Downtown has parks, but we could always use more green space

  • Article by: barbara flanagan the flanagan memo
  • May 31, 2009 - 10:46 PM

Re: Downtown parks, stars on Hennepin Avenue and some cozy places.

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Every so often, a reader or someone somewhere will say, "We need a good downtown park."

My answer is, "Where would you put it? What building comes down to fit it in?"

For the record, we have a goodly number of downtown parks, beginning with that grand old girl, Loring Park. Yes, I know it was dangerous and risky and such, but things are looking up. It is cared for by a group of Loring Park friends who do almost everything to keep it looking so good. Anybody can buy a brick or a bench with a name on it and its neighbors have contributed plants, trees and an observation deck -- from the Minneapolis Woman's Club just across the street.

Loring is not the only park downtown. There is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden just across Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues from Loring. Elliot Park is another special site that is getting some TLC, finally.

And just through a walkway from Loring's Ben Berger Fountain, a crowd favorite, is Peavey Plaza. In addition, there is the parklike landscaping around the Metropolitan Building on 3rd Avenue, between 7th and 8th Streets; the double parks around the Hennepin County Government Center; a little park on 2nd Avenue and 9th Street; the new Gold Medal Park on the riverfront; the pleasant green space complete with TV next to WCCO-TV on 11th Street and Marquette Avenue and the roomy park space across from the Convention Center, which could use a wonderful carousel. Right!

My colleague Steve Brandt recently wrote a piece about Vancouver, B.C., and its blooming downtown greenery, noting that we could use some of the same. If money holds, I hear that we will have more trees, bushes, etc., along our main roadways, an idea that makes the entire city a park.

Ah, and don't forget, next year we will have a new ballpark right downtown. That should count.

As for park space, I can't think of any except the parking lot next to and surrounding the Shubert Theater. It's the block on Hennepin between 5th and 6th Streets with the wider swath of it on 1st Avenue N. Would someone like to donate it to the city for a park? Think about it.

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Tom Hoch, who has been riding herd on those stars for the Minnesota Stars campaign, assured me last week that it is going to happen this summer. "In August," he said. "I have the stars here in my office and they look great."

Well, swell. I hope and trust that the three actresses to be honored -- Marion Ross, Tippi Hedren and Loni Anderson -- will return to town when their stars are put into the Hennepin Avenue sidewalk.

Oh, yes, this has been one of my crazy dreams. It has taken time and gumption by a young Minnesota film expert, Robert Roessel, but it is finally going to happen. Roessel is the exec of a film festival in Mexico and this year was involved with Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Film Festival in New York. He will be back for the event, Hoch said.

Right now, they are thinking about the next three stars to honor.

As I've said here before, Judy Garland is No. 1 in my mind. Her daughters, Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft, said OK last year, but I haven't heard anything lately.

Bob Dylan should also be honored and soon. I know he doesn't like crowds, but, gee, he formerly owned the Orpheum Theater. Maybe for old time's sake, he would agree.

There are dozens of others to consider. How about Jane Russell and Arlene Dahl? Both actresses, who also sing, were touring last winter with Michael Feinstein, the gent who is a music historian as well as a top pianist, good singer and entrepreneur.

They sang, he played piano and sang a bit and it was fun.

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Cozy corners, places that you can tuck into and feel relaxed and comfortable, are not too hard to find around town. For example, the Young Quinlan building is one of my favorite spots, especially the parking garage with its valets. That's the way to go if you can afford it on occasion.

The Sculpture Garden is another cozy place and so is the Uptown Theater. As I said before, that first row in the balcony is a winner.

I am also fond of certain restaurants such as the Zumbro in Linden Hills, Barbette's on W. Lake Street and Irving Avenue S., a truly divine little place with good food, Lucia's deli next to her famous restaurant and the First Wok, a Chinese spot that is cozy as all get-out.

You get the idea.

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The British Broadcasting Corp. has made an hourlong film about Mound's singing Andrews Sisters. On June 20, it will be shown at the Gillespie Center in Mound. The proceeds will go, in part, toward a future Andrews Sisters museum. Tom Rockvam, who is keeping the sisters in the news, is the man in charge. He has seen the film and says it is great. Hooray!

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On June 30, a new play, "Legacies,'' will be read at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. It is a first play by retired surgeon Dr. Bob Maxeiner and he is excited. So that's what retired doctors do in their spare time.

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Sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth is not forgotten. The New York Times recently ran a picture of a 1921 figure by Frishmuth -- a sculpture on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

I know of at least two Frishmuth sculptures here in town, owned by Mrs. Robert Short. One is Scherzo, the sculpture that used to dominate the front door of the former Charlie's Café Exceptionale. It was Wilbur Foshay of Foshay Tower fame who brought Scherzo to Minneapolis. It was in the tower lobby until Charlie bought it. Short and her late husband received the sculpture as a gift from the late Louise Saunders, Charlie's widow.

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A new big book about baseball, "Minnesotans in Baseball,'' edited by Stew Thornley, includes almost everybody, or so it seems. Yes, Joe Mauer is in it and Kent Hrbek, plus the late Chief Bender and "holy cow," the late Halsey Hall. Now how about that?

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