If you're outside of the metro, you probably don't care about this. Even if you're inside the metro, you probably don't care all that much. But wherever you are, imagine a street that everyone uses to get around, and then imagine that someone dropped a Kmart in the middle of it.
"Without warning?" you ask. "How many people were crushed? Did Kmart settle with the surviving families?" No, not like that. But there's been a Kmart blocking Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street for decades, and a lot of people hate it.
Over the years people have come to regard the simple detour around the store like a trip through Donner Pass, with cars out of gas, the occupants reduced to cannibalism.
Now it's going away, and the city wants to know what people want to replace it with. There's a survey, with unimaginative options. Do you want housing? Yeah, sure, I guess.
Better questions would be like this: What type of enormous, neon-bedecked, steel roller-coaster do you want?
1. High-velocity with steep turns.
2. Neck-breaking criss-cross inversion.
3. Serpentine labyrinth of intersecting railways that give the illusion of almost constant peril.
The end result of that survey will be "people want this kind of crazy roller coaster," and that's what the city will be obliged to build.
Another question they could've asked: What beloved Minnesota archetype should be erected in colossal form to stand astride the newly reconnected Nicollet Avenue?
1. The Pillsbury Doughboy. A thousand cinnamon rolls would fly out of his smiling mouth every noon, followed by a drizzle of frosting from public fountains.
2. An enormous animatronic Paul Bunyan, whose ax is raised in an approximation of the position of the sun in the sky so all can see for blocks around what time it is.
3. A statue of Bob Dylan. (Note: as with the real Bob Dylan, this statue will hang around for a short time and then permanently decamp for someplace else, but there will be a plaque noting he was here once.)
4. A statue of Mary Tyler Moore as the Statue of Liberty, holding a "Blue Light Special" torch. Alas, surveys show — or would, if I weren't making this up — that a dismaying percentage of people under 35 have no idea what she meant to this city. If only she'd gotten married to Fran Tarkington on top of the Weatherball. But no.
They'll build housing, of course, and it will look like all the rest of the stuff that goes up these days. It will have storefronts on the ground floor. There will be a Starbucks, a UPS store and a new restaurant chain that serves "Loose Chicken" or Peruvian-Alaskan fusion or hamburgers. Or a new UPS-hamburger fusion restaurant, where you order at the store, go home, it's delivered to your door and is stolen before you get to it.
All of which would be better than the big dead ache of the Kmart store.
But it doesn't have to be like that. Perhaps we could say, "Hey, could you build boring boxes with tiny balconies, and slap some thin boxes on the front so it looks like a halfway house for crossword puzzle addicts?"
That might make them mad. "No, we won't," they'd say. "We'll show you. We're going to build apartments out of brick, something that doesn't look like a practice range for the Big Bad Wolf, and it'll have classical ornaments and chimneys and everything solid. You'll take it and you'll like it."
You know, we probably would.