The announcement regarding the pending closing and demolition of Nye’s Polonaise Room didn’t surprise me. Its prime location in one of Minneapolis’ budding river-side districts is a coveted location for developers to build yet another cluster of expensive and unsightly condos (though it would take quite the addled architect to unseat the ugliest new building in the Twin Cities); and the current plan is to do just that.
The real surprise, for me at least, came in the form of a community that refused to let its cultured (yet over-priced) dive bar (and restaurant) go silently into the tacky, glassy abyss of young professional abodes; though this will be, in some form or another, the eventual result.
The initial hurdle that may thwart the demolition plans of Nye’s owners Tony and Rob Jacob (along with the Minnesota-based developers Schafer-Richardson) rests in the historic nature of two buildings of four that make up the restaurant and bar; these date back to the early 1900s and by some definitions might be considered structures of note for the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. This matter will largely rest upon a handful of staff in Minneapolis government, but the public might be able to have some influence (along with the density-pushing politicians).
At the preservationist point is a Facebook page (often the case these days) which is closing in on 10,000 likes; the variances of opinion expressed in it (along with other media) is as diverse as the clientele of the establishment they hope to, in some form, save. Some simply want the historic buildings to be saved, others want the interior to be dismantled and incorporated into the new development and a few even hope to see not a booth moved nor a sign removed (existing structural issues might make that impossible).
Most recently, though, the fateful conversation has been moved forward by Kit Richardson (a co-founder and principal of the development firm involved). He served as a counselor for the grieving as he effectively listened to the voices of the public at a Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association meeting on December 11th; the narrative moving forward after this interaction seems to be that the “communal” aspects of Nye’s must be preserved in whatever comes next. Well done, Mr. Richardson.
Obscure promises and possibilities might also save the fears of Nye’s-lovers: at the meeting there was talk about the mixed-use first levels of the future structure which could very well be transformed into a polka bar. Schafer-Richardson also promised a commitment to some stylistic remembrances (European village with a touch of modern) to the old structure.
This might not be the typical boxy, bare eyesore currently infecting Uptown, but the fact remains: Nye’s as we know it is finished. Though I know many that are saddened by such a reality, I myself am happy to simply watch what happens.