Streetscapes: Celebrating Minnesota architecture

Streetscapes is a column devoted to Minnesota architecture. Writers critique, explore and explain the built environment, from brand-new buildings to revered older ones.

Heffelfinger fountain in the Lyndale Park Rose Garden in Minneapolis.

Great cities have great fountains: Here are the 6 best in the Twin Cities

Admire turtles, gargoyles, cherubs and more.
The Minneapolis skyline in April 2022.

Is the reign of the skyscraper over in the Twin Cities?

January 27
With demand for office space weak, it's unlikely Minneapolis or St. Paul will see massive additions to their skylines.

Downtown Minneapolis once set the standard for Christmas decorations

December 23, 2022
People used to flock to downtown Minneapolis for its elaborate holiday displays.

1910's St. Paul Hotel is just the latest hotel to grace downtown corner

October 21, 2022
The corner of W. 5th and St. Peter streets has been devoted to the same use for more than 150 years.

Is there a future for neighborhood theaters in the Twin Cities?

October 7, 2022
They have a storied past. They can have a future — if we buy tickets.

Nicollet Mall, once an urban oasis, is now flowerless

September 2, 2022
The parklike greensward of the rendering for the planned remake doesn't match the current stark reality.

Why the Minnesota State Fair is the best small town in the state

August 26, 2022
The fairgrounds offer an eclectic mix of architecture, walkability and storefronts.

The 'dangerous' days of downtown Minneapolis dance halls

August 5, 2022
A long-forgotten dance hall in downtown Minneapolis flustered local guardians of morality.

These Twin Cities Depression-era projects have stood the test of time

July 22, 2022
The Armory, the Minneapolis Post Office and a State Fair building are among those still actively used today.

The story behind the makeover of the 50-year-old IDS Crystal Court

July 1, 2022
How the $5 million makeover, five years in the making and a model of sensitivity and ingenuity, came to be.

The skyscraper that could have redefined downtown St. Paul

June 17, 2022
When a promising office tower proposal fizzled in 1970, it set off a dispiriting architectural chain reaction.

RBC Gateway in downtown Minneapolis isn't splashy, but it's functional

May 27, 2022
Review: It's big and it's blue, but it's no threat to the IDS.

Readers help solve Milwaukee Road mystery

May 13, 2022
Two weeks ago, I asked for help with an answer to this question: When did the top of the Milwaukee Road Depot tower disappear?The…

Tiny World Theater was one of many stylish movie houses in downtown Minneapolis

April 15, 2022
Former New Garden Theater isn't much remembered today, but it had an interesting history that reflected the ups and downs of the theater business in 20th-century Minneapolis.

Beautiful, useless towers adorned Twin Cities mansions in Victorian era

March 25, 2022
The mania for towers reached its height in the 1880s, when the busy Queen Anne style was in full flower.

8 missed opportunities on the Minneapolis streetscape

March 11, 2022
There's always room for improvement to make Minneapolis a more livable city.

Why the Dale Street I-94 overpass is a role model for freeway design

February 11, 2022
The Dale Street I-94 overpass incorporates pedestrians, bikes and saner car traffic patterns. It's also a tiny step in rebuilding the Rondo neighborhood.

At the University of Minnesota's Pillsbury Hall, everything old is new again

January 14, 2022
One of the oldest buildings on campus was remade into the home of the university's English department.

A section of St. Paul's stately Summit Avenue was lost to the wrecking ball

December 31, 2021
The multi-block, mixed-use section of the storied avenue was on the edge of downtown.

Lyceum Theater was one of the first large entertainment venues in Minneapolis

December 3, 2021
After 70 years, the first Minneapolis auditorium gave way to today's Orchestra Hall.

Massive Harmonia Hall in Minneapolis went from a jewel to a rooming house

November 12, 2021
The downtown hall, which opened in December 1884, exemplified the busy, colorful Victorian Gothic commercial style.
November 27, 2020
4300 Nicollet Av. S.

Vast photo archive of the Twin Cities lets you compare then and now

Walter Norton and Clifford Peel left an extensive collection of commercial photography.
November 21, 2020
This artist’s rendition shows Dollar General’s planned DGX store on the Nicollet Mall.

What does it say about Minneapolis that a dollar store is coming soon to Nicollet Mall?

Dollar General says DGX store at 5th and Nicollet is aimed at "metropolitan" customers.
November 14, 2020
Upton Building

Twin Cities work/live buildings have roots in the streetcar era

The live/work model isn't new. It's as old as the streetcar system in the Twin Cities.
November 7, 2020
The Crocker Roller Skating Rink was eventually swallowed up by a massive furniture store, the New England Furniture Co.

One of the quirkiest buildings in downtown Minneapolis began as a roller rink

Buildings often went through multiple uses in 19th-century Minneapolis. The Crocker-Leland rink was no exception.
October 13, 2020
T3, the first commercial property in the country to use an engineered wood material for its structure and interior, is on N. Washington Avenue.

Following Minneapolis' lead, wood office buildings are popping up nationwide

Developers are turning to wood for its versatility and sustainability.
September 25, 2020
Baker Project 12 4.

Archives of an architecture firm reveal a Minneapolis that was never built

Ed Baker's drawings and models of past projects give us a glimpse of what might have been.
Home & Garden
September 18, 2020
Bob Roscoe on the porch of his former house on Milwaukee Avenue in south Minneapolis.

1970s Mpls. activists saved Milwaukee Avenue's modest homes from teardown

A grassroots effort fought a plan to raze modest "Joe Sixpack" houses on Milwaukee Avenue that dated to the 1890s.
September 12, 2020
Northwestern Miller at 116-20 S. 6th St.was built in 1898 as the editorial offices and printing plant for Northwestern Miller magazine. Demolition is

In 1950s, modernizing Minneapolis saw a major loss of modest buildings

At least 300 small buildings have disappeared from downtown Minneapolis since 1950. Here's just one worth mourning.
August 29, 2020
RBC and 240 Hennepin.

While workers were away: Six new buildings on the Minneapolis skyline

The pandemic hasn't stopped construction in downtown Minneapolis, where the skyline continues to change.
August 25, 2020
The outdoor lunch crowd at Yum! Kitchen and Bakery Wednesday in St. Louis Park.

Outdoor dining has breathed new life into Minnesota restaurants

Because of safety concerns, ease and aesthetics, outdoor dining has caught on in Minnesota.
August 8, 2020
The Frederick E. Murphy Co. was built in 1912.

Twin Cities auto showrooms once were as beautiful as the cars

Back when cars were things of wonder, the showrooms boasted architectural elegance.
July 31, 2020
Fergus Falls is a small town in northern Minnesota with a quaint and walkable downtown area.

What's the future of Minnesota's small-town downtowns? Hint: It's not Mayberry

Minnesota's small-town downtowns have a future, but it won't look like past.
July 24, 2020
James Garrett Jr., Mohammed Lawal and Damaris Hollingsworth are nationally recognized architects.

3 Black architects on how race has shaped our environment in Twin Cities

It's time to take a hard look at who has the power to shape our environment today.
July 7, 2020
Vehicles circled the Minnesota State Capitol, covered with flags and signs, during a May 2 protest against Gov. Tim Walz’s “Stay Home MN” execut

Minnesota's 'front porch,' the State Capitol Mall, is a graveyard of Victorian architecture

Now Minnesota's "front porch," the Capitol Mall was home to mix of Victorian dwellings.
June 19, 2020
A blufftop view of Minnesota’s Great River Road region that runs from Hastings south to the Iowa border

Minnesota's Great River Road is a lesson in history, ecology and design

A drive along the Great River Road follows the Mississippi from the past to the present.
June 12, 2020
The intersection where George Floyd was arrested has become a safe space for diverse communities to gather to honor him.

With pandemic and protests, Minneapolis streets transcend transportation

How can we facilitate a wider range of uses for our roads?
May 29, 2020
A maintenance worker dusted in a skyway over 3rd Ave. S. in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis' skyways are getting little use now, but they'll eventually be popular again

While they're getting little use now, these essential downtown connectors will eventually come back to life.
May 23, 2020
By the end of this year, Ridgedale will have three major multiunit residential projects right next door.

Key Twin Cities malls are being transformed into town centers

Well-located and managed by savvy owners, a few powerhouse malls continue to evolve and thrive.
May 15, 2020
The Central Lutheran ramp near the Minneapolis Convention Center takes its elegant design cues from the gothic Central Lutheran Church.

Often overlooked, parking ramps reflect Twin Cities history

Advancements in engineering transformed the technology, scale and design of parking structures.
May 9, 2020
Robert Street between 6th and 7th in St. Paul in 1899 before an ambitious project to widen the street began construction in 1913.

The 1913 widening of St. Paul's Robert Street gave the city room to grow

More than 30 buildings, many dating to the 1880s or earlier, had to be torn down or have their front lopped off 20 feet.
May 1, 2020
With most people working from home, the skyways, or “the streets of Minneapolis,” are nearly empty.

Where does Minneapolis seem most deserted? The skyways

City sidewalks aren't the real measure of how vacant Minneapolis is right now.
March 27, 2020
The Kmart store was opened in the 1970s at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in south Minneapolis.

How closing Kmart and finally reopening Nicollet Avenue will change Mpls.

Reviving the once-busy thoroughfare can help create a more vibrant, connected city.
March 13, 2020
One of the designs proposed for the outdoor performance venue at the Upper Harbor Terminal site in north Minneapolis.

Why do new plans for Upper Harbor Terminal in Mpls. repeat old mistakes?

Analysis: We need new kinds of development that will eliminate disparities, increase affordability, and generate jobs.
February 28, 2020
Driveway leading to Red Owl loading dock, below Southdale Center parking lot, Edina.

With Kowalski's coming to Southdale, the first U.S. mall gets closer to roots

With the addition of a grocery store, Southdale moves one step closer to its original vision as a community hub.
February 21, 2020
Milton Square in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul is a model for contemporary winter streets and corners.

How the Twin Cities could be designed for winter livability

A few humble street corners show us how to create a "patio culture" year-round.