What Happened at Calhoun Square and by Whom

By | February 8, 2021
Dump Ray Harris!

Calhoun Square was considered the BEST project ever proposed for the City of Minneapolis by the proponents! The opponents considered Calhoun Square the WORST project ever proposed for the City of Minneapolis. The proponents and opponents heatedly argued the merits of this development for five years. Who were they and why? As I remember:

The Opponents –

  • Trilby and Anders Christenson – Preservationists and Anti- Developers. Rabid advocates of doing nothing! Barbara Flanagan filled her columns debating the Christensons and did a great job of neutralizing them.
  • Mary Ann Pittman – very articulate but, in my opinion, her main concern was losing the school site as a place for her beautiful Irish Setter dog to relieve itself
  • Walter Dziedzic (Minneapolis Alderman, policeman, and from a hockey family) – “Calhoun Square is a great project but I’m against it because I don’t like Alderman Sally Howard – in whose ward Calhoun Square is located.”
  • Pat Fleetham – Owner of nearby Fleetham Furniture

The opponents are far fewer than the proponents but many times noisier.

The Proponents – Our development team recruited supporters from each of the adjacent resident associations.

  • East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO)
    • Neal Gustafson, Cari Dewall, and Bob Hentges
  • Calhoun Area Resident Action Group (CARAG)
    • Juanita and Stan Bernard
  • The Wedge – Lowry Hill East
    • Greg and Lorraine Scott, Mary Ellen Grika
  • Public Employees
    • Mike Brinda – Our connection to City Hall
  • Mike Monahan – The Traffic Guru – The problem solver
  • Barbara Flanagan – an advocate of neighborhood and urban development, pedestrians, outside dining, reducing the emphasis on automobiles – she loved Calhoun Square!
  • Mayor Donald Fraser and Alderman Sally Howard – a Democrat and Republican working together whenever needed – wouldn’t have happened without their support!
  • Private Sector Supporters (most memorable)
    • Phil Roberts – creator of Figlios – one of the best restaurants on the globe – half of which exceeded the noise levels at Target Field and half of which was for us “old codgers”
    • Greg Greffin (Greffin Jewelers) an original and loyal tenant
    • Gibson Carrothers (creator of Tenants) Sox Appeal and Boxer Men’s Underwear

Only in Uptown – Since its inception, Calhoun Square became the place where the unexpected was the norm. It was risque, unique, a leader in trends, and certainly, daring in its promotion and marketing. Marketing Directors such as Jayne Haugen Olson (recognize the name?) and Dali Wiederhoft became very creative sponsoring:

  • Annual wine tasting events
  • Originating the annual coffee festivals
  • Sponsoring a spectacular chocolate festival
  • Sponsoring a Garlic festival featuring Garlic Ice Cream (you didn’t miss anything!)
  • Sponsoring a Kemps Ice Cream event complete with the Kemps Holstein Cow which was led across the Hennepin and Lake intersection by Yours truly! (Yes, the cow was followed by a man and a large bag) Drivers in autos and pedestrians were understandably shocked.
  • Encouraging every conceivable peaceful protest to terminate at Calhoun Square.
  • Collaborating with Cari Dewall and the Hennepin and Lake Improvement Association (HLIA soon to be Uptown Association) on annual efforts to improve and expand the nationally famous Uptown Art Fair.
  • Becoming the termination point for the annual Wirth Ski Loppet – the World’s largest warming house!

Problem Solving

Uptown/Calhoun Square was always at the forefront of risk-taking and then a leader at problem solving.

  • “It doesn’t snow in Uptown.” Recognizing that every property owner doesn’t remove snow promptly or at all, legislation for an Uptown Special Service District was created (with assistance of the Faegre Law Firm and, particularly, Bob Hentges) in order to remove Uptown snow as soon as one inch of snow had fallen – and charge all property owners prorata.
  • “Don’t place benches in Calhoun Square. You will encourage loitering and sleeping.” The police counseled the planners. We put benches everywhere! People sat on the benches, chattered and seniors even relaxed for a few minutes!
  • Pornography in Calhoun Square. One of our prized tenants carried some obviously suggestive greeting cards. In order to avoid likely litigation, the new lease between Calhoun Square and the tenant gave absolute discretion to the landlord as to the definition of pornography and how it was interpreted.
  • Security in Calhoun Square/Uptown. In order to avoid security issues, the Minneapolis Police were prepared to be firm and proactive! Uptown and Calhoun Square management preferred and adopted a much more relaxed and community managed approach. Police Chief Tony Bouza concurred – The community approach succeeded! A great working relationship resulted between the police and private security!
  • Parking for Calhoun Square and Uptown. A multilevel parking facility with five hundred plus parking spaces was included in the Calhoun Square development. Aided by the almost miraculous management by the Sanders family of Loop Parking, the usage of the parking facility set all kinds of records – even using each space 10 times each day during the holiday seasons. We did not allocate spaces for monthly parking and narrowed each space by a few inches (in order to increase the total number of spaces, and hired off duty police to speed up the entry and exit – but we were still unable to keep up with the parking demand! Call it unforgettable success!

Return to main article – Uptown and Calhoun Square

Part 1 – Liquor Patrol Limits Law

Part 2 – The Calhoun Square Planning and Development Process