29.5.07

Lake Street in a Day -- Part 3

For the purposes of this blog (and the walk), the third and final stretch of Lake Street runs from Interstate 35-W all the way to Lake Calhoun. This is the stretch of the street that most people know about, the part with all the good restaurants, new condos, fancy stores, and thriving streetlife. But to tell you the truth, for the first half of the street, practically up to Grand Avenue, Lake St. West doesn't seem that different from Lake St. Center. There is, for example, a large (outdoor) Somali (strip) Mall just off the street where you can walk around and browse wares from all over the world. Here's a shot of a curtain-selling storefront where "Romantic Houseful" curtains were stacked like bricks. I took a picture of them and a Somali woman came out of the store and started giving me the third degree. I don't think I was able to explain to her what urban geography was... How do you say 'irony' in Somali?

But as soon as you pass Grand Avenue (Dulono's Pizza & The Yukon Club) and draw near to Lyndale, the street tranforms into a yuppie paradise. Bill's Imported Foods stands across the street from the couple-year old City Apartments, about which I have roughly 60/40 love/hate feelings. The buildings are all new, and all the same size and age, but they make the Las Vegas-ian attempt to appear to be different, sporting one of four different facade/balcony/trip combinations as one walks down the block. I guess its better than nothing, and I'm generally pro-condo despite their obvious flaws. As I've been trying to point out during this three-part series, there are tons of open spaces along Lake Street that could be filled in with some sort of housing/retail mix. (Just next door to this condo, they're doing just that with an old gas station site.)

As you draw closer to Hennepin Lake Street changes from a two way to a one way street as it splits with Lagoon. This is something that I never really understood, as it increases the speed of traffic along the most pedestrian-rich part of the avenue. (What, people need to get to Lund's at 45 m.p.h.?) There's some sort of construction project going on here, too, about which I plead ignorance. Interesting to note that, even here only two blocks from Calhoun Square (another interesting topic) there's a Car-X auto repair shop that takes up an entire block...

Finally getting to Uptown proper (the corner of Lake & Hennepin), I noticed a number of changes... First, a new Thai Restaurant was opening up where Panera Bread had opened up less than a year prior; here's the guy actually stenciling the restaurant's hours onto the door. Now I know that a) most restaurants don't last very long, and b) Panera Bread kind of sucks, but shouldn't Panera make money here? Maybe Uptowners are getting tired of chain stores... (Haha. Not!)

Or are they? Calhoun Square isn't actually that successful, and on top of it, the Gap (@ Hennepin & Lake) has closed, along with American Eagle, to be replaced with a new American Apparel outlet. Now, I don't understand the appeal of this last (Wow, a red T-shirt!), but there's very little that warms my heart more than a faded gap in the blue paint where the Gap logo used to be (pictured at right). Am I a snob? Very well, then, I'm a snob. But I'm really intrigued by the kind of chain ordinances with which Grand Avenue has recently been toying. Are they right for Uptown or Lake Street? Probably not. There's so much space on this street, and its potential as a walkable commercial corridor is pretty high, that there's plenty of potential Panera nooks and Gap gaps. (BTW The Gap's been seeing hard times lately, not just in Mpls, but sales are down across the country.)

Anyway, my walk down Lake Street was satisfying, not just because I got to dip my toes into Lake Calhoun on a windy day in early summer, but because walking down the entire length of this vital Minneapolis street really gives you a sense of the continuity of the city, of all the different populations that make up our
urban fabric, and the way that negihborhoods subtly change between them. At the same time, Lake Street is undergoing a gradual shift from an auto-oriented service "strip" to a pedestrian-friendly shopping street. Its not there yet, but someday Lake Street will really be the heart of Minneapolis.

2 comments:

Jeremy said...

I enjoyed your 3 part Lake Street blog. I live 7 blocks south of Lake and work on Lake and Hiawatha.

I too wish the ratty car dealerships would leave, but they must be making money, so why would they.

Anonymous said...

The Lake Street construction project finishes on the west side of the street. They are there this year, and will be again in '08.