Tuesday, April 27, 2010
By Rick Nelson, Star Tribune
April 26, 2010
The interior of Forum, formerly known as the Forum Cafeteria.
Photographed on April 23, 2010.
The former Forum Cafeteria space in downtown Minneapolis opened to the public once again last week, and with that happy event comes a long, fascinating and complicated history.
Many local diners will mostly likely remember the gleaming Art Deco space as Goodfellow’s, which occupied the room from 1996 to 2005. Prior to that, it housed Mick’s, Paramount Cafe and Scottie’s on Seventh. And that’s just the tenant list after the entire room was dismantled, moved from its original location and re-created inside the mammoth City Center complex. Before that it was also Scottie’s on Seventh and, for the years between 1930 and 1975, it was the home of Forum Cafeteria.
After spending some time carefully pouring through small green envelopes jammed with yellowing newspapers clippings from the Star Tribune library -- thank you librarian Sandy Date, for retrieving them from the faintly scary Strib basement -- and sorting through a considerable stack of archives at the far lovelier Minneapolis Central Library, here’s some of what I’ve discovered about the Forum Cafeteria. Settle in, this post is going to take a while.
The Forum’s roots predate its 1930 Art Deco trappings. What had been a livery stable as late as 1911 was demolished to make way for the lavishly appointed Saxe Theater, which opened on Sept. 5, 1914 at the cost of $150,000 (about $3.3 million in 2010 dollars).
The 1,500-seat theater was named for owner Saxe Bros. of Milwaukee, a small chain of 10 midwestern theaters. Historical accounts of the Forum often describe the Saxe as a vaudeville house, but an Aug. 26, 1914 newspaper article tells a different story. “It is just about a year ago today that the announcement was made of our intention to build a theater designed exclusively for motion pictures, to be one of the best arranged and equipped photo-play houses in the country, and I think when the doors open Saturday of next week the public will agree that we have kept our word,” said owner Thomas Saxe.
The opulent Spanish Renaissance-style building -- designed by the Minneapolis firm of Chapman & Magney -- was tricked out with all the latest features: a 2,000-bulb electric marquee, “the largest picture screen in the Northwest” (measuring 13 feet six inches high and 18 feet in width), a $10,000 electric pipe organ, flounced velvet drapes, the city’s first electric ventilation system (“Said to have cost $16,000, injecting 35,000 cubic feet of fresh air into the theater every 60 seconds and completely changing the entire atmosphere every 10 minutes”), an elegant mahogany and rose-and-ivory terra cotta interior decor (and a lobby lined in “foreign marbles”) that was finished with two massive bronze candelabras, an automatic ticket seller (“which is new here, which will greatly expediate the handling of crowds”) and plumbing that is “the last word in the way of sanitary precautions.” The theater’s ivory terra cotta facade quickly became the most distinctive sight on Seventh Street's bustling theater row.
The Saxe name didn’t last long. By 1916 the marquee bore the name “Strand,” which stuck until 1929, when the Forum Cafeteria Co. of Kansas City, Mo. signed a lease on the space, with the intent of converting the theater into a restaurant. It would be the company’s 18th location.
The company enlisted its house architect, George B. Franklin, and poured $275,000 (about $3.6 million in 2010 dollars) into creating a state-of-the-art kitchen and carving out a dining room on the street level, with additional seating on a new mezzanine level.
It’s funny, but newspaper accounts at the time never use the words “Art Deco.” They barely mention decor at all. Instead, they focus on the Forum’s newfangled “modern ventilation system, “all-mechanical dishwashing and sterilization equipment” and “elaborately furnished rest room in the basement.” The only note about the dining room’s giddy decoration is that it is “lighted with ornamental electric fixtures.”
A 1976 article from a historic preservation magazine put it this way: “'The Forum reflects an era,' said Martin Weinberger. Weinberger, who installed and helped design the Forum’s interior in 1930, said he chose the patterns and contrasting patterns and colors in the Forum because, ‘At that time, everyone did Art Deco,’ he said.”
The restaurant was designed to accommodate approximately 1,000 customers per hour and it initially employed about 150 people. The doors opened for business on May 27, 1930. It wasn’t exactly the most encouraging moment in American history to launch a major investment, but by all accounts the Forum survived and thrived on Seventh Street.
Ten years later, following a fire, the company went into renovation mode. “Here’s the same place turning a smiling new face to the future,” exclaimed an ad in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune on Nov. 7, 1940, under a photo of the newly revised facade, where the ornamental terra cotta facade was remade yet again -- it had already been significantly altered during the Forum’s 1930 construction -- into a far sleeker first-floor storefront. “Minneapolis is growing!” continued the ad. “But just watch how this great city goes and grows in the next decade! So we’ve finished an extensive remodeling new program, including a gay new front and increased seating capacity for 500 daily guests. We’ve installed the latest all-electric serving counters with 27 hot pan varieties to select from.”
Fast-forward to early 1970s. The Forum was in the departure lounge. Cafeteria-style dining was on the wane -- replaced by fast-fooders such as McDonald’s and Burger King -- and rumors began to swirl that the mighty Forum’s lights were dimming.
Readers of the Minneapolis Star opened their newspapers on July 3, 1972 to read the headline, “No definite plans to remodel the Forum Cafeteria.” The restaurant’s manager, Conrad Sankpill, said that a proposal to gut and rebuild the “world-famous” Art Deco interior had been before the company’s board of directors, but he was countered by someone above him on the company’s organization chart, D.H. Wixon, a Forum vice president. “We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Wixon said, “but there is nothing now before the board of directors.”
An entertaining eyewitness account appeared that same day on the pages of the Minneapolis Star’s op/ed section. “Alarmed at the possibility that the Forum Cafeteria might undergo modernization, as reported in a letter to the Star, we dashed off to 7th St. for lunch and reassurance,” read the unsigned editorial. “At yet, nothing had changed. Viking ships under full sail still plowed the seas of mirrored wall panels. Platoons of chandeliers, their frosted glass marshaled in geometric array, still cast their chill glow over the double line of expectant diners inching food-ward. Behind us in line, there was still the aggressive woman shopper whose bargain-filled bag thumbed at the backs of our knees with each step of advance [this was a pre-Mall of America era, when no less than five department stores and countless specialty shops lined nearby Nicollet Mall, and it was still possible to see a first-run movie at any of a number of theaters on and around Hennepin Avenue].
“As we ate our ‘Nooner’ special (sausage and red apples, 99 cents), amidst all that black glass and pale green tile and tortured “zig-zag modern,” we recalled fondly last summer’s Art Deco show at the Art Institute. Would the Institute undertake a salvage effort? Nooners would never be the same. We were relieved, therefore, when the Forum’s owners denied they were planning a change. Sail on, O etched-glass Viking ships!”
The rumors picked up again a few years later. “Some of the help here and the customers are already asking for pieces of the building, like the black onyx tiles,” said Jacque Johnson, Minneapolis Forum manager in a Feb. 10, 1975 story in the Minneapolis Star. “The majority of my good customers are very concerned about the Forum, but most of them are senior citizens and are treated as second-class citizens. Their opinions don’t seem to count for much, I’m afraid. But then we have lots of young art students who come in too. They’re enchanted with it. They walk around the balcony and ask to take pictures.”
Fortunately, the Forum had an influential fan base. “It would be tragic to see it destroyed to make way for a pseudo Gay Nineties bar or restaurant,” said Herbert Scherer, an art librarian at the University of Minnesota and an expert on Art Deco. He called the Forum a masterpiece of the style, the best example left in Minnesota. “Garish red carpet and flickering imitation candle fixtures seem to be all that contemporary commercial designers are capable of in their attempts at ‘class.’”
In other words, don’t mess with it. Mary C. Means, then a regional director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, agreed. “It’s fantastic,” said Means. “It’s one of the most outstanding Art Deco interiors I’ve ever seen. Everything is complete. It made me feel I was in the 1920s and there would be Busby Berkeley chorus girls having breakfast after the show.”
In that same article, reporter Peg Meier tracked down David Gebhart, an architecture professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. Gebhart grew up in Minneapolis and ate at the Forum as a boy. He told Meier that most Art Deco buildings across the country had been torn down or remodeled. “The style was very much out of fashion from 1945 on,” he said. “People are more interested in 19th-century buildings. The Forum is one of the best examples of Art Deco in the country, and the city shouldn’t let it go.”
Forum headquarters pulled the plug in August 1975 (the company was still operated a branch in suburban Maplewood at the time), and for a while it looked as if the building’s owner, F&M Savings Bank, might use the space as a branch location. An Oct. 4, 1975 Minneapolis Star article revealed that entrepreneurs Ron Tengwell, Scott Smith and Brett Smith (they called their enterprise the SST Corp.) put a down payment on building, with the intention of opening a bar and restaurant. “The restaurant would have reasonable prices and would include a bar decorated in Art Deco style that would be come a discotheque after dinner hours.”
The Forum Cafeteria company wouldn’t permit the use of the Forum name, and for a while the project was being referred to as the “Phorum.” “This place will always be called the ‘Forum,’ regardless of who’s selling the hot dogs,” Smith told the Minneapolis Tribune. The name Scottie’s on Seventh eventually stuck.
Here’s a clip from June 16, 1976: “Scottie’s on Seventh, a 1930s style restaurant and nightclub located in the old Forum Cafeteria, will hold a grand opening Thursday. The new club, which retains the famed Art Deco interior of the Forum, also will be added to the National Register of Historic Places in ceremonies Thursday night.”
Scottie’s quickly evolved into a scene. The Wolverines jazz band were regulars, and the city’s fast crowd made it their hangout. This clip from the Oct. 24, 1978 edition of Skyway News sums it up nicely: “Jet set artist and Olympic sports painting superstar LeRoy Neiman was served a Bernaise burger and inaugural champagne recently at Scottie’s on Seventh, the downtown restaurant and disco. The Bernaise Burger is a favorite of the many celebrities who frequent the pub. Neiman brought the burger’s recipe to Scottie’s from P.J. Clarke’s in New York City, the first in a series of exchanges Scottie’s plans with other restaurants around the world.” I wish I could share the photograph, because it is priceless: Neiman is sporting a mustache that stretches almost from ear to ear, his hair is slicked back and his shirt is unbuttoned halfway to his navel; prime disco style.
Here’s how Will Jones described the place in his “After Last Night” column in the Minneapolis Tribune on June 19, 1976: “The vintage air conditioning may have been adequate to the elderly frames who shuffled their trays through the Forum in its later days; it was clearly not a match for all the hot young bodies crushing up to the bars and working up Charleston variations on the dance floor.
“The old double serving lines on the first floor have been replaced by a dance floor and a bar, and a second bar has been installed at the rear of the mezzanine. Otherwise, an old habitue could swear that nothing’s been changed except for the addition of a few potted palms and the fact that a single drink now costs more than a full dinner did in the old days -- or two or three meals, depending upon how many years ago one’s devotion to the Forum began.”
The party didn’t last long, thanks to the mammoth City Center project. It had been brewing, off and on, through much of the 1970s, growing in ambition and size, biting off more and more chunks of the block bounded by Nicollet Mall, 7th Street, Hennepin Avenue and 6th Street. The old Forum building was sitting smack dab in the middle.
Original proposals priced the complex at $100 million; the tab eventually hit $200 million, with the city’s investment -- its largest at the time -- at $50 million. Not everyone was thrilled by the prospect by City Center’s mega-ambitions (“A super-Dale in the heart of Minneapolis” is how the Twin Cities Reader described it), particularly fans of the old Forum.
In a letter published on Dec. 28, 1978 in the Minneapolis Star, Michael O’Neill, director of the Minnesota Geographic Society, said it best when he wrote, “The old Forum Cafe building and the Nankin restaurant, class environments in the Mill City, are scheduled for destruction this spring. At winter’s end, when the colors return and even a city planner’s heart turns to love, these two vestiges of romantic Minneapolis will have been demolished.”
Boy, did he have this next part right. “A new vista will emerge on 7th St, without mystery or memories. A new City Center complex that has hurdled every cost-benefit analysis by those who rule will be created. We suspect there will be clean design. Certainly there will be much glass and light. There will be no smokey sensuality. This new place will be no place for indolent denizens of Minneapolis to hide out. And that is a fact.
“We do know that without the lingering ambience of old places, not necessarily warehouses and post offices, an environment becomes very boring, and people spend their money in Europe or Mexico. Authentic history for many people is found in little clubs, theaters and restaurants. These places make a city interesting. Domed stadiums [construction on the Metrodome would begin a year later] and City Center, on the other hand, contribute little to the attraction of an urban area.
“The case for the Forum building and the Nankin restaurant [which eventually relocated in the City Center complex and later closed] thus becomes a eulogy. The values of these places are intuitive more than rational, and they transcend legal arguments and ledger sheets. Values that can be felt not measured. The shades of romance and nuance that make life worth living, but seem to die in the hard light of a city council meeting. The things that everybody seems to know, but politicians have to find out.”
Several lawsuits were filed, but the outcome was inevitable. It was progress vs. history, and guess which side emerged victorious? The trial’s most delicious testimony came from Karal Ann Marling, a University of Minnesota art history professor. “Marling, an expert in interior decor with a special interest in Art Deco, testified that the ‘living historical’ aspects of Scottie’s are remarkable,” reported the Twin Cities Reader. “In this country, the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center and Scottie's are the only places you can go and actually feel like what it must have been like to be alive back in the 1930s,” Marling said. “You can walk into Scottie’s for lunch and feel like Joan Crawford.”
Marling went on to explain that the actual surface decorations that make up the restaurant’s interior were not especially valuable on their own. “We’re not talking about the Mona Lisa or the pyramids of Egypt here, we’re talking about atmosphere,” she said. “Art Deco really began to flourish in this country just as the Depression began, and its function was to give people an escape to a glamorous atmosphere not unlike that on an ocean liner. That interior invites you inside to tap your toes and interact with new and glamorous people. It all suggests a little sex, perhaps some violence, both of which are parts of the urban sensibility. It allows you the feeling that you are, just slightly, a dangerous person. We’re not talking about a great piece of art, we’re talking about a total effect that gives us the feel of the glamour and danger of the 1930s.”
Oxford initially claimed that Forum’s site was needed for a luxury department store [rumored to be Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue] and then as access to an underground parking ramp; both scenarios eventually fell through. Still, through a series of negotiations and legal maneuvers, Oxford eventually pledged to reconstruct the Forum’s exact interior in a new location, funded by a $1.1 million in city funds, a precursor to the city’s subsequent investment in preserving and moving the nearby Shubert Theatre in 1999.
“The legal battle to preserve the old Forum Cafeteria building at its existing location ended today in failure,” reported the Minneapolis Tribune on Dec. 7, 1979. “We do not decide what might have been,” wrote Minnesota Supreme Court justice Rosalie Wahl. “We can only conclude, on the record before us, that the efforts of those who sought to save this familiar Minneapolis landmark in its entirety were too little and too late.”
On the day that the court handed down its decision, a wrecking ball was knocking down the last of the old Forum building’s walls. The story wasn’t over, however. A year later, in a story written by Minneapolis Tribune development reporter R.T. Rybak, the headline read: “Changes make it appear that Forum could have stayed.” Rybak wrote, “The 67-year-old Forum building was torn down last fall. Now, six months and at least $2 million later, it appears that the building could have stayed. It is also likely that reinforcing the original Forum building so it could have stood during the project’s construction would have been significantly cheaper for the developer and the city.”
The restaurant’s interior ended up moving 100 feet. The painstaking process -- which involved carefully removing, cataloguing, storing and then unpacking and reinstalling 3,500 separate pieces of glass, mirrors, tile and other materials -- was remarkably accurate. The rectangular room’s interior dimensions fell within 3/8th of an inch of the original: 105 feet long, 48 feet wide and 18 feet high. The Forum’s original plaster ceiling, which had been covered in that 1940 renovation by acoustical tiles, was reinstalled and painted its original 1930 colors. The work was supervised by Dayton’s Commercial Interiors.
The terra cotta exterior was also crated in 1979 but Oxford wasn’t interested in tacking it on to City Center’s modernist facade.There was talk of finding a home for it elsewhere in the city, but nothing ever came of it. “I tried to track it down a number of years ago,” said Minneapolis architect David Shea, who designed both the 1996 Goodfellow’s and the 2010 Forum iterations of the space. “Apparently the guy who had been storing it stopped getting a check, and so he decided to dump it into a landfill. Can you believe that?”
Frankly, yes. When it comes the Forum’s convoluted story, everything is possible. Scottie’s didn’t last, closing less than three years after its 1983 reopening. John Rimarcik, owner of the Monte Carlo Bar & Grill, briefly ran the place as the Paramount Cafe. The TGI Friday’s chain was interested in the space but not the decor, and there was talk of taking it all down and reinstalling it elsewhere, perhaps as part of a new federal courthouse or downtown public library, or in a renovated Grain Belt Brewery or Washburn-Crosby Mill (now the Mill City Museum).
Fortunately, that never happened (TGI Friday’s did move into another City Center space, but eventually left). Atlanta-based Mick’s leased the space for four years. Then Goodfellow’s, which was looking for a new location to replace its doomed Conservatory home, moved in and stayed until 2005. That’s the Forum that many people remember, although it was a tamed Forum; Goodfellow’s owners covered (some might say conserved) much of the interior’s colorful Bakelite walls with beige fabric panels, a move to lessen the room’s booming acoustics.
So what was the Forum Cafeteria like?
“The Forum Cafeteria was a bustling place for downtown workers and shoppers to eat quick, inexpensive meals, selecting such mid-century cuisine items such as fruit cocktail lime Jell-O medley, Spanish rice, breaded pork chops, Salisbury steak and other favorites,” described a piece in a 1970s architecture publication. “Though Charlie’s, a top-end eating place, served Minneapolis cognoscenti a few blocks away, diners at the Forum could guide their trays along the serving counter among pin-striped professionals, shopping bag-toting retirees and smartly frocked sales clerks. It was the place our mothers could take us during a day of downtown shopping for school clothes, feeling well-assured the fare of the Forum was familiar to what we ate at home.”
Another account, this one published in the opinion pages of the Minneapolis Star in June 1979 and written by Trilby Busch Christensen, a Minneapolis historic preservationist: “People came from all over the state and county to meet and eat there. All were welcome -- children and adults, farmers and clerks, lawyers and shopkeepers. Thousands of Minnesotans remember the Forum as the place they went on those special visits to Minneapolis on a shopping expedition or to attend the state basketball tournament. It is no exaggeration to say that the Forum is probably the greatest repository of urban folklife in the state.”
I like this one: “The Forum was in many respects the Twin Cities’ most delightful Art Deco fantasy, one still remembered fondly by those who had the good fortune - especially as children - to experience its sleek, silvery splendor,” explained Larry Millett in his invaluable “Lost Twin Cities," published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Minneapolis Star columnist Don Morrison really nailed it on Feb. 11, 1975: “But inside! Inside the Forum is another fantasy -- a nutty efflorescence of all-out 1920s Art Deco white tile, onyx, etched glass and mirrors and pretentious chandeliers -- that may not be man’s highest aesthetic attainment, but certainly is an enchanting, priceless and equally irreplaceable document of what was considered by the previous generation to be real class, elegance and, most of all, ultimate modernity.”
Monday, April 19, 2010
exactly what she hoped when she decided to attend UW-Stout.
Kuechenmeister works for Shea Inc., a design firm from Minneapolis
that helps clients with building projects from architectural concepts
all the way through to interior design and even purchasing furniture.
“The best part about the job is that it’s ever-changing. There’s a
variety of work. This was my goal, from the type of projects to the
kind of work environment I wanted to get into,” she said.
Kuechenmeister, whose first job was with Wells Fargo doing office
remodeling, has been an interior designer at Shea for about five
years. She already has a long list of credits, including several
restaurants, an office building and a retail building. She spent a
year as lead local interior designer on the downtown Minneapolis
Chambers Hotel, an art-themed boutique hotel. She worked with
other design teams, including one from New York. “Together we
came up with some great concepts. I had to take these concepts
and make them a reality. To work on a project like this was a thrill for
me,” she said of the Chambers project.
She also has worked on another hotel, the Crown Plaza Philadelphia,
and was busy during the winter on interior design plans for three
Twin Cities-area restaurants.
Menswear designer Jason Hammerberg has already worked for an overeager start-up. In charge now, he’ll build more slowly.
April 2010 by Megan Wiley
Stop by the Galleria mall in Edina and you’ll find Jason Hammerberg enumerating the advantages of a well-tailored men’s shirt: explaining why someone might opt for a smaller collar now, or how a shirt that’s conservative for day can be restyled for evening. Hammerberg should know how this stuff works—he designed it all for his namesake store, Hammer Made.
The store is new (opened November 27), but the concept isn’t. Just down from the 575 square feet that Hammerberg occupies is the retail space his employer used to do business in. They might have been direct competitors if Kuhlman, the seller of men’s shirts and jackets with European styling, hadn’t flamed out early.
Hammerberg helped create the Kuhlman look but now designs his own Hammer Made shirts and accessories. He’s careful and respectful in talking about Kuhlman. Likewise, he’s taking a more cautious approach to growing his own retail business.
He says Scott and Susan Kuhlman did have a novel idea with their superfocused, high-design-for-moderate-prices shirt boutiques. But overly ambitious expansion led to Kuhlman’s demise in 2007, just four years after it was founded. Hammerberg left before things went sour, and three years ago launched his own clothing line, then called Humble Fashion, which he sold wholesale, custom, and on line.
“By selling wholesale, I could tell how people were reacting to the fit, the design,” he says. “Now I’ve pulled everything back in, so I can control it.”
The shirts he makes are “the guy’s little black dress,” Hammerberg says. “That’s what he’s wearing out and about with a pair of jeans or with a coat or with a full suit and a tie.”
He compares his Hammer Made shirts to luxury lines like Thomas Pink or Canali. But by buying his own fabric from Turkish and Italian mills and working directly with manufacturers rather than ordering through agents, Hammerberg can offer his shirts at roughly half the price—$75 to $125. “Mine is a quality-value play,” he says.
He’s brought investors on to help fund the eventual addition of more stores. But Hammerberg is taking it slowly, focused for now on opening his online shop in late March.
Megan Wiley is an Edina-based freelance writer and frequent Twin Cities Business contributor.
From Jeremy Iggers at tcfoodies.com:
What I liked: • The Korean Pork BBQ Ribs were awesome. They were spicy, smoky, and delicious ($18).• On the main menu, the Lamb Lollipops rocked. Oh goodness. So tender, so packed with flavor, yum. The Moroccan spiced with apricot-mint sauce was my favorite. The small plate order comes with three of them—you can mix and match the Moroccan with rosemary-crusted and curry-rubbed for $15.• Table-side Lemon Caesar Salad. The freshly shaved Parmesan and the shavings of preserved lemon on top of this salad really made it sing. Delicious. $9 for a starter; $14 entree. • Chef-driven. Ryan Aberle is talented (used to be at North Coast in Wayzata), and everything here is made in-house. Jim Ringo kept telling me that he hired six chefs at his restaurant—"the most chefs within a five-mile radius."• The room is warm and beautiful. Reclaimed wood is everywhere, including the tabletops. There's a section for private dining and meetings. The bar is laid out in a really cool way—the bar top extends, so there's room for people to sit on both sides of it. Great for conversation. [full article here]
That eerie feeling continued at Ringo’s opening bash, as the preening guests, gleaming furniture, and, especially, the magnificent robata grill made me feel like I was onscreen as an extra in a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock. Not being a regular at parties covered by C.J. from the Strib, this was far from normal. Thankfully, though, I soon met chef Ryan Aberle, an ebullient guy who, in a down-to-earth 10-minute conversation, showed that Ringo has a thoughful, un-manufactured side.
For instance, Aberle did some of the woodworking, although certainly not the intricate Thai carvings that hang over the bar. Several walls are covered in reclaimed wood from a barn in northern Minnesota, the “bad” seats by the bathroom are charming curved booths, and the huge open kitchen is visible from most every seat. Charcoal flames define Aberle’s menu, and smelling the charcoal while watching chefs turn searing meat was invigorating. [full article here]
Friday, April 9, 2010
The FAB Awards honors design excellence to teams and firms that have gone beyond the usual expectations of the interior design profession by creating Fresh, Artistic and Brilliant (FAB) solutions to the built environment.
The event was held on April 8, 2010 at the U of M McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis.
The esteemed jurors for the 2010 FAB Awards included:
Kelly K. Bauer, FIIDA of Richard + Bauer Architecture, Phoenix, Arizona
Pam Light, FIIDA of HOK, Los Angeles, California
Iain Thorp of Haworth, Holland, Michigan
The FAB Awards honors the best in the business, and this year there were many great projects entered. Shea is very proud to be recognized and honored for Loring Kitchen & Bar. For a list of all project categories and entrants, click here.
About IIDA Northland Chapter:
The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Northland Chapter is one of the most active chapters in the Midwest. Membership of over 225 consists of approximately 75 professionals, 20 students, 55 associate members and 59 industry representatives. IIDA Northland offers valuable continuing education programming and charity events that are held throughout the year in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. They are open to our membership and the local design community.
DEVELOPER LUX HAS DEAL FOR BLOCK E
Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal - by John Vomhof Jr. and Sam Black Staff Writers
Twin Cities real estate developer Bob Lux has a deal to buy the troubled Block E retail and entertainment complex in downtown Minneapolis.
The Business Journal learned last week that Lux was pursuing a deal for the center. After being contacted by the Journal for the story, Lux's firm, Alatus LLC, issued a statement saying it had signed a purchase agreement and that it would "significantly invest" in the property. Lux declined to comment further.
Lux would acquire downtown Minneapolis property from Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO), the Washington, D.C.-based lender that recently took over ownership of the center from the developer, Chicago-based McCaffery Interests Inc.
ULLICO was the primary lender for the $135 million project, which opened in 2002.
The purchase price was not disclosed. The transaction, which is expected to close in late summer, will not include the Graves 601 Hotel Minneapolis, which is separately owned.
Lux did not respond to calls or e-mails seeking comment prior to publication. ULLICO and McCaffery officials also could not be reached.
Turning things around
Once Lux acquires the site, he will have his work cut out for him to revamp the property, which has been plagued by some high-profile vacancies in recent years. The former Borders bookstore has been empty for more than two years, and GameWorks went dark last week. However, in a big win for the property, Kieran’s Irish Pub recently filled the former Bellanotte restaurant space, signing a 10-year lease.
In the statement, Bob Lux said: "With the opening of Target Field, there is an excitement on Hennepin Avenue, and Block E is at the center of it. We intend to significantly invest in Block E to attract tenants that complement the neighborhood's new energy."
Retail sources speculated that Lux might pursue big-name retailers like Richfield-based Best Buy Co. Inc. and Edina-based grocer Lund Food Holdings Inc. He landed a letter of intent for a Lunds store at an Alatus development at 10th Street and Hennepin Avenue, just a few blocks from Block E, but construction has not started.
Best Buy and Lunds would be logical targets for Block E because they are high-profile tenants that could help the center differentiate itself, said Dave Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas.
“It doesn’t have anything unique — a destination-type tenant to draw people to Block E,” he said. “They just don’t have destination type entertainment or retailers.”
But Block E needs more than just a few new tenants, said Andrea Christenson, a retail broker in Cassidy Turley’s Minneapolis office. It also could use extensive renovations, including more windows and improved street-level access. And the bus stops outside the center also should be relocated, she said.
“I think it needs a name change and a brand change,” Christenson said. “Block E has such negative connotations — whether it’s reality or perception, it doesn’t matter.”
Mike Christenson, director of the city of Minneapolis’ Community Planning & Economic Development department, said he wasn’t aware of a potential sale of Block E. He is not related to Andrea Christenson.
Since the retail center opened, its owners have worked with city leaders to position the property. That includes some successful efforts lately, such as establishing a “SafeZone” on the block, washing the sidewalks, greening up the planters and street level, and most recently, repositioning the Kieran’s space, Mike Christenson said.
“They’re trying to make progress through a whole new generation of tenants,” he said. “Everybody hopes that Kieran’s is the lucky vein, but who knows.”
Although the city doesn’t have any formal say in the ownership of Block E, it does have some skin in the game, said Patrick Born, the city’s chief financial officer.
The city invested $29 million toward the center’s development, issuing bonds that are repaid through a combination of property taxes paid by Block E and annual payments from the owners of Graves 601 Hotel Minneapolis and the Kerasotes Block E Stadium 15 theater. The outstanding balance on the bonds is $18.8 million, with annual principal and interest payments of $1.85 million. The bonds will reach final maturity in 2027.
Lux long-time urban player
Lux and his firm, Alatus, has either led or been part of several successful ventures in Minneapolis during the past decade. He was one of the principal developers of the Grant Park condo tower that kicked off the downtown housing construction boom in the early 2000s. He also was part of the team that developed The Carlyle condominiums, a luxury tower, near the main downtown Minneapolis post office, that sold its last available unit in late 2009.
In 2007, Alatus bought six municipal parking ramps from the city of Minneapolis for about $69 million.
Alatus financed that acquisition with the help of London-based investment firm Invesco. The city of Minneapolis had selected Alatus’ proposal over competitors because of the redevelopment plans Alatus had for the ramps and the potential tax base it would create.
Alatus had planned a $13 million mixed-use project at the Downtown East Parking Garage, at 424 S. Chicago Ave. S., and a $9.8 million mixed-use project at the Seven Corners Ramp. at 1504 S. Washington Ave.
Neither of those redevelopment projects has broken ground due to market conditions, Mike Christenson said.
Alatus has completed improvements to the Center Village Ramp at 700 S. Fifth Ave. and Loring Ramp, that he promised to do as part of the purchase agreements, he said.
The Penfield, in St. Paul, is another high-profile and stalled Alatus mixed-use development. The city of St. Paul recently made plans to take over the development of an apartment and grocery store project from Lux and his business partner Sherman Rutzick.
Lux and Rutzick are still trying to stay involved in the scaled-down version of the project by consulting on it for the city.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010
As the new Twins baseball season rolls around, everyone is curious to see how Target Field stacks up against the Metrodome. Along with this curiosity comes a rush of visitors to the downtown area, and with approximately 40,000 Twins fans flocking to the area for every game, surrounding businesses are hoping these fans stay in the neighborhood before and after the games to take advantage of its offerings. MPR talks to Shea's own David Shea about how the situation is developing and how businesses can position themselves to take full advantage of the impending increase in customer traffic.
Economic boost around Target Field a spotty story
by Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
photo by MPR/Jim Bickal
Minneapolis — With outdoor major league baseball returning to Minnesota today, expectations for the Twins are high. So are hopes for a new economic boost around Target Field.
Members of the local business community hope the ballpark will help energize downtown economically in a way that the Metrodome never really did.
BUSINESSES GEAR UP FOR TRAFFIC INFLUX
Target Field sits snugly in the warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis. The area is home to dozens of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other entertainment venues. The new stadium seats nearly 40,000 people and it will likely sellout for each of the Twins' 81 home games. Which means a lot of people will be coming to this part of town during the baseball season.
"We expect about 2.5 million fans to come down to this ballpark," said Mike Christenson, the head of the city's Community Planning and Economic Development department. "We want them to come down here and stay and walk the city."
Christenson believes the influx of fans will be a big boost for businesses like the new Hubert's, which is taking over the NBA City restaurant space in Target Center.
Architect David Shea said the key is to expose pedestrian traffic to nearby businesses.
"You need to put people closer to the businesses," Shea said. "If the businesses are hiding behind glass walls all the time, it is the wrong approach for something."
Christenson said other businesses are rushing to make improvements in time for the new baseball season. He said the city has seen an increase in the number of construction permit requests.
"Whether you are redeveloping the interior or exterior of a building you have to pull a permit," said Christenson. "So last month, February of this year, we saw permits go over $30 million for the first time in some time in the city. So we are seeing a recovery."
Christenson added that many of the permits are being pulled for businesses in the warehouse district, like Kieran's Irish Pub. The pub recently moved into a large vacancy in the Block E entertainment complex. Despite Block E's proximity to the Target Center and now Target Field, it has struggled to keep some major tenants.
BLOCK E RENEWAL
Overly large spaces and lack of street access are a challenge for marketing Block E vacancies, said Andrea Christenson, with commercial real estate broker Cassidy Turley.
"When the smoking laws changed it made it very difficult to lease those second floor spaces to any bars and restaurants because of people needing to get outside and smoke," Christenson said.
Christenson added that the opening of Target field has brought some new interest to Block E and she said there will be news of openings in other nearby buildings in the weeks and months to come.
FINANCING STILL DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN
But there are still other parts of the warehouse district which remain undeveloped. Christenson said banks are still reluctant to finance new ventures. For instance, she said a plan to develop a 26-acre parcel near the ballpark called North Loop Village has been put on hold.
"In any project of that size, anywhere in the country right now, unless you can self-finance, any bank, any lending organization is going to expect you to have an anchor tenant going into it," she said.
There is also a noticeable vacancy in the building which used to contain the New French Cafe and the Urban Wildlife Bar. The property, which sits within site of Target Field, still contains a few open businesses, but the spaces which used to hold the bar and cafe are full of dust and debris. Christenson said as far as she knows, there are no plans to renovate the spaces in the near future.
The new ballpark has already bolstered the residential real estate market. That's the assessment of Fritz Kroll, a real estate agent who also lives in the warehouse district. He said the ballpark has led a lot of people to move in - even people who don't like baseball.
"Because I think it's by far the most visible development in the neighborhood," he said. "Having the transit center next to it is just one of the things to really force people to look at this neighborhood."
Kroll said demand for condominiums and rental housing in the area is increasing, but the supply is shrinking, because no new housing construction projects are scheduled to start this year.
And Kroll said the demand combined with reduced supply is having an impact on prices even though real estate values have fallen nationwide and in Minneapolis.
"The ballpark is helping just maintain the values," Kroll said. "And as the supply is absorbed, I think that's when we'll start to see some real appreciation again."
One development will accompany the opening of Target Field that Kroll and other neighbors are a bit apprehensive about -- game day traffic congestion. But Kroll said he and his neighbors will have to wait and see if some of the city plans to alleviate gameday gridlock will work.
Local business owners hope fans will avoid traffic jams by coming to the ballpark early and staying late - of course while having drinks and food somewhere in the neighborhood.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Restaurant Review: Sea Change in MinneapolisBy MICHAEL TORTORELLO
It’s not every gastronome who wants to savor a bowl of grilled swordfish cassoulet while staring at a 25-foot-tall photo of Arthur Miller. Yet there he is, either grinning or wincing (it’s tough to tell with Mr. Miller), outside the windows of this restaurant, which opened last July on the ground floor of the Guthrie Theater.
I hope you’re enjoying that fish, the great dramatist seems to be saying. So how does it feel to plunder the planet’s oceans?
If Mr. Miller is indeed questioning your commitment to sustainable dining, Sea Change has your back. “We require the provenance of the fish from all our purveyors,” said Tim McKee, the restaurant’s executive chef. That swordfish, for instance, has most likely been harpoon-caught from a healthy Pacific fishery.
Sea Change has its own provenance to sell. Mr. McKee, who runs five other Minnesota restaurants, won a James Beard award last year as best Midwestern chef. And then there is the venerable Guthrie Theater itself, which moved to its current home, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, in 2006.
That’s a lot of drama. Mr. McKee, in turn, has decided to play up the theatricality of the open kitchen, which juts like a ship’s prow into the huge dining room, with its oceanic design accents. “For people who sit at that raw bar it’s as much a show as a place to sit and dine,” he said.
On a recent visit, a pair of raw langoustines arrived bathed in hot olive oil, with minced chilies dusted on top. Bay scallops, also raw, were complemented by dots of puréed parsley root — the one briny and supple, the other sweetish and smooth.
For more cautious eaters there is a menu column labeled “not fish.” Here’s where you’ll find a perfect pork belly set atop a scallion pancake. Texture is the star of this production, as the crispy exterior of the pork oval yields to a fatty center of pure pig. It’s hard to say who could handle an entree-size serving of linguine with rock shrimp in a garlicky sea urchin sauce without feeling like Falstaff — that is, a little too swollen with satisfaction. But then the restaurant’s careful sourcing and immaculate preparations don’t come cheap: An average meal for two, without drinks, tax or tip, is about $100.
Best to think of that bill as a kind of papal indulgence. How else can you get the pleasures of seafood these days without the guilt?
Sea Change, 818 South Second Street, Minneapolis; (612) 225-6499; seachangempls.com. Lunch: Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner: Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 4:30 to 9 p.m.