Staff Directory 6170342

Eric Roper

Audience Engagement Reporter | Twin Cities
Phone: 612-673-1732

Eric Roper oversees Curious Minnesota, the Star Tribune's community reporting project fueled by great reader questions. He also hosts the Curious Minnesota podcast. 


Since joining the Star Tribune in 2009, he has covered the Twin Cities metro area, the city of Minneapolis, the state Legislature and Congress. A native of New York City, Roper lives in south Minneapolis. He is interested in the hidden systems that make urban life possible, as well as Minneapolis history. Roper is a graduate of the George Washington University and was named "Young Journalist of the Year" by the Society of Professional Journalists' Minnesota chapter in 2013. In his spare time, he is an amateur woodworker who enjoys learning new furniture-making skills.
Recent content from Eric Roper
Why did Minneapolis' famous flour boom go bust?

Why did Minneapolis' famous flour boom go bust?

The Mill City dominated the flour market for half a century. But it came to an end in 1930.
Sharon Carlson

Listen: Meet the Curious Minnesota superfan behind some of our best questions

The Curious Minnesota podcast talks with Sharon Carlson about questions she has submitted to the column.
Curious Minnesota Podcast

Curious Minnesota Podcast

Sunrise over the Minnesota River Valley near Belle Plaine in September 2020.

What does 'Minnesota' mean and how did the state get its name?

Long before Minnesota was a state, the name referred to a major body of water in the area.
Mary Knoll, of Minneapolis, took an afternoon stroll along Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis on Friday.

Twin Cities area digging out after record Dec. 10 snowfall

Snow amounts ranged from 1 to 4 inches north of the metro area to 15 to 20 inches in Woodbury and southern suburbs. Several metro area cities declared snow emergencies.
On the last day of streetcar service in 1954, Twin City Rapid Transit executives James Towey and Fred Ossanna hold a check from Northern States Power

Listen: Was organized crime behind the demise of Twin Cities streetcars?

The Curious Minnesota podcast examines how underworld characters influenced the region's transit company in the mid-20th Century.
Mike Phung

Plymouth tailor Mike Phung, remembered as a meticulous artisan, dies at age 61

Phung, who was not vaccinated, died of COVID-19.
On the last day of streetcar service in 1954, Twin City Rapid Transit executives James Towey and Fred Ossanna hold a check from Northern States Power

Was organized crime behind the demise of the Twin Cities streetcar system?

The transit system was plagued by scandals before and after the switch from streetcars to buses.
MnRoad operations engineer Ben Worel holds a core taken from an asphalt road in this 2005 file photo.

Listen: Why a slice of I-94 is a 'candyland for researchers'

The Curious Minnesota podcast examines how real-world traffic west of the Twin Cities is helping engineers build better roads.
A 2017 view of the St. Anthony Falls spillway, also known as the apron.

Listen: The mysterious wall that holds St. Anthony Falls in place

The Curious Minnesota podcast explores the questions being raised about a 145-year-old wall located deep beneath the Mississippi River.
A sign advertising the Early Vote Center in downtown Minneapolis in 2018.

What do you want to know about the 2021 election?

Star Tribune reporters will be answering reader questions about the 2021 election on a future episode of the Curious Minnesota podcast. Let us know…
Antennas are affixed to a new cellular pole in south Minneapolis.

Listen: Why are there so many new 5G cell antennas in some neighborhoods?

The Curious Minnesota podcast explores the evolution of cellular technology and the reason for all the new antennas.
The first capitol building in Minnesota was this structure erected in 1853 at what is now the corner of Tenth and Wabasha streets. First occupied on J

Did political shenanigans derail an effort to move Minnesota's capital?

The well-known tale about an 1850s proposal to move the capital to St. Peter has been passed down for generations.
A selection of questions received from fairgoers on August 28.

Listen: What do State Fair attendees want to know about Minnesota?

Fairgoers spoke to the Curious Minnesota podcast about what questions they would like to see us answer.
A nurse measured a dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine at a test clinic in Brooklyn Center in January.

Listen: What is the future of COVID-19 and the delta variant?

Reporters Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt join the Curious Minnesota podcast to answer reader questions about the latest phase of the pandemic.
Riverfront historian John Anfinson stood on the capped entrance to the Eastman Tunnel near St. Anthony Falls. A portion of the tunnel collapsed in 186

Hidden wall protecting St. Anthony Falls draws new scrutiny

The wall's condition is largely a mystery.
Tuan Anh Pham

Auto repair shop owner Tuan Anh Pham, staple of St. Paul's Midway business area, dies at 72

He was a pillar of the local Vietnamese community.
The former racetrack oval was still visible at the budding airport in 1928.

Listen: How did MSP Airport evolve from a bankrupt racetrack to an aviation hub?

Curious Minnesota podcast host Eric Roper discusses the long history of the region's airport with transportation reporter Janet Moore.
The John H. Stevens House is arguably the most significant relic of the city’s earliest history.

Discover the hidden house in Minnehaha Park where Minneapolis was born

Much of Minneapolis' past can be traced back to this modest house, which now sits in Minnehaha Park.
Howard O. Kelly of Minneapolis’ Civilian Defense Council inspects the 5,500-pound siren atop the Northwestern National Bank in 1943. This siren prec

Listen: Why does Minnesota test tornado sirens on the first Wednesday of the month?

Curious Minnesota podcast host Eric Roper discusses Civil Defense and the Cold War history of tornado sirens with writer Dave Kenney.
Why is there a new cellular pole in my Minneapolis neighborhood?

Why is there a new cellular pole in my Minneapolis neighborhood?

The transition to 5G wireless technology is having a visible impact on some city streets.
Two technicians at the St. Bonifacius site check a Nike-Hercules missile in 1962.

Listen: Was Minnesota home to nuclear missiles during the Cold War?

Curious Minnesota podcast host Eric Roper discusses the 1950s initiative to install missile sites around the Twin Cities.
Howard O. Kelly of Minneapolis’ Civilian Defense Council inspects the 5,500-pound siren atop the Northwestern National Bank in 1943. This siren prec

Why does Minnesota test tornado sirens on the first Wednesday of the month?

Siren testing began amid fears of a Soviet atomic bomb attack during the Cold War.
Protesters posed for photos at an FBI Building in Brooklyn Center during a rally in response to the death of Daunte Wright, Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in

What do you want to know about the killing of Daunte Wright?

Submit questions you would like to see answered about Sunday's police shooting in Brooklyn Center.
People walk across the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park.

Listen: Does the Mississippi River really begin at Lake Itasca?

Host Eric Roper digs into the science and history behind the Mighty Mississippi's headwaters.
A map from the National Weather Service showing areas of Minnesota with chances of 4 inches of snow or more.

Big snowfall forecast for southern Minnesota Sunday night

6 or more inches expected in the southwest; metro area will get less.
Christopher Cardozo in his Minneapolis office near a large print of the Edward Curtis portrait “Qahatika Girl, 1907.”

Art collector Christopher Cardozo dies at 72

He devoted his career to promoting the photography of Edward Curtis, who extensively documented Native American life in the early 20th century.
Listen: Why did Minneapolis tear down its biggest train station?

Listen: Why did Minneapolis tear down its biggest train station?

Minneapolis' two primary train stations met very different fates in the 1970s.
Minneapolis’ brand new Great Northern Depot in 1914, the year it opened.

Why did Minneapolis tear down its biggest train station?

Minneapolis' two train stations met very different fates in the 1970s.
Window glass for Ford cars built in St. Paul was made from sand mined 100 feet below the plant along the Mississippi River.

Listen: How Ford made millions of windows from St. Paul sand

For part of the 20th century, Ford Motor Co. relied heavily on sand mined from beneath its plant in St. Paul to make windows for its cars.
“It’s so cold,” Karly Bergmann of Minneapolis said Saturday as she signed a petition to change the Minneapolis City Charter to establish a new D

Petition campaign begins to put Mpls. police overhaul on ballot

Political committee aims to replace the department with an entity focused on public health.
An architecture firm is proposing to build a 27-story apartment building on Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, but city staff have recommended pr

Modernist Minneapolis building that replaced 'skid row' destined for demolition

City planners argued against allowing the razing of 21 N. Washington Av.
The exterior of the First Church of Christ Scientist building, sandwiched between two apartment buildings in the Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapol

A historic Minneapolis church is crumbling. Can anyone save it?

The First Church of Christ, Scientist is on its last legs after years of neglect. But the city won't let owners raze it.
Waste Management wants to pile more trash in its landfill in Burnsville; three other firms are asking the same.

Twin Cities landfills are filling up, and they're asking for more space

State regulators who have fought to reduce landfilling in the metro area must now decide whether to allow more of it.
Listen: How is Mississippi River water made safe to drink?

Listen: How is Mississippi River water made safe to drink?

We visited Minneapolis' drinking water treatment facility to understand the complex process that makes river water safe to drink.
What could be the last formal homeless encampment in the city, located in Minnehaha Park,  was cleared of trash and uninhabited tents by the Park Boar

Park Board winding down last Minneapolis encampment

Crews began clearing Minnehaha Park on Tuesday morning, but a handful of residents left have more time to find other shelter.
Developers are proposing to build a 27-story apartment building on Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, but city staff have recommended preserving

Minneapolis planners say 1969 modernist building downtown shouldn't be wrecked

The property is a vestige of the city's redevelopment of the former "skid row" area.
Bayle Gelle, surrounded by supporters, displays a picture of his son, 22-year-old Dolal Idd, who was killed by Minneapolis police at the Holiday gas s

Family of man shot by Mpls. police wrestles with questions

Hours after 23-year-old Dolal Idd was laid to rest in a Burnsville cemetery, his mother and older sister gathered with female family members and friends at an Eden Prairie mosque to grieve.
Tom Burns pictured aboard his houseboatat Willy’s Hidden Harbor in 2001.

Tom Burns, harmonica player and fixture of the Minneapolis blues scene, dies at 67

Tom Burns sometimes told friends, "You've got to live the blues to play the blues."It was a fitting mantra for a man who just scraped…
Shoppers look for Black Friday deals at the Mall of America in Bloomington in November.

Why doesn't Minnesota charge a sales tax on clothing?

Minnesota is one of just a handful of states that does not charge sales tax on clothing — a bit of tax policy that's so well known that it attracts tourists.
Volunteers at Second Harvest Heartland inspect food and distribute supplies to food shelves and meal programs.

East metro hospital workers donate $100,000 to food bank

The pandemic has forced record numbers to rely on food assistance.
Rendering of the proposed Upper Harbor Terminal development in north Minneapolis

Minneapolis seeks comment on Upper Harbor plan

Minneapolis expected to take action in February.
Minneapolis seeks comment on Upper Harbor plan

Minneapolis seeks comment on Upper Harbor plan

Minneapolis expected to take action in February.
Al Lindell, head election judge, handed an "I voted" sticker to a voter from behind a plexiglass barrier as voters gathered for the election Tuesday a

Listen: Will Minnesota join push toward a national popular vote?

Fifteen states have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, but Minnesota isn't one of them. Host Eric Roper talks to reporter Torey van Oot about why.
In foreground river water streams in headed towards the spaulding precipitators to soften the water at the Minneapolis water treatment plant on the Mi

Do the Twin Cities really get their drinking water from the Mississippi River?

Minneapolis and St. Paul treat about 100 million gallons of river water per day.
Every spring the Great Blue Herons return to their inner city rookery on two islands in the Mississippi River near Marshall Terrace Park. A sure sign

Is it true that Minneapolis has a park every six blocks?

When it comes to national rankings, the city regularly sits near the top for its park system, and this might be the reason why.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), a federally recognized Indian tribe, opened the SMSC Organics Recycling Facility (ORF) in the fall of

How do food scraps get recycled in Minnesota — and how good are we at it?

Residents can now recycle food scraps at the curb in more than 40 cities, either in an organics bin or special bags tossed in the trash.
Guests mourn during a live-streamed funeral in March. The pandemic has made in-person funerals difficult to hold and many families are struggling with

How can mourners hold a respectful funeral in age of social distancing?

Social distancing has made it increasingly difficult to give the dead a proper send-off.
Goldy Gopher at TCF Bank Stadium on the U of M campus in 2009.

Listen: How did Minnesota become the Gopher State?

Curious Minnesota podcast host Eric Roper talks with reporter M.L. Smith to unravel the mystery behind Minnesota's unofficial Gopher State nickname. Further reading:
For about 70 percent of the metro area, what people flush flows to the Met Council’s massive Metropolitan plant.

When you flush a toilet in the Twin Cities, where does everything go?

Most maps of the Twin Cities feature highways and bridges that connect our region. But few show another grid that is even more crucial to daily life.
Jerry Schneider, left, and Pervis Harris sorted lights at Tech Dump in St. Paul. The lights wrap around cylindrical screens at the start of the sortin

Is it recyclable? Recyclers offer some holiday help

Batteries and holiday lights wreak havoc at local sorting centers, while some toy packaging and disposable cups must take a long and expensive trip to the landfill or incinerator. Even some gift wrap isn't recyclable.
Great Northern Railway’s first Empire Builder is pictured on the Stone Arch Bridge crossing the Mississippi River, likely in the 1920s or 1930s.

Why does the Stone Arch Bridge cross the Mississippi at such an odd angle?

Older than most historic buildings still standing in the Twin Cities, the 136-year-old bridge has long been Minneapolis' de facto welcome mat. But why was it built the way it was, with such a long angle?
Workers move recyclables at the Eureka Recycling facility in Minneapolis.

How much of what we think we're recycling is actually getting recycled?

One reader wants to know what percent of Twin Cities sorted recyclables are actually recycled. Another wondered whether most of it is just sent to the dump. We get to the bottom of both questions.
Wide boulevards, an asphalt street and mansions set apart Park Avenue in this 1905 photo, taken from Franklin Avenue looking northward.

Why was Minneapolis' mansion street destroyed, but St. Paul's survived?

At its peak, about 36 mansions lined Park from Franklin Avenue to 28th Street, once known as the "Golden Mile." Most of them were owned by boldface families of the era. Now, just a handful of the mansions remain.
July 12, 1970: Nicollet Island, as seen in an aerial photo that was published in the Star Tribune's Picture Magazine.

How did Nicollet Island become parkland with private housing on it?

The sliver of land in the Mississippi River is home to a secluded enclave of historic homes sitting atop public parkland. But that's just one of the oddities of this place, an often-overlooked landmark of early Minneapolis that looks radically different today than it did half a century ago.
The Uptown area as it appeared in about 1940, after a redesign of the Uptown Theatre added the prominent mast to the building. Formerly the Lagoon The

Why is Uptown south of downtown in Minneapolis?

These days, Uptown is the common way to describe the district around Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The creators of “Olli,” an autonomous bus, have submitted a bid to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to test it in Minnesota. Local Motor

Minnesota planners begin to envision driverless future

Minnesota is starting to confront what promises to be the biggest shift in urban living since cars arrived a century ago.
After drinks on the rooftop with friends who live in the A-Mill Lofts, Maryrose Dolezal and Roya Moltaji, right, danced with each other when "their" s

Minneapolis, St. Paul gain larger slice of metro population

For the first time in a century, the central cities' share of the metro area's population is on pace to grow instead of shrink, a stunning reversal that long seemed unlikely. And the shift is most noticeable in the downtowns.
In this March 30, 2017, photo, the U.S. Capitol dome is seen at dawn in Washington. Minnesota is facing the risk of losing one of its congressional se

Minnesota at risk of losing seat in Congress after 2020 census

Minnesota's representation in the U.S. House could shrink from eight to seven in what would be the first loss in a half-century.
Dory Smith, a farmer, looked over the land at the center of the Metropolitan Council dispute, Thursday, March 16, 2017 in Oak Grove, MN. The Met Counc

In Oak Grove, a fight over sprawling development illustrates Met Council tensions

Oak Grove envisions large rural lots while agency pushes controlled growth.
Newberg expressed dissapointment at the long planters seperating the new 222 Hennepin building from the sidewalk. It did get kudos for hidden parking

Expert dishes on Mpls. development boom — from the street

Consultant Sam Newberg offers insights on how it feels to walk around newer developments in Minneapolis.
U.S. Bench owns all 700 bench licenses in Minneapolis, including this Nicollet Mall spot.

Sitting pretty: Benches are a boon to Minneapolis company

One company has controlled Twin Cities bus bench market for over 50 years. A new Minneapolis City Council member wants to rethink that arrangement and generate additional revenue for the city.

$400 million plan would reshape downtown east

The five-block area would become home to two, 20-story office towers spanning 1.2 million square feet of space.