UD Moves to NE for a New Urban Experience

Artist's rendering of the new Grain Belt apartments, with the old brewery in the background.
Artist rendering of the Grain Belt apartments with the old brewery in the background.

UD welcomes a new apartment, new neighborhood and new NE Minneapolis!

After an enjoyable 18 months as North Loop residents, John and I will be moving on to our next urban living experience this coming week: Northeast Minneapolis.  The old Grain Belt brewery complex is beckoning us with the larger unit, more picturesque view and quieter, residential neighborhood experience that we’ve been craving.  One of the adventures of renting in an urban area with so much rental construction is having the option to live a slightly nomadic existence, trying out new neighborhoods and different types of apartment homes.

Last evening, we met friends for pizza and drinks at Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lodge, walked the neighborhood for a bit after and finally landed on the lush and lovely patio of Mojo Coffee Gallery in the California Building. (Delightful cup of cappuccino, by the way!)  Having lived in NE Minneapolis about 10 years ago, when it was first designated an “arts district” by the city, it was fun to reflect on the growth and changes in the neighborhood since then.

The northeast I knew 10 years ago was still populated by descendants of some the neighborhood’s original eastern European immigrants.  Churches were still sponsoring community events, in fact, I still have and use some of the hand-embroidered sack cloth towels I bought at a church bake sale, around the corner from the home I was living in at the time.  Art was just getting going in the neighborhood and Art-a-Whirl was starting to gain popularity.

What was awesome about living in the area back then was that there was some type of art gallery opening or event almost every weekend.  Attending these became a wonderful pastime to share with my daughter, who was 12 or 13 at the time.  Some of the galleries were located in spaces that had been long abandoned by industry, making them equally entertaining viewing, next to the art being featured.

Psycho Suzie’s was a much smaller prospect at that time. It was located in an old drive-in restaurant which is the present location of what I call Psycho Suzie’s II: Betty Danger’s.  Back then, the patio looked a lot like their present tiki bar, which feels like Gilligan’s Island, and the interior that always made me expect to meet Jack Lord in an episode of Hawaii 5-0. The bouncer, I remember fondly, as a tough but slight-of-build British biker gent, who, despite his diminutive size, kept everyone in line and managed an extremely tight parking lot. Like most people, I loved the blatant cheesiness of the whole thing, along with the amazing pizza the establishment still serves today.  The present Psycho Suzie’s location was a sports bar I frequented with friends, to munch fries over a beer and play an occasional game of pool.

It’s a new NE for me, and I’m very much looking forward to getting to know it, and my new neighbors.  UD welcomes your input on places to go and things to do in what has become the number one rated art’s district in the US!

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The North Loop Move: Our Transition to a Simpler Life

A lap top computer open on a table in a community living room.
A lap top computer open on a table in a community living room.

Lynn’s  new virtual office in the Solhavn Living Room.

Six weeks has passed since John and I loaded up our remaining downsized possessions, left our beloved Lowertown apartment in the Cosmopolitan and migrated to Solhavn, a new residential building located in the emerging Minneapolis North Loop neighborhood.  Exciting, adventurous, exhausting and scary, we’ve learned a few things by making the transition to a simpler, more streamlined existence.

1. It’s easier to see what matters. As our sporty Mazda 3 rolled away and the leather sofa was carted off, what remained were the positive impressions of the people we had sold them to and the fact that we had each other.  No matter how difficult we thought it might have felt to let go of our “stuff” we realized that waking up together was the most important thing.

2. Life is easier with less.  Coming from good German stock, and having the subsequent “everything-must-be-spotless gene” in spades, owning less furniture (we purged 13 pieces) means that I have less dusting to torment myself over each weekend.  Our home is furnished with comfortable essentials, minus the fussy surfaces that really didn’t serve us well and soaked up precious time in upkeep.  There are also far less under utilized sporting goods, clothing and housewares to store, dialing down the “my stuff/your junk” tension in our marriage.

3. Living close to work and interests and having good telecommute options, enhances daily life immeasurably. Traveling less between work, hobbies and home has made the stress level go down significantly in both our lives.  Even without  car ownership, I have a number of options available to me to travel the less than one mile to my company’s new office. On some of the dangerously cold days this winter, it’s been easy to set up my virtual office in the Solhavn living room.  John walks to the downtown studios to record commercials and we both hop the city bus with our skis in tow to take a quick 10 minute ride to the Wirth Park Chalet.  When summer arrives, our options will only increase with the Cedar Lake Bike Trail and Mississippi River Parkway at our doorstep and three Farmer’s Markets at which to shop.

4. People think we’re cool. One of the unexpected boons of downsizing, going carless and moving into a building and neighborhood that supports green living is that a number of people, from our friends and acquaintances, to my daughter and future son-in-law,  fawn over our choices.  Our building’s general manager shared with me last week that she told her mom the story  about our downsizing move to the building with the hope of inspiring her to do something similar.  Liv and her betrothed, both confirmed carless Chicago urbanites, revel in the idea of having less in order to live in a new building with cool, eco-amenities. They quiz us about our carsharing options and the building’s composting system when they visit.  All these kudos have us feeling like rock-star level urban hippies! (And we’re liking it!)

5. Doing something different is fun and inspiring!  Without a doubt, moving is an extremely stressful process.  But to John and I,  living a life devoid of adventure would be worse. Though we’ve only moved across town, the North Loop feels like a

A man and woman seated at a counter smiling.

Our first weekend in the North Loop we made friends at the counter of Mill City Cafe over Sunday brunch.

totally different planet than our old neighborhood.  People dress different, have different hobbies and interests (there are many more like-minded athletes in our new building) making the new friendships we’re forging interesting and exciting.  We’ve been so inspired by the change that we’ve volunteered to start a Yoga Club and an Urban Gardening Club in our residential building!

Change is hard, but has its rewards. Let the new adventure begin!

Lowertown Sunday Morning

Photo of the cafe paito with iron chairs and lush summer plants.

The heart of Lowertown, the Black Dog Cafe, where the baristas remember you and there were good friends to be met.

As John and I begin to sell furniture, sort belongings and pack boxes in the remaining  few months before our move to the Minneapolis North Loop, we are savoring our Lowertown Sunday morning ritual in a bittersweet fashion.  Our weekends for the past four years have been accented with Sunday meditation and a dharma talk at Clouds in Water Zen center, followed by coffee on the Black Dog Cafe patio and completed with a trip through the Farmer’s Market.

True, the neighborhood is much more populated and bustling than it was when we begin this routine, and yes, many of the familiar faces and neighbors we used to greet on those Sundays, have left for other neighborhoods which were more receptive to artistic creativity  and residential quiet.  But it is not without some pangs of sadness that we embrace our last autumn of this warm weather ritual.

Thus, we are dedicating this edition of Urban Deluxe to a Lowertown Sunday morning that will live

Photo of tomatoes lining a table at a farmer's market.

We have been told that there will be three Farmer’s Markets in the North Loop area, but we will still miss this one that was just outside our door.

on in our hearts and memories.  We share it with you in photographs.  Please share with us what you love about them, your own Lowertown experiences and anything else that moves you.  Enjoy.

Brick warehouse buildings with the sun shinning on them.

Lowertown’s beauty stems from its neglect. A forgotten neighborhood withstood the urban renewal of the 1970’s and we enjoy its beauty today in century old warehouses.

Yellow and purple mums planted in mounds in a flower bed.

A Sunday stroll in Mears Park yields views of a lovely fall garden by our friend and downtown business owner, Bill Hosko.

Urban Renewal Gets Personal

Photo of lyn and jon

When we decided to wed nearly three years ago, moving to my already established home in Downtown St. Paul seemed like a natural fit.  We loved the building, and the quiet urban center that was Lowertown was less than a mile from my post at the State Capitol.

But before long, the evenings we once enjoyed listening to the local jazz trumpeter playing in Mears Park next to the lapping brook were quickly replaced by a newly developed entertainment district’s sound-ordinance breaking speakers and young suburbanites shrieking at 1

a.m. while groping for their car keys on the sidewalk.

While we applauded the conversion of Union Depot back to its origins as a transportation hub, its renovation marked the beginning of summer after summer of jack hammers and madly beeping construction vehicles as a parade of apartment, condo buildings, and finally a new ballpark, shattered the daytime peace as well.

Mears Park had also become a magnent for every type of band, festival and wedding imaginable. We found ourselves compelled to leave our apartment several evenings each week during the summer due to the noise level.  Finally, we vacated a stunning fourth floor park view apartment halfway through our first lease for a quieter unit overlooking Fifth Street.

The “band” problem persists so heavily throughout Lowertown on an even larger scale now. A friend who lives in the Great Northern building believes the City of St. Paul has someone employed full-time to locate every potential band in the metro area so that they can be placed in some area of Lowertown each night of the week, with the intent to drive out its residents. Bands are now apparently disturbing her home life every Wednesday evening from the platform of the Union Depot.

It was becoming obvious that the once welcoming city neighborhood we loved wasn’t really interested in the fact that we could no longer sleep or work in our home.  It was more excited about attracting students and young professionals who wanted to watch a baseball game before hitting the tequila bar, and then enjoy the luxury of walking to an apartment to sleep off the hangover.

We knew we had to leave.  We also knew we loved urban life.   So we wondered: is it possible to live in an urban center and not have to use earplugs to get a good night’s sleep? Does every city have someone employed to find bands, install bars and hire screaming 20 year-olds to

Photo of Mears Park in Lowertown St. Paul

Lowertown St. Paul looking out onto Mears Park

plague its residents?  It may be a huge gamble, but we’re betting not.

We have discovered a unique, remote neighborhood at what we’re calling “the end” of the Minneapolis North Loop.  It was the building that attracted us first.  Sleek, Swedish and a model for green living that seemed to actually be feasible.  But when we discovered it was located on the far edge of downtown, close to both of our workplaces, and how the builder had been “sound conscious” in its construction (using the double-paned glass concept most large cities use for sound control in urban residential buildings), we thought we had a shot.

So, we’re sorting, selling, packing and praying that our little piece of urban heaven lies across the river.  We’ll keep you posted.