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Few tenants remain on Block E: ‘We’re lonely here’

MinnPost photo by Jana Freiband
Peter Killen: "Last I heard, they were talking about converting it into office space, which would be an excellent idea."

Part 9 in a series

They departed one by one: Borders, Hooters, Bellanotte, Hard Rock Cafe and more. The biggest blow came this fall, however, when the 15-screen AMC movie theater abandoned Block E, the 11-year old retail and entertainment complex in which Minneapolis had invested $40 million. Alatus, the company that purchased the building and parking lot for $14 million two years ago, has said that it is “reviewing a number of redevelopment ideas.” In the meantime, four businesses labor on, among them Kieran’s Irish Pub, owned by Peter Killen. His take on Block E:

It kind of gets lonely. We’re lonely here. But the guys that own the building, they’re smart guys. They’re working on a plan. But everything these days takes a little longer, financing, figuring out just what they want to do. Last I heard, they were talking about converting it into office space, which would be an excellent idea. I’ve seen some preliminary plans and they’ll strip off all that stucco, and it’ll be beautiful.

We moved in on March 16, 2010. We liked the idea of being near Target Field and Target Center. Our old location near City Hall had lost a little bit of its pulse. So we wanted to move up here. Also we didn’t want to compete with ourselves [Killen’s company also owns The Local on Nicollet and 9th St.] Even though it’s quite close, Hennepin’s kind of a border that separates the city. So we love being there. It’s different [from the crowd on Nicollet]. There are younger people at the weekends, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle, and I like being in the thick of things. It’s a great location — with the Timberwolves and the Twins. We’re delighted to be here, but we sure would love to have more people around us. 

We were lucky because we opened in the ballpark’s inaugural year. But it’s not just about the Twins. It’s a short season. You can’t survive just strictly on that business. You have to work hard and build your regular people who come in for lunch or on a cold Friday in December or January. But thank goodness we have the Twins and the Timberwolves or it would be a dark hole over there.

It’s hard to know what happened to Block E. We weren’t here from Day One. Whatever it was, it worked out in our favor. If it had been a roaring success we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get in here. I think physically the space itself, the exterior, there’s something about it that doesn’t resonate with people. It’s not the prettiest building. I just hope these guys [Alatus] can make it into a Cinderella, take it to the ball, dress it up a little bit. It was sad seeing the movie theater go. I thought it was great for downtown. We used to see a lot of people come in before and after the movies.

Minnesota Moments 2012There was talk about a casino for the longest time. That didn’t get the approval it needed, but it would have been fun. I was fond of that idea. Not just from a business standpoint — though I think it would have been good for our business — but for the vibrancy of the city. The City Council keeps talking about the vibrancy of the city and, again, the guys, they were going to do a classy casino, Bellagio style. I thought it would have been a great addition to downtown, but it didn’t work out for whatever reason.

It’s just a kind of cat-and-mouse game to see what’s going to happen. The economy seems to be a little stronger, with the elections behind us. Before we kept things on pause. I know the guys are working hard; they’re always bringing people through and measuring and looking at things, so I don’t feel like there’s nothing happening.  

The office space thing would be great, although I hear that there is a lot of office space downtown. The guys are clever enough that they got a plan. But they’re keeping it close to their chest. They have the structure. The rest of it is just making it pretty. It’s the makeup they have to figure out. We’re just going to have to keep our heads down and grind through it.

Saturday: “Union Depot renovation: ‘There are so many parts that are absolutely gorgeous’ “

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/28/2012 - 11:03 am.

    I like Killen and bars but…

    There’s absolutely no valuable insight being offered here. I think it’s pretty obvious that the current owners not very bright at all. The casino idea was an obvious non-starter for soooooooo many reasons.

    It’s not hard to see why Block E has failed, it was poorly conceived.

  2. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 12/28/2012 - 08:41 pm.


    For the record, the AMC movie theaters did not “abandon” Block E. They were kicked out by the owners, who were unwilling to renew their lease despite their desire to do so.

    I think it’s consensus that Block E would have to go on the list of worst urban developments in Minneapolis history. That said, converting the building to office space doesn’t really count as “solving” the problem. That’s just an admission of defeat.

    I hope that Kieran’s stays there because it’s the perfect type of amenity for the neighborhood — something which definitely cannot be said for more bland office space separating Hennepin Avenue from the rapidly-burgeoning entertainment district.

    But if somebody wanted to tear that building down and add some needed green space, no one would shed a single tear.

    • Submitted by Nick Magrino on 12/29/2012 - 12:50 pm.

      Thanks for mentioning the real reason AMC is no longer there. They weren’t paying any rent, but if Alatus had been more realistic with their plans, I think a smaller, classier movie theater at that site would have been a great idea as part of a non-casino development/remodel.

      But that speaks to a broader point here–part of why Block E is a mess as a development was the city feeling the need to “do something” with the block. Why not let it go to office space? There’s clearly a demand. Organic growth is often a better idea than “doing something”. Trying to make it an attraction will often not be based on market demands and more on water color pictures of the site filled with people, with little explanation of where those people are coming from.

      And this is a terrible location for a park. It’s too far away from the office core of downtown (those long blocks around the City Center complex are awful to walk down) and there’s almost no residential population over here. It would be abandoned at best during the day and certainly full of drunks at night.

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