The Strib Asks, We (as in you) Answer: What’s Up with Uptown?

by Alex Stenback on April 10, 2007

We got a call from one of our favorite Star-Tribune Reporters today, Chris
(who covers retail, and whom you might remember from our
breaking non-news story on the Downtown Trader Joe’s Location) who’s Uptown_csquare_5
working on a story on retail and Uptown.

In a nutshell, his question: What’s up with retail in Uptown? And why has retail business, particularly in Calhoun Square, always sort-of underperformed here?

This is actually a really interesting question.  On paper, Uptown looks like a perfect mid-level urban retail district/hub.  Centrally located, near the ever popular lakes, good housing density, some (dare we say it) hipster cred., and overall a nice mix of restaurants, one-off retail, and a few nationals. 

So what gives, dear readers?  Post in the comments, let’s help Chris out (and for the record, this was our idea, not Chris’, so save your sniping)

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Editor April 10, 2007 at 3:43 pm

After growing up in, and then very near Uptown, we’ve now escaped to the burbs, so can’t pretend to have our finger on the pulse, but as we see it these are things that might be holding Uptown Back from fulfilling its promise as a retail destination.

1. Location: Unless you are in S/SW Minneapolis, Uptown is not all that easy to get to. One faces a long trek through the stoplight-riddled arterial roads (Hennepin, 36th Street, Lake Street) that feed into Uptown.
2. Competition: Other nearby mid level retail hubs have undergone facelifts and revitalization recently – most notably 50th & France and Excelsior & Grand. By comaprison, Calhoun square and surrounding area looks a little tired. Retail, more than ever, is fiercely competitive, and in its current state, maybe Calhoun Square and Uptown just can’t draw the bodies in its current form.
3. Concept: Urban retail really seems to have moved away from the “inward looking” enclosed mall, and embraced the outward looking, street level, retail model with a mainstreet feel. Though this only really applies to Calhoun Square itself.

What are we missing? Comments please…

Alexis April 10, 2007 at 6:11 pm

I can only comment on my personal usage of Uptown retail, but there seems to be little for me there right now. I shop at Heavenly Soles on a regular basis because they have a large cruelty-free shoe selection, occasionally scan the clearance racks in the back of Lava Lounge for tops and dresses, and stop in to Heartbreaker once in a while for cheap “disposable fashion” items. I’ll embarrassingly admit that I’ve never been down to Cliche, but I have friends that stop in religiously for their discount events.

I shop once or twice a week, making the rounds to the same stores every or every other visit but not expecting to buy something every time. Places like Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, Forever 21, Von Maur, Opitz… all the stores I hit up weekly get new merch in at least once a week. Smaller boutiques don’t get new items in nearly as often and therefore don’t see me as regularly. Also, I am a total bargain hunter. I rarely pay full price for anything; so because selection is more limited at small stores, the good stuff is gone before it gets marked down.

Know what would be awesome? If we turned Calhoun Square into a fashion mall, like the giant one on the strip in Las Vegas. Anchor stores wouldn’t work for the Square (the LV Fashion Show Mall has Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Saks, and Nieman Marcus), but if Heavenly Soles, Cliche, Local Motion, Lava Lounge, Everyday People, etc. all moved in alongside Bay Street and Ivy… well, then we’d have a true shopping destination. As it is, there’s little reason for me to visit Calhoun Square aside from food and drink (lots of great options there, BTW).

Jason April 10, 2007 at 7:24 pm

Also, parking stinks there. The only ramp is not very easy to get in or out of.

Jon April 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm

Parking, Parking, and oh, did I forget to mention, parking. There are only expensive pay lots; compare that to the free lot at 50th and France. In deference to the neighbors, they have now made the closest blocks permit parking only, so you can’t even park for free if you are willing to walk. Pay $5 to park when there is a 40% chance I will actually find a pair of shoes I like? No thanks. Pay eight bucks for the privilege of waiting a half hour for your car at the valet park at Stella’s or Chino Latino. Pass.

Dik April 12, 2007 at 11:53 am

It’s not easy to park in Uptown, so in the winter, why not just get on the hiway and go to Southdale? In the summer when you can walk to Uptown, why would you want to spend your day inside Calhoun Square when Uptown has such a beatiful patio setup in the summer. Uptown has lost a lot of its’ hipster cred due to the likes of Gap, American Apparel, Drink and others. If you want locals and hipsters to return, do not allow chain retailers in the area, if you want it to be just another shopping center, improve parking.

Midori April 13, 2007 at 11:06 am

I think maybe Uptown is too spread out and doesn’t have enough interesting/destination retail stores to keep people/shoppers interested in walking. A lot of the stores are not unique enough to keep people coming on a regular basis. Also, I don’t think the area is dense enough and maybe not enough people with expendable income live in the area.

I think to change things, a lot of brave/innovative retail entreprenuers (like Design collective and etc) will have to come in and invest their time and money and wait until the shoppers come.

I really hope one day that uptown could be more like Wicker Park in Chicago. That area seem to have a great mix of independent boutiques, big chain stores, high end and low end restaurants, cafes and the residents of the neighborhood are students, yuppies, and everything in between.

Stephen Gross April 13, 2007 at 1:27 pm

(1) I like the idea of unifying CS around fashion boutiques. Most of my shopping at CS is for this purpose–why not formalize the plan and put it into practice?

(2) Parking is indeed a significant problem. As long as we live in a metropolitan region which requires a car (and it does here in MSP!), urban retail will always be at a disadvantage. Cities must recognize this and find ways to subsidize / incentivize additional parking in urban retail areas.

–Steve (

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