L.A. Nik's Downtown Blog
Its a sad day in downtown Minneapolis.
Not very many small family owned businesses exist in the immediate area of downtown Minneapolis any more. Sure... there are many independently owned restaurants and some small businesses in the skyway, some coffee shops and even a Walgreens, but on the strip that we proudly call our downtown mainstream - the very last of small business owners is being evicted for corporate dollars.
I won't call this the Walmart effect, because its being spearheaded by well known Rush family that owns "The 9's on Nicollet" (Rush and Kelly buildings) next door to Barrio and the Local. It seems they may leave their 60 year old wedding gown business on the upper level of the building and its been asserted that this is a local family owned endeavor, however their long time tenants are getting the boot.
A few good friends of mine are losing their space, one of which has been there for 20 + years - James & Mary Laurie Booksellers.
Jim, the owner, you can find every single day in this space. At the moment, he's faced with moving more than 400,000 books and nearly 40,000 vinyl records, not to mention other rarities, artifacts, paintings and journals. He has to be out soon; rent elsewhere will likely triple and his inventory is nearly unbelievable. You could do Jim and Mary a huge favor and vist their space while its there. If you collect old vinyl, you'll most likely find everything you could possibly want.
Next business of concern is Jeromeo, a curiosity shoppe with unique items, clothing and furniture from around the world. This place is one of a kind and so is its owner, Scott. He and his faithful dog Webster are Nicollet Mall staples which would be sadly missed, should they be forced to leave.
According to the Star Tribune, "Scott Johnson, owner of Jeromeo, said he recently signed a new lease and hopes to stay post-renovation. His store, which features handmade jewelry, Asian artifacts and artwork, has been on Nicollet Mall for more than seven years".
This is NOT the case, however.
Scott Johnson signed a 5 year lease but it had weird stipulations that it could be changed at any time and he would have to move. So it is, that he and the others, will have to be gone by the end of June. Scott is moving his business to Brooklyn New York, where the lease will cost about the same as the new cost he'll be faced with in Minneapolis, except he'll be welcomed in a bustling area of tourists on walkways full of shopping and families, where his target market will support his unique offering - unlike Minneapolis.
Lastly, Jean Stephens Gallery is on the chopping block as well. This is well known Gallery fueling Minneapolis's artistic culture. They've been a part of this community for 25 years and have hosted shows for Hart, Jiang, Markes, Rembrandt, Dr. Seuss, Mackenzie Thorpe, Michael Parkes, Yuroz, Evans, Von Koelnau, Digre, Lentz, Zjawinska, Byron, Tobiasse, and many others.
This is a 4000 square foot space with something for every art lover in the world. All three of these businesses are family owned, have been there for years and are a unique part of the culture of Nicollet Mall. Due to the cost of moving and increased lease fees in other spaces, its likely we'll lose them all in downtown Minneapolis.. and in some cases, the state of Minnesota.
These spaces will be the new home Ling & Louie's Kitchen; an Asian Fusion concept coming from Phoenix, Arizona. Biz Journals covered the story here.
While Ling & Louie's is new to this market, its top executives are well-known restaurant players. McDermott and Chief Operating Officer Jason Merritt also run Rojo Mexican Grill, which has a restaurant at The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park and plans to open a second location at Edina's Southdale Center later this spring. They also previously held the same titles at Kona Grill". - Biz Journals
Story has it that the Rockler family owned the "9's on the Mall" for 99 years under an agreement for something as little as $1.00. So they have had control of this property for a very long time. About ten years ago, when Jeromeo came in, the Rush's made a deal with the land owner to buy it for some un-disclosed low cost. The Rockler's never renewed the real estate and the building is now in the hands of the Rush's. They own the entire space free and clear and now wish go after a larger monthly income by investing millions into yet another restaurant.. I can't blame them; its private sale and personal business decision, but one that is affecting the proud culture of Minneapolis, uprooting the lives of local business owners, and quite frankly not viewed as progression by many.
Most people know me well by now; I'm the first person to check out a new venue, restaurant or bar and support the growth of the city and specifically the future of downtown Minneapolis, but I have some concerns with this type of growth. Here's an article in the Star Tribune that talks to some depth about the plans for downtown. 2025 is ongoing plan but city officials say much of this is happening now; new apartments being built, business expanding and growth at every level, including downtown's population to be double by this time next year...
This is true, and growth is good. Minneapolis should compete with A-list cities and be a destination other than corporate convention crowds. However when the corporate crowds are here with the convention center (which is most of the year) I can't even get a friend a hotel room anywhere downtown to save my life. If there is one available, its typically in the $280-$400 range.. How does Minneapolis expand the rental space for hotel rooms and visiting people to double our current capacity if we can't facilitate what we have?
Downtown definitely has some work to do and I'm a huge advocate of enhancing downtown. My concern with the current developments are that though the mission is to attract more people and become a destination, we are increasingly adding less and less for families to do. As department stores, family run businesses and any option of enjoying a day with your kids, disappears on Hennepin Ave, Nicollet Mall and elsewhere around the city, the feedback I hear increasingly every day is "why would I come downtown"?
The single only option two parents and a child have to do here is walk for miles and select bars and expensive food, while being harassed by pan handlers, preachers, child fund advocates and thugs on every corner. Its not an Austin, Texas and its not Chicago; Minneapolis is a city that needs a tied-in tourist pathway and a more concise police presence and message. I was even kind of shocked to find Minneapolis on this strange debate over who the worst downtown parking scenarios in the country are..luckily one of those surface lots in the middle of the city is being replaced by a 35 story, $100 million Opus project for luxury apartments...?
I'm a supporter of a bigger, better Minneapolis and I understand the planning and politics that has to be in place in order to get things done. I am a voice for the people though. The people don't understand why we're wiping away cool, family run shoppes for yet another restaurant with a roof-top. Sure people will flock to it and love it, but the competition will be fierce as new restaurant / bar concepts crop up all over town. Minneapolis has a history of recycling these businesses and we now have 2 dozen options that sell an $85 filet within 30 blocks. Its seems to clash with the underlying mission of being an arts focused city, supporting the small guy and providing outlets for people to find them.
The funding for the 2025 plan is largely private investment, corporate subsidy and tax dollars. Will it all come through? Will we fill a handful of of new 30+ story buildings with rentals as high as $4,000 / month? Can we double the population of the downtown proper area to fuel the new grocery stores, restaurants and other large scale businesses taking up tens of thousands of square feet? When Nicollet Mall was designed 50 years ago, the idea was to bring people back downtown.. Now the city is running a contest for design teams to concept what the new Mall will look like in the future. My hope is that someone closes off that bus line, seals up the street itself and creates a bustling walk space filled with vendors, small businesses, horse rides and family fun. It would eliminate the street loitering, pan-handling and other problems that plague this city. No one is moving in if we don't resolve the simplest things. In fact, many people I talk to that live downtown want to move out to Lake Minnetonka and the western burbs.
A Nicollet Mall work group was formed with city council members, Lisa Goodman and Robert Lilligren to decide the future of Nicollet Mall. Shortly, the design contest will ensue and the city has $550,000 in the 2013 budget to cover the initial stages of this. The project is expected to cost $30-40 Million... Would you like your voice to be heard?
Currently, we need to clean up the streets which is part of the long term plan (I hope). Its a challenge to talk any suburban person into to coming downtown Minneapolis for anything other than dinner, a game or a theatre show. They think its limited, they think its unsafe and they think Wayzata, Woodbury or Maple Grove shopping malls have more to do for their family then our city - and they're right..
The project is called "9's on the Mall"
You can see projected drawings, watch news videos and read all about what is happening on Nicollet, on the website right HERE.
You can subscribe to the Mayor's RSS feed HERE.
Weigh your opinion and let the city know what would make you come downtown with your family. This topic is very controversial in the underground of the city. The people who live here view progression in a very different way than the visionaries implementing plans. David Motzenbecker's departure form the planning commission may or not be related to the future of Minneapolis. Check that out HERE.
Wiping out small business owners to open another trendy restaurant will not address the public's concern. What does the future of Nicollet Mall really look like. Is this really what Minneapolis wants?
~ L.A. Nik (Mayor of Minneapolis After Dark)