Uptown and Calhoun Square

By | February 16, 2021

In writing about Minneapolis I have so many stories surging around in my noggin that, so far, I have been providing random stories about our city. However, there is usually a connection, a relationship between most of which happens/happened. This is true about the Uptown Story. The stories in this blog will connect history, the development process and the fascinating planned and unplanned events that have characterized Uptown and the people responsible.

Three events, proposed by different Minneapolis governmental agencies, were responsible for the focus on development of Uptown/Hennepin and Lake.

  1. Termination of the little known Liquor Patrol Limits Law.
  2. The Minneapolis School Board, having closed Calhoun Elementary school, desired to sell and put the site back on the tax rolls.
  3. The Minneapolis Planning Department desired to encourage commercial development at its busiest commercial intersections – Hennepin Ave. and Lake St., being the first and, hopefully, a model for all of the other Minneapolis commercial areas.

Click on the links below for each story:

Liquor Patrol Limits Law

The Calhoun Square Planning and Development Process

What happened at Calhoun Square and by Whom

The Climax/Signing all of the Documents

The final chapter in this abbreviated version of the Calhoun Square Five year development saga was “The Closing” – the signing of hundreds of documents required before construction could begin. Due to the expiration of several tax laws at the end of 1982, the closing was scheduled for December 28, 1982. Unscheduled for that day was a huge snowstorm which proceeded to shut down EVERYTHING! Obviously no closing! The Closing was rescheduled for December 30, 1982 with no possibility to reschedule or cancel.

Another huge snowstorm descended on December 30th. Participants in the closing, lawyers, elected public officials, representatives of the lenders were seen skiing, snow shoeing, or walking to the meeting place – an entire floor of the Dorsey Law Office. The meeting began as scheduled at 10am and continued all night (we covered the clocks) and concluded at 4 pm on December 31st.

During the 30 hour closing, two obstacles arose that could have stalled the closing – stopping everything, missing the deadline and ending Calhoun Square.

  1. A change was necessary in the 95 year lease documents. Approval was needed from Norman Ackerberg – the property owner. The problem was that Norman was on vacation in rural Mexico – it was in the middle of the night and the telephone operators did not speak English – it finally and barely happened!
  2. In case of project failure, the School Board insisted that the school site be returned to the School District. The lenders resisted. A middle of the night School Board meeting was proposed to resolve the impasse. Finally Lou Demars, president of the Minneapolis City Council, was able to intercede and solve the problem.

At 4 pm, on December 31st, 1982, all problems, obstacles, real and imagined were overcome. Calhoun Square construction began soon thereafter! Calhoun Square was immediately successful!

That is the short version of the Calhoun Square/Uptown Story. Perhaps writing a book is in order.