bill, but the state had pledged $22 million and architect Cesar Pelli had created a site for the planetarium on the library roof.

And planetarium supporters had been touring the state with a special planetarium show designed for the young, who had flocked to the old planetarium that was torn down along with the old library building. Many older fans also came to the shows.

Then Hennepin County merged with the city library system and guess what? Now there is a fuss over where to put a new planetarium or even if there should be one.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners has decided to appoint an exploratory committee to discuss it. Well, swell. May I point out that all of the discussing was done several years ago, and a decision was reached and Pelli designed a great planetarium for the library's green roof.

No more talking is needed. The planetarium is ready to go and it should go on the library's roof. All we need now is the money.

One good note: meteorologist Paul Douglas was named recently to the planetarium's board of directors. A perfect front man, he is a devoted planetarium fan and funny. Use him for some funding calls. And good luck.

Going out to eat

In the Twin Cities, outdoors is in and I'm delighted. Everybody, certainly those in the restaurant business, now wants some sidewalk tables and chairs or an outdoor plaza or garden. You don't have to go to Europe anymore.

It has been at least 30 years since the sidewalk ordinance was amended to allow for the cafes here. Before then, there was only Jax in northeast Minneapolis, along with that cozy German garden at 26th Street and Nicollet Avenue, the Black Forest.

Now, dogs are going to be allowed to sit in outdoor cafes and places of all types are appearing. The Nicollet Mall is awash with cafes. Vincent, the elegant restaurant at 11th Street and the mall, just opened its version.

And in downtown north Minneapolis, call it the North Side warehouse district, is J.D. Hoyt's, that nifty steak and pork chop center at 301 Washington Av. N.

Pat Montague, the jolly owner and former chef at Hoyt's, greeted me when I went to a Sunday afternoon opening of their new backyard plaza. He pointed toward the buffet featuring the pork chop, of course, and said "Enjoy yourself." That was easy.

The event was sponsored for the North Loop neighborhood and it included many residents -- yes, people now live between the Mississippi River and North 4th Street. Many warehouses have been converted into condos and there are new buildings, too.

Karen Lee Rosar, a resident who is also a Realtor, told me the North Loop hopes to raise enough money to plant trees on Washington Avenue. "We want to dress up Washington and the area," she said. The goal is to have it finished by 2010.

Why 2010? "Our new ballpark opens,'' she said, "and our North Loop neighborhood is just a short walk away. We will all benefit.''

Certainly, such restaurants as Origami, the Monte Carlo, John Rimarcik's Number One and Hoyt's will be favorite dining spots for ball fans. Outdoors, oh, yes, or in, when it snows.

Some favorite tastes

Got to Heidi's, the new spot operated by chefs Stewart and Heidi Woodman, formerly of the restaurant Five. Had a foamy mushroom soup, made like a cappucino. Delicious. So is the Cajun Chili at the Calhoun Grill topped with fresh onions and cheese, and the strawberry-rhubarb pie at Peter's Grill -- with their divine iced tea, of course.

Two books definitely worth reading

• "The Story of Yiddish - How a Mish-Mosh of Languages Saved the Jews" by Neal Karlen. This is a informative, very funny and fascinating look at the Yiddish language by a local author who writes regularly for the New York Times. Among many things, I learned that the Yiddish expression, "Oy Yoy Yoy'' could mean extremely happy or as low as the lowest. My Swedish grandmother used to exclaim it on many occasions. She learned it from her father, my great-grandfather, whose father was Jewish.

"Harry Wild Jones, American Architect" by Elizabeth A. Vandam is a well-told story about one of Minneapolis' best architects. He did the Butler warehouse, now marvelous Butler Square and the Lakewood Cemetery chapel, but he also traveled around. One spot he got to was Norfolk, Neb., pronounced Norfork by those who grew up there, such as my husband. Jones designed the First Baptist Church in Norfolk.

Coming this month

• July 13: The 100th birthday of Twin City Rapid Transit car No. 1300 will be celebrated at 1 p.m., around the Linden Hills station, 42nd Street and Queen Avenue S. A streetcar ride is a super ride, so take one.

• July 20: It is sundae Sunday at the Bakken Museum, 3537 Zenith Av. S. Free ice cream will be served on the green roof of the electric museum. It is part of the "10 best days at the Bakken," beginning with special events July 18.

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

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