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March 7, 2013

Oral History Tidbit: Downtown Minneapolis Redevelopment with George Kissinger, Part 1

Filed under: Podcasts, SHPO Out & About — Leslie Coburn @ 11:20 am

This photo was taken in 1973 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" Project (1972-77) to document "subjects of environmental concern."

This photo of Block E in downtown Minneapolis was taken in 1973 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" Project (1972-77) to document "subjects of environmental concern."

On a chilly January day, I convinced my former colleague, George Kissinger, to give me a tour of downtown Minneapolis redevelopment projects with which he was involved during his 30-year career as a project manager for the City.

In this first video clip, George describes the local government’s role in creating a large tax increment financing district to facilitate redevelopment of entire blocks which now contain City Center, Gaviidae Common, and the Block E complex.  Community pressure to rid downtown of the seedy influence of degraded properties, porn shops, and bars prompted city officials to get involved.

In 1988, at a community event to celebrate the impending demolition of Block E’s small-scale commercial buildings between 6th and 7th streets on Hennepin Avenue, the executive director of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency was quoted in the Star Tribune: “We’re now removing this blight to bring life and people back to Hennepin Avenue.”

Stay tuned for more of George’s recollections in future posts.

George Kissinger retired from the Minneapolis Community Development Agency in 2006, having worked on projects such as the acquisition and restoration of the State, Orpheum, and Pantages theaters, the Schubert Theatre move, the Ivy Tower rehab, and the new Federal Reserve Bank.  He is a Viet Nam vet and retired Captain from the Naval Reserve.  More recently, George has served as captain of the restored Steamboat Minnehaha on Lake Minnetonka.

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting vid. Thanks. I remember what the area looked like beforehand, and so I can honestly say that the results are very complimentary. However, had I owned a Mom and Pop Hamburger Joint, carried down in the family for a few generations, I would not have appreciated the enormous power of Big Government coming down on me and my family’s business, swallowing it up for a “better future.”

    I miss places like The Forum, The Nankin, Shinders, etc…Were they casualties of this project?

    Comment by Jim — April 24, 2013 @ 11:10 am

  2. Excellent interview, can’t wait to hear the others. This is SUCH an important project. [Hi, Leslie :)]

    Comment by Patty Dean — April 24, 2013 @ 11:21 am

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