Friday, September 23, 2016

Minneapolis 2016 - From the Outside In

Having now visited Minneapolis twice I made an observation. Wanting to make sure I was not projecting on to the city something that wasn't there I discussed what I had observed with both my nephew and a former coworker who had lived in Minneapolis for a period of time. I observed that unlike some U.S. cities, particularly sunbelt ones, Minneapolis seems unconcerned with expanding it's footprint. Instead it seems to have a knack for "filling in it's spaces".

For instance my nephew's home is a sweet, late mid century bungalow. Next door is a home similar in size and age to his. Yet on the same block are homes perhaps half a century older and much larger. My nephew explained to me his understanding was that originally some of the homes sat on much larger lots then they do now. He and his neighbor's home we built on what, at one time, may have been the side yard of one of the older homes on the block. This makes for a charming eclecticism.

Likewise the mansion housing the Bakker Museum appears to have once been on a lot surrounded by gardens, most now turned over to the museum's expansion. On an adjacent street another large, older home which overlooks a park and lake has for neighbors spacious yet decidedly more modern homes. They too appear to have been built on what was once that mansions expansive grounds.

The mill district, once derelict, has been re imagined as an upscale mixed use area. Along with the loft apartments carved out of the old mills, other apartment complexes share space with the Guthrie Theatre and the city's stadium, all newly constructed. Near my nephew's home a fantastic, late 19th century brewery building has been reused, a portion of it turned over to the public library system. Turn of the 20th century riverbank commercial districts, spared demolition, have become vibrant with nightlife. Bars and restaurants fill the spaces behind blocks long strips of historic facades.

The Frank Ghery designed University of Minnesota Art Museum, with his signature sensuous, swooping metal facade, sits on the riverbank behind the tracks of the city's public transit light rail line. Proud yet unobtrusive it does not compete with the more venerable, historically important structures on the campus grounds. This stands in comparison with his bandshell in Chicago's Millennium Park, so blatant and visible it has become an iconic symbol of the city. As recognizable as the Picasso in Daley Plaza or the Lions which grace the steps of my beloved Art Institute.

There is some new construction on the city's edge, but it seems to be confined to the tracks of the light rail system. Tight apartment blocks built for convenience rather than bland sprawling subdivisions.

The city sits in a setting of lush, fertile land and glistening lakes. It seems to understand it's good fortune. It appears to be content within itself leaving that which surrounds it unspoiled.

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