Dinkytown

Northeast, Near North, Camden, Old St. Anthony, University and surrounding neighborhoods
twincitizen
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Re: Dinkytown

Postby twincitizen » April 25th, 2014, 1:01 pm

Snelbian wrote:
Silophant wrote:I think that, by 2020, the main commercial district people associate with the U will be Stadium Village, not Dinkytown. It'll mostly be because of the LRT access, but partially due to the extreme difficulty of developing anything in Dinkytown. And honestly, I'm not so sure that change would be a bad thing.
For a lot of people it already is. There are a lot of people living in the Stadium Village area who might go to Dinkytown to drink and not much more.
That's interesting, and probably not far off for a lot of students. Dinkytown needs to be more than a place to get drunk, and that is only going to happen by expanding the amount of commercial space available, and yes, welcoming chains. Unfortunately, precisely what some people are fighting against.


This is a wholly separate thought, but a good one I think. Why not split up the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association along 35W? Marcy-Holmes stays west of 35W, and a new Dinkytown Neighborhood Association is formed east of 35W. The Marcy-Holmes one could even merge with East Bank-Nicollet Island into a single organization to advocate for everything between the river, 35W, and Hennepin. It makes a lot of sense to me. What doesn't make sense is long-time residents living west of 35W wielding so much influence over the growth and development of the University's commercial district, which should primarily serve the needs of students and faculty. I'd think non-students living west of 35W would much more likely to patronize the businesses along Hennepin, Central, and Main Street anyways due to the geographical barrier of 35W.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby EOst » April 25th, 2014, 1:27 pm

twincitizen wrote:This is a wholly separate thought, but a good one I think. Why not split up the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association along 35W? Marcy-Holmes stays west of 35W, and a new Dinkytown Neighborhood Association is formed east of 35W. The Marcy-Holmes one could even merge with East Bank-Nicollet Island into a single organization to advocate for everything between the river, 35W, and Hennepin. It makes a lot of sense to me. What doesn't make sense is long-time residents living west of 35W wielding so much influence over the growth and development of the University's commercial district, which should primarily serve the needs of students and faculty. I'd think non-students living west of 35W would much more likely to patronize the businesses along Hennepin, Central, and Main Street anyways due to the geographical barrier of 35W.
Well, for one, because Marcy Park is east of 35W.

More importantly, because who lives east of 35W? Fraternities, college students, maybe some professors/professionals up in the northern part, but all the professors I know live in NE or the Southwest (or in the suburbs, of course). That's a neighborhood association that would be more or less entirely controlled by the developers, and even if you want more development in the area (and I do, overall, though I think some projects are smarter than others) you shouldn't want the developers to have that free of a hand.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby FISHMANPET » April 25th, 2014, 1:38 pm

Marcy Park is east of 35W, Holmes park is west of 35W. Seems like if you're basing it on the park names, you could pretty easily created a Marcy neighborhood and a Holmes neighborhood.

It's an interesting question, do the long time home owners have the same goals and desires as the students do? Could this be merged into the University district? Does University district have a neighborhood organization? There is non-university owned land within the boundaries of the district, including a number of apartment buildings with retail (Dinkydome, for example, is in the University distrcit).

E: Also, until 1993 the blocks that hold Floco Fusion and The Bridges were part of the University District, but they were transferred Marcy-Holmes. So there's precedent to move boundaries as well, but I don't know what the impetus was for that change.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby tabletop » May 2nd, 2014, 8:39 pm

I heard from someone who works in Dinkytown that the building/buildings that house Al's Breakfast were or are in the process of being sold to opus and that after their lease is up it will not be renewed. If it's true, it will be a sad nail in the coffin....

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Snelbian » May 3rd, 2014, 9:00 am

Al's is always going to be torn down next Tuesday because developers hate Dinkytown and puppies and rainbows. I'll believe the anti-change boogeyman is actually here when I see it.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Silophant » May 3rd, 2014, 12:16 pm

Yep. I've heard that a million times, and it always turns out that the guy who owns Green Mill still does own the Espresso Royale and Al's buildings, and still loves Al's and won't let it go anywhere. Honestly, that would have been one of the benefits of the Doran hotel - It would have made the Al's-Espresso Royale-Café 421 section of the block too narrow to accommodate the largish type of floorplan that developers are doing, and thus would have saved them, at least until Dinkytown densified a lot more.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby TheUrbanGopher » May 4th, 2014, 9:34 am

"If Al's is ever on the chopping block, I will physically stand in front of the bulldozer."

-Literally everybody

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby ECtransplant » May 4th, 2014, 1:26 pm

As a transplant who could never understand what's so special about Dinkytown (in fact I rather detest it), part of me hopes Al's gets the "chopping block" just to see the tizzy everyone gets in

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Silophant » May 4th, 2014, 1:28 pm

Never been to Al's, have you?

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby FISHMANPET » May 4th, 2014, 1:46 pm

For what it's worth, if the guy that runs Al's wants to retire and nobody wants to take it over, as sad as I'd be, I'd also be OK with losing the building. It's really kind of a wretched space that only gets its charm from being Al's and I don't think you could replicate that with another restaurant, and I don't see a reason to preserve it as a museum. Take the counter out and put it to good use, but no reason to preserve the building itself.

As to the charm of Dinkytown, unless you went to the U I don't think you'll understand it. The Loring and the Varsity theater are nice, but most of it's just bland turn of the century or later commercial buildings, and I don't think they hold any great value in and of themselves. The charm of Dinkytown is in the connection someone makes with it during their time at the U.

And that's the scariest part about trying to "preserve" Dinkytown. Dinkytown is always changing to serve the needs of the community. The Dinkytown of right now is different from the Dinkytown of when I started at the U as a freshman in 2005 is different from the Dinkytown of 10 years before that etc etc. If we pick a point in time and say that is the "proper" point of time to freeze Dinkytown, we're in fact destroying part of what makes Dinkytown so robust. It's rather arrogant to pick a point and say that the experiences felt by people at that point in time are the "correct" ones and should be preserved, at the expense of future people developing their own experiences and attachments to Dinkyktown.

It's kind of the general ambivalence I feel towards historic preservation in general, only amplified. Everything that's now old was once new. Every building we have now displaced something else, be it undeveloped land or another building. When historic preservation is used as a way to protect the look or feel of a neighborhood, rather than to protect something with actual historical significance, it becomes arrogance of the highest order. Who are we to say that what's now is "peak character" and can never be surpassed? In these cases, what's here now is surely an improvement of what was there before, so who is to say that what replaces the current form won't be better than what the current form replaced?

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby EOst » May 4th, 2014, 1:59 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:The Loring and the Varsity theater are nice, but most of it's just bland turn of the century or later commercial buildings, and I don't think they hold any great value in and of themselves.
I think their value mostly comes from the fact that there are relatively few others left in any of the commercial nodes of the city, and especially the nice ones. They're nothing special architecturally, but I think it's important to preserve at least occasional glimpses of the past.
FISHMANPET wrote:Who are we to say that what's now is "peak character" and can never be surpassed?
Show me one of those rundown 1960s-style three-story apartments around town that shows character. ;)

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby FISHMANPET » May 4th, 2014, 2:16 pm

EOst wrote: I think their value mostly comes from the fact that there are relatively few others left in any of the commercial nodes of the city, and especially the nice ones. They're nothing special architecturally, but I think it's important to preserve at least occasional glimpses of the past.
I don't think there's a unanimous agreement that, the Camdi building for example, represents a unique vernacular with very few examples left in the city. There are dozens of streetcar commercial nodes around the city, and they've all got this same kind of buildings.
EOst wrote: Show me one of those rundown 1960s-style three-story apartments around town that shows character. ;)
Define "character." And I'm serious. What does it mean, especially in this context. Is "character" defined as "architecture that is currently deemed pleasant and attractive looking?" I think the two and a half story walkup represents a mid century architectural vernacular, as a practical method of providing inexpensive multi-family housing. Proponents of preservation like to make parallels to Urban Renewal, saying that tearing down old buildings for new development is the same thing as Urban Renewal, tearing down old functional buildings to replace with new modern crap. The thing is, 50 years ago we thought turn of the century architecture was garbage and crap, and needed to be replaced with something modern. And here we are now saying a 60s apartment block is garbage and crap and has no character. And 50 years from now we're going to say that the six story stick built apartment building is going to be crap and has no character. But here we are, and turn of the century buildings are 100 years old, and we're rushing to preserve them. Mid century architecture is coming back into favor. Whose to say that in 75 years we won't look on whats being now and start to come around to it? It's the cycle of architecture. I think it's impossible to point at any architectural style and say "this has been universally loved its entire lifecycle" because that's just not true.

Character is such a wiggle word. What does it mean? How can you define it? Is there a rubric I can take to a neighborhood to figure out if it has character or not? And if there isn't, how can we legislate character? How can we zone for character? How can we preserve character if we can't define it? Does a place have character because people like it? Should we just preserve something if some people like it, even if someone else has a different view? What if someone else would like what comes next? Why doesn't their opinion count?

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Snelbian » May 5th, 2014, 7:32 am

FISHMANPET wrote: It's kind of the general ambivalence I feel towards historic preservation in general, only amplified. Everything that's now old was once new. Every building we have now displaced something else, be it undeveloped land or another building. When historic preservation is used as a way to protect the look or feel of a neighborhood, rather than to protect something with actual historical significance, it becomes arrogance of the highest order. Who are we to say that what's now is "peak character" and can never be surpassed? In these cases, what's here now is surely an improvement of what was there before, so who is to say that what replaces the current form won't be better than what the current form replaced?
Yup. I think my archaeologist's training helps inoculate me against the shock of built environments changing. No historic urban center is preserved all that well from age to age. I mean, nobody would really want to live in buildings from Roman Rome or 18th century Paris. The iconic architecture that's appreciated so much is what replaced it in massive reconstruction and reorientation of neighborhoods that made them better (and often much more uniform in appearance, or as people would say now "cookie cutter").

Change happens. Deal.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby EOst » May 5th, 2014, 7:52 am

FISHMANPET wrote:I don't think there's a unanimous agreement that, the Camdi building for example, represents a unique vernacular with very few examples left in the city. There are dozens of streetcar commercial nodes around the city, and they've all got this same kind of buildings.
Less the Camdi building (which is charming but undistinguished) than the Loring building, say, which is one of the nicer old buildings remaining in a nice streetcar node.
FISHMANPET wrote:Define "character." And I'm serious. What does it mean, especially in this context. Is "character" defined as "architecture that is currently deemed pleasant and attractive looking?" I think the two and a half story walkup represents a mid century architectural vernacular, as a practical method of providing inexpensive multi-family housing. Proponents of preservation like to make parallels to Urban Renewal, saying that tearing down old buildings for new development is the same thing as Urban Renewal, tearing down old functional buildings to replace with new modern crap. The thing is, 50 years ago we thought turn of the century architecture was garbage and crap, and needed to be replaced with something modern. And here we are now saying a 60s apartment block is garbage and crap and has no character. And 50 years from now we're going to say that the six story stick built apartment building is going to be crap and has no character. But here we are, and turn of the century buildings are 100 years old, and we're rushing to preserve them. Mid century architecture is coming back into favor. Whose to say that in 75 years we won't look on whats being now and start to come around to it? It's the cycle of architecture. I think it's impossible to point at any architectural style and say "this has been universally loved its entire lifecycle" because that's just not true.

Character is such a wiggle word. What does it mean? How can you define it? Is there a rubric I can take to a neighborhood to figure out if it has character or not? And if there isn't, how can we legislate character? How can we zone for character? How can we preserve character if we can't define it? Does a place have character because people like it? Should we just preserve something if some people like it, even if someone else has a different view? What if someone else would like what comes next? Why doesn't their opinion count?
Of course a lot of this is going to come down to "I know it when I see it"--and that's precisely the point.

Look, I'm a fan of modern architecture, probably as much as anyone here. But I don't think we can make urbanism decisions based purely on numbers and metrics. Think about Penn Station in NY, the demolition that arguably gave birth to the historic preservation movement; on the numbers, that was an excellent trade. Instead of an expensive-to-maintain old train station, New York got a somewhat larger (if, in retrospect, very poorly designed) station and an entertainment center on top. Of course, virtually no-one thinks that was a good trade anymore, and that's because the aesthetic and historical value of having places like old Penn Station trumps the rational value of increased building.

Imagine you had an opportunity to tear down a block of Greenwich Village 3- and 4-story buildings and replace them with a 50-story high-rise development which included affordable housing and ground-level retail. Is that a good trade? Certainly there'd be plenty of the historic Greenwich Village left, so it'd be hard to argue that would be the death of the area, but still, would you be okay with that trade? How about if it were an area of equivalently dense 1960s apartments?

I sometimes wonder if there isn't a "break the seal" effect with these kinds of demolitions; if you can get a permit to demolish one in an area, it becomes easier to justify demolishing the others in turn. Every time an old building is demolished, the "historic character" of the neighborhood is diminished and the argument for district-wide preservation becomes that much weaker. I know this is basically a slippery slope argument, but I don't think it's entirely invalid.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby talindsay » May 5th, 2014, 3:06 pm

EOst wrote:Show me one of those rundown 1960s-style three-story apartments around town that shows character. ;)
Everybody wants to hate on mid-century modernism. I'm more a defender of Brutalism than of other mid-century styles, mainly because it's so incredibly maligned, but I think architecture, like names, goes through a strange evolution where first it's trendy, then it's normal, then it's boring, then it makes you think of your parents, then it makes you think of your cranky old-timey grandparents, then it becomes nostalgic, then it becomes trendy again.

That's not to say that I don't appreciate the fact that mid-century architecture is directly tied with the suburbanization of America, which was bad for cities and resulted in poor urban form. Those apartments you point out are more likely to represent bad urbanism than other styles, both older and newer, and one should not be equivocal about architecture and its influence on the built environment. But regarding "character", sure, we'll eventually find them precious and worth restoring.
Last edited by talindsay on May 5th, 2014, 3:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby FISHMANPET » May 5th, 2014, 3:20 pm

I love Brutalism as an aesthetic, the problem is that they tend to suck at interacting with the outside. But then again, in some ways that can be the point. Some brutalist buildings, especially those on college campuses, were built to deter student uprisings and protests. So in that regard it can be seen as a vernacular architecture as well.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Nathan » May 5th, 2014, 4:18 pm

I feel in most cases it would be easy to respect the period architecture of mid century buildings and add on to them in a way that fronts the street much better. So many buildings I think, just pop a restaurant space on the front of that and it would be awesome! or build separate entrances to each of those units in the set back, and it would be soooo much better, like town homes.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Didier » May 22nd, 2014, 2:11 pm

Two fairly large retail spaces on 14th Avenue are now home to leasing offices for the Marshall and the Venue. I don't know Dinkytown well enough to know what they replaced, but I think one of the spaces used to be (at least partially) a middle eastern restaurant.

Also, I noticed the other day that the Mesa Pizza on University had paper over its windows. It appeared the paper was gone today, though, so maybe just some minor remodeling? Mesa now has a second location in the Stadium Village strip mall as well. It's hard to visit the new location (or the Uptown location, for that matter) and say that they have the same "character" as Dinkytown, but that's for another day, I suppose.

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby Nick » June 21st, 2014, 5:52 pm

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Re: Dinkytown

Postby lordmoke » June 26th, 2014, 1:04 pm



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