Will Uptown’s new stores and restaurants bring “more people and excitement”?
On the rooftop terrace of the new Arts & Rec restaurant in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood, two servers in training enjoyed Doritos-beaten burgers and “fried fish.”
On the other side of the street, the guests were having lunch on the roof of Stella. Three other places nearby – Sooki & Mimi, Black Walnut Bakery and La La Ice Cream – are hot new destinations for foodies.
“People come to Uptown if you give them a place to go,” said Sam Ankin, co-founder of Northpond Partners, the Chicago developer that bet big on the Uptown neighborhood by buying the mall formerly known as from Calhoun Square.
Prior to 2020, Uptown struggled with a broader shift in retail and lost several national retail chains. Then came the pandemic, damage in the riots after the police killing of George Floyd and the police shooting of Winston Smith in an Uptown parking lot. More businesses left and parts of the neighborhood remained blocked for longer.
But this weekend, the Uptown Art Fair resumes for the first time since 2019, and there are other signs the neighborhood is coming back to life.
In the heart of Uptown’s Hennepin and Lake intersection, Calhoun Square is now called Seven Points and is moving in a new direction with more independent businesses such as Arts & Rec and the construction of a seven-story apartment building .
Ankin and other developers envision a more eclectic and residential downtown, shaped by local rather than national shops and restaurants. And they aim for art spaces that will be unique.
A planned concert hall for the Uptown Theater space should also be a draw.
Developer Ned Abdul, who was behind the Armory Downtown’s transformation into an events space, said construction is underway and the 2,500-capacity venue should be open by now. next March. The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission will review the plans on Wednesday.
The theater’s iconic 60-foot sign that says “UPTOWN” will remain.
“We’re really excited to bring more people and vibrancy to this neighborhood with 50 to 75 events a year,” Abdul said.
The owners have worked with the community and the police to ensure public safety. Since the 2020 riots, Uptown has also been the scene of repeated “intersection takeovers” by street runners. Business and building owners have partnered with the We Push for Peace organization to put ambassadors on the streets and defuse potential conflicts.
“Activity and people are the best solution for public safety, lots of people on the streets, lots of activity,” Ankin said.
Real estate watchers point to strong occupancy data, proximity to affluent neighborhoods and the chain of lakes as drivers of demand for downtown businesses.
The average apartment vacancy rate was 4% in the first quarter, down from 4.5% a year earlier in the Minneapolis subdistrict that includes Uptown, according to Marquette Advisors. The average rent was $1,479 during the first quarter, up 8.4% from a year ago.
“Hopefully this is an opportunity for fresh new retail businesses and restaurants to come in because you have occupancy,” said Stefanie Meyer, vice president/manager of Mid-America Real Estate. .
Construction of 272 apartments at Seven Points is set to begin in October, an effort that will cost Northpond and its Minneapolis-based partner, Doran Cos, $150 million. Plans are also underway for 130 affordable apartments on the vacant land east of Seven. Points, says Ankin.
Award-winning chef James Beard Ann Kim of nearby Sooki & Mimi consults Seven Points on finding a 10,000 square foot market, with everyday items as well as unique options. A larger format was declined due to the logistics involved, such as loading challenges, and due to the presence of Cub Foods and Lunds & Byerlys in the blocks.
Ben Graves, whose Uptown-based Graves Hospitality is behind Arts & Rec as well as the Moxy Hotel and Tasting Room in Uptown, says activity in the area is similar to that in Chelsea in Manhattan.
“Chelsea was artsy, a bit gritty and all of a sudden all the big boxes moved in and H&M and then those didn’t really work as well,” Graves said. “Now you see a lot of unique things opening up at Chelsea. And I think Uptown is akin to that.”
While the Arts & Rec rooftop opens on Friday, a much larger art-themed restaurant will be unveiled in the fall and will take up space on the Lake Street side of Seven Points. The concept was born after a group of artists approached Graves to collaborate.
He describes Arts & Rec as a “cutting edge entertainment venue with everything from a rooftop bar, black box theater, speakeasy, and immersive artist-designed mini-golf.”
“Now owners are looking for unique creative options that will succeed in the community, closer to what people thought of Uptown over the years,” Graves said.