What’s broken?

The vertical tower of neon light hovering above the historic Uptown Theater has been a bit darker recently, but it might soon be fully illuminated again, according to theater management.

The bulbs that light up the entrance’s canopy are still gleaming at night, but many of the bulbs that adorn the neighborhood’s iconic Uptown marquee lie dormant due to old electrical wiring.

“We’re not ignoring it. It’s just that it’s not as easy as you would think to fix it,” said Mike Wills, manager of the theater.

Wills said fixing up the theater’s outdoor lighting has been an ongoing issue for two years and has been difficult to correct because the electrical wiring inside the 50-foot tower is nearly a century old.

“It’s an old building. It is what it is. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort to fix something like this,” Wills said.

“The problem is that the design of the building is such that you have to go up on top of the marquee to actually reset the breakers when they go out,” Wills explained. “I have to call somebody in and, like a lot of technicians, they don’t just drop what they’re doing and come over.”

Some theater patrons have noticed the lack of illumination from Uptown’s towering identifier in recent years.

Carroll Rasch has been loyal to the Uptown Theater since the summer of 1966 when he first moved to the area. The 65-year-old St. Louis Park man said he had fond memories of dates with his wife inside the art moderne-style theater.

“I remember going back to the good old days,” Rasch said. “I saw all those Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films there on the big screen.”

Rasch said he was pleased to see an effort to relight the Uptown marquee and wished Landmark Theatres, the chain that operates the theater, would even restore the beacon light that once whirled around the very top. But Wills said he didn’t anticipate that part to ever work again:

“Obviously it’s 70 feet in the air and I haven’t been up there to take a look, but I think we’re kind of taking it one step at a time.”


If you see something broken on the streets, or notice some other nuisance issue in the neighborhoods that needs to be resolved, please let us know. We’ll spotlight the problem in the newspaper and at www.southwestjournal.com. We’ll work to get it fixed and identify who is responsible for addressing the problem.

Reach us by e-mail at smckenzie@mnpubs.com, via fax at 825-0929, or by mail to 1115 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55403.

What’s broken?

The graffiti-covered former Rex Hardware building and a neighboring home at 26th Street & Lyndale Avenue could be demolished this month to make way for a mixed-use project approved more than a year ago.

The demolition would bring relief to neighbors who have grown frustrated with the building’s deteriorating state.

“Anything to improve (the site) would be an improvement to the neighborhood as far as I’m concerned,” said Moe Emard, co-owner of the CC Club across the street.

Hopkins-based SMJ Investments co-owns the property with Lynn Gordon, owner of nearby French Meadow Bakery. The $5.8 million condo and retail project hit a snag in securing financing causing construction to be delayed.

Joel Norling, of SMJ, said the company visits the property regularly to clean graffiti, but it’s been a constant battle.

“I know there’s a lot of people that are ready to have those two pieces of property cleared,” he said. “It’s quite an eyesore, but we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances.”

The old Rex Hardware store is currently nothing more than an empty storefront guarded by two sheets of graffiti-marked plywood. But plans to demolish the building and redevelop the property are moving forward, developers said.

“Living Green,” an eco-friendly home supply store would occupy the first floor of the new three-and-a-half story building. Whittier Green of Uptown, a 16-unit condominium, would assume the top floors.

Construction should begin at the end of April and continue through the end of the year, according to construction manager George Barr. Residents would begin moving into the new condos by mid-December, he said.

After Rex Hardware closed over two years ago, Gordon bought the property. She then sold the property to SMJ Investments, but kept control of the first-floor retail space — the future location of her envisioned natural home store. SMJ Investments is now partnering with Gordon to redevelop the property.

The plans, which have been underway for more than a year, have been through nearly all the city processes and met the scrutiny of neighborhood associations. Todd Knutson, the project’s architect, said the neighborhood’s suggestions and feedback were influential in drafting the design and layout of the building.

Still, some area residents and business owners said they’re not thrilled about the prospects of the new building.

“These developers — the buildings that they’ve done in the past have been very boring, kind of like the sorts of things that you would see in the suburbs or something,” said Mark Trehus, owner of nearby Treehouse Records. “It’s going to block out the sun coming in the window from the south for us, so it’s going to be a little darker (inside my store).”

Others were just pleased that the abandoned property would get a makeover and some much-needed attention.

That issue was expected to be resolved soon, developers said.

“It’s been difficult to secure financing because of all the skepticism and attitude towards new construction, especially in condos. So that’s why it has taken so long to get this thing up and running,” Norling said.

Steve Courtney, of Courtney Real Estate Group, which represents the project, said there was some confusion about using out-of-country assets as collateral.

“There was a presumption [developers] could use those assets [as leverage]” Courtney said. “I’m 99 percent sure the bank will give a green light, but until I hear it with my own ears … I’m playing it safe.”

Courtney said there has been a lot of interest in the prospective condo units, which start at $223,000. He said four of the 16 units are already reserved and once the developers are covered on funding, he would start sending out the purchase agreements.

“It should be any day now that we’ll start the project again. I can’t wait to knock that thing down,” Knutson said.

If you see something broken on the streets, or spot some other nuisance issue in the neighborhoods that needs to be resolved, please let us know. We’ll spotlight the problem in the newspaper and at southwestjournal.com. We’ll work to get it fixed and identify who is responsible for addressing the problem.

Reach us by e-mail at smckenzie@mnpubs.com, via fax at 825-0929, or by mail to 1115 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55403.