Whither Hennepin Avenue? Whither Uptown?

Updated: Apr 20, 2019

No, this isn't a picture of Uptown, or downtown -- or anywhere else in Minneapolis, for that matter. It's Newbury Street in Boston, one of scores of great streets in urban areas across the country where folks love to go to shop, window-shop, stroll, eat, hang out, meet for coffee, people-watch -- in short, to savor the pleasures of urban living.

Minneapolis' new-urbanist city planners and politicians, armed with their 2040 Comprehensive Plan to remake the city, certainly envision Newbury Street-like districts sprouting all over town. So how are they doing?

The city's $50-million rebuild of Nicollet Mall from Washington Avenue to S. 13th Street has been met with reviews that are tepid at best. The trees are dying and, as James Lileks wrote recently in the Strib, the sidewalk "looks like a basement floor before the carpet arrives." Three blocks at the south end come alive on warm summer evenings, but Nicollet Mall overall? Meh.

Then there's Hennepin Avenue in Uptown. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither were the six blocks of Hennepin Avenue between West Lake and 36th streets. But if Rome had been constructed proportionally at the same rate as Hennepin Avenue was last year, it wouldn't have been built in a millennium either.

Hennepin was closed to traffic in Spring 2018 and remained closed all summer. And all fall. Cars and pedestrians weren't allowed back onto Hennepin until almost Thanksgiving so shoppers no longer had to don alpine gear to get to their favorite stores on that one-block stretch between Lake and 31st. (BTW: before heading over to your favorite store, you'd best double-check to see whether it's still there.)

Good luck finding parking, by the way, since it was all eliminated to make room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes. And if you're biking, good luck finding a place to secure your bike. Uptown businesses and the Uptown Association don't see the need.

Photos will be posted here monthly so we can watch the city's progress at transforming Hennepin Avenue in Uptown into their version of a new urban mecca.

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