The Uptown Arby’s is Now Closed

With rumors swirling about the fate of the Wedge neighborhood’s most beloved fast food restaurant, I was present for the final hours of the Uptown Arby’s. Joined by four of my best Twitter friends, we ate curly fries and reminisced about the good times.

Employees confirmed that the Arby’s at 1116 West Lake Street is closing, and speculated about a new apartment building taking the place of the single-story drive-thru restaurant. A wistful young cashier spoke of the coworkers he won’t get to see anymore.

After learning of the news, former Mayor Betsy Hodges wondered whether the city might save the historic Arby’s cowboy hat signage.

Has anyone made an HPC application for the sign?

— Betsy Hodges (@BetsyHodges) January 29, 2018

Over the last year, the Uptown Arby’s has seen neighboring properties transformed. The former parking lot across the street has become Uptown’s only hotel — or what some residents loudly complain will be a sex hotel (the Star Tribune found photos on the hotel’s website featuring “half-dressed patrons jumping on beds”). One block to the west, on the site of a former single-story retail building, stands a new apartment building with a small-format Target store operating on the ground floor.

As we imagine what the future holds for this odd triangular patch of land, let’s take a look back at how Uptown’s geography has evolved over the years. In the mid-1960s, Lagoon Avenue was constructed north of Lake Street, cutting city blocks in half and creating what we know now as the “Arby’s Island” triangle.

1961: pre-Lagoon Ave

1970: Lagoon Ave splits Uptown blocks in half.

1974 with original Arby’s building and sign.

In the 1974 aerial photo, you can see the cowboy-hat-shaped shadow cast by the sign, as well as umbrella-covered outdoor seating on the south end of the building. The original structure, like other Arby’s restaurants at the time, was designed to look like a chuck-wagon — a covered wagon used to feed cowboys.

1989 Uptown Arby’s newspaper ad.

Promotional material from Wedge LIVE event held at Arby’s Island.

What’s the difference between a 62A and a 62B?

You may currently be hearing a lot about a couple of open and competitive Minnesota State House seats this year: 62A and 62B. If you’re like me, those numbers are geographically incomprehensible. You may be asking, what is the difference between a 62A and a 62B? Who is running in which of these districts? How can I get involved?

First, a brief explanation of district naming conventions. The “62” represents Senate District 62, which is one of 67 senate districts in Minnesota. The “A” and “B” come from dividing a senate district into two house districts. In this way, 67 senate districts are subdivided into 134 house districts.

But where are 62A and 62B? Use this tool to find your district and caucus locations. I expected to be able to find a good map showing exctly where these districts are, but strangely there’s nothing that puts them in context. So I had to make one. (Reader sent me this link to a map of House districts.)

  • 62A goes roughly from Lyndale Ave on the west to Hiawatha on the East; and from I-94 on the north, to Lake Street on the south.
  • 62B, as explained in this candidate write-up in the Southwest Journal “includes the Lyndale, Kingfield, Central, Bryant and Regina neighborhoods, most of Powderhorn Park and Field and a portion of Tangletown.”
Who is running in 62A?

62A candidate forum – Tuesday, January 30, 6:30 – 8:30 PM, Sabathani Community Center.

Who is running in 62B?
62B candidate forum – Friday, February 2, 6:30 – 8:30 PM, Sabathani Community Center.

DFL Caucus night is February 6. Caucuses are terrible, but you can be one of an exclusive few who decide which candidate is best positioned to win in November.

App Matches Minneapolis Politicians to Their Fine Art Dopplegängers

Google now has an app that will match your face to fine art. I have determined you can point your phone’s camera at a computer screen to match Minneapolis politicians to faces in old paintings. Disclaimer: much like DNA testing services provided by sites like, these results are not 100% genetically accurate.

Kevin Reich, Ward 1.

Cam Gordon, Ward 2.

Steve Fletcher, Ward 3.

Phillipe Cunningham, Ward 4.

Jeremiah Ellison, Ward 5.

Abdi Warsame, Ward 6.

Lisa Goodman, Ward 7.

Andrea Jenkins, Ward 8.

Alondra Cano, Ward 9.

Council President Lisa Bender, Ward 10.

Jeremy Schroeder, Ward 11.

Andrew Johnson, Ward 12.

Linea Palmisano, Ward 13.

Mayor Jacob Frey.
The ubiquitous unflattering Star Tribune photo of former Mayor Betsy Hodges shows a 50% genetic match to a boy playing the bagpipes.
Former City Council President Barb Johnson.

Former mayoral candidate Tom Hoch.
I tried to run the eerily human face of Andrew Johnson’s dog through the Google fine art machine, but it couldn’t find a match. However, Wedge LIVE computers calculate that Andrew Johnson’s dog is a 99% genetic match to a painting of an Ewok.

Billboard Proposal is “Rash That Won’t Go Away”

Update: New Ward 3 Council Member Steve Fletcher has confirmed that the billboard proposal is dead.

The mysteriously persistent proposal to allow more billboards in downtown Minneapolis has Planning Commissioner John Slack feeling as if he’d like to pour a bottle of antibiotics all over it:

For me this is like the rash that won’t go away. I don’t see how this supports any of the comprehensive plan goals, I don’t see how this improves livability in the downtown. All I see is negative and adverse effects.

As described by city staff person Steve Poor, “the ordinance is designed to allow for a robust building out of off-premise advertising” in areas of downtown near stadiums and along Hennepin and Washington Avenues. The proposal was unanimously rejected by the Planning Commission in September, with near-universal negative reaction from commissioners. In October, the proposal lacked the votes to pass the City Council’s Zoning & Planning Committee. Yet the plan came back stronger and more expansive in December.

Based on discussion at December’s meeting, the only Planning Commissioner willing to support it is Rebecca Gagnon, who failed to disclose that her daughter is a lobbyist for the company who would benefit most from the change. She afterwards provided a weak defense of her failure to recuse herself from the process.

In the time since I wrote about this last month, the Star Tribune editorial board has come out against the zoning change; city staff has further consulted with City Council members, including author Abdi Warsame and others who are no longer on the City Council; and a bunch of neighbors, previously unaware of the proposal, showed up to testify against it.

One of those neighbors is Joe Tamburino, Chair of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association. Tamburino said he spoke with the author of the zoning change, Abdi Warsame, at a retirement party for former Council President Barb Johnson. Warsame told Tamburino he doesn’t support the Washington Avenue expansion.

This raises a question I’ve had for a while: where is the political energy for this change coming from? It’s hard to find many who like the idea of more billboards downtown, and if you believe Joe Tamburino, even the nominal author of the change won’t support it entirely. There’s a confounding lack of transparency about exactly who on the City Council wants this and why.

Supporters of the plan like Barb Johnson and Warsame have been unable to articulate the public interest in easing the restriction on billboards, limiting their arguments to allowing companies like Blue Ox Media and Clear Channel to make more money from the upcoming Super Bowl in Minneapolis. (One might also speculate wildly, connecting the dots between Warsame and Johnson’s urgent arguments last October regarding the Super Bowl, and a leaked 2014 document detailing the Minneapolis Super Bowl Host Committee’s obligation to provide the NFL with 20 free billboards around the stadium, team hotels, and practice facilities.)

In order to give more chance for public feedback, the Planning Commission voted to delay a decision until the January 22 meeting.

Lisa Bender Expected to be Elected President of Minneapolis City Council

Commemorative shirt. Get yours today!

In the Minneapolis City Council’s virtual one party system it can be tough to know how election results translate to actual governing. This morning we get answers to some of the big questions lingering since last November’s election, setting the stage for the next four years.

Who will be elected City Council President? 

It’s very likely Lisa Bender will become Council President. The other candidate is Andrea Jenkins.

The public vote for president is traditionally unanimous once it becomes clear which candidate has majority support. Privately Bender has had seven of 13 votes secured for a while: incumbents Cam Gordon and Andrew Johnson, joined by new members Steve Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, and Jeremy Schroeder.

Andrea Jenkins had the support of Alondra Cano plus the four remaining incumbents who were part of President Barb Johnson’s coalition during the last term: Kevin Reich, Abdi Warsame, Lisa Goodman, and Linea Palmisano.

The council will also elect a Vice President, a Majority Leader, and a Minority Leader.

Who will lead new committees?

It’s important to note the obvious: large turnover on the council means large turnover on many committees, both in terms of membership and who chairs those committees.

Here are some committees to watch for changes (previous committee chairperson in parentheses):

  • Community Development & Regulatory Services (Goodman)
  • Transportation & Public Works (Reich)
  • Public Safety, Civil Rights & Emergency Management (Yang)
  • Zoning & Planning (Bender)
  • Ways & Means (Quincy)
Assuming Bender is elected president, she will not be back as chair of Zoning & Planning. Because Yang and Quincy were not reelected, they will definitely not be back as chairs of their respective committees. Lisa Goodman wields a ton of money and power from her position as chair of CDRS. Does she hold on to it?
Watch for the creation of new committees. An example from the beginning of last term: Community Development was combined with Regulatory Services as a gift from Barb Johnson to Lisa Goodman. 

Can I purchase a shirt to commemorate this momentous quadrennial event?

Absolutely. This shirt has all your favorite roman numerals plus the faces of all your favorite and least favorite council members.

You can watch the first City Council meeting of the year at 11:30 on Channel 14.

Acme Comedy: The Parking Crisis That Wasn’t

Acme Comedy’s remaining parking lot was half-filled during a Friday show last June

In 2016, Acme Comedy Co was the subject of the most high-profile movement to save a parking lot in recent Minneapolis history. If the owner of an adjacent parking lot was allowed to turn it into apartments, Acme’s owner predicted he would be forced to move his business out of Minneapolis to a parking-rich suburb. Nationally-known comedians rallied to Acme’s defense. Nearly 6,000 people signed an online petition to save a parking lot — in order to save a beloved comedy institution.

Today, with a new apartment building occupying that former parking lot, Acme owner Louis Lee tells the Star Tribune (in a story unrelated to parking) “Acme is enjoying its strongest business in a decade.” 
This dynamic plays out on a smaller scale every week in neighborhoods across Minneapolis. Parking concerns are pervasive in a changing city. But people don’t usually pay attention long enough to check predictions against reality. We get headlines that say Neighborhood Threatened by Change. We never get the follow-up headline years later: Oops, Things Are Actually Just Fine.
So it’s important we honor bearded soothsayers like Peter Bajurny, who was right all along. There’s one less parking lot in Minneapolis but the comedy business is booming in the North Loop. Go have your obnoxious “I told you so” moment, Peter — you deserve it.