The cradle of Minneapolis

Updated: November 2, 2016 - 11:10 am

The origin of the city is on the verge of a major overhaul

The birthplace of Minneapolis is changing, and no place is this clearer than at Lourdes & Hennepin where a dilapidated Nye’s Polonaise Room is slowly changing into an apartment building for another generation of Minneapolitans.

But the Nicollet Island-East Bank landmark, which was sold and closed earlier this year, isn’t the only thing in the neighborhood that’s making way for something new. From more housing to new restaurants, the much of the area is turning a new leaf as developers come in from downtown.

The neighborhood once known as the town of St. Anthony is one of the city’s oldest and tiniest, going back more than 160 years. Among the east bank’s first buildings are Our Lady of Lourdes Church, the city’s oldest church in continuous use, and the city’s oldest wood frame home, the Ard Godfrey House in Chute Square Park.

But the latest trend in the Nicollet Island-East Bank area has been towers.

Developers have begun building the approximately 20-story NordHaus apartment complex at 1st & University where the Superior Plating factory once stood. And just across the street from the neighborhood, another developer will soon begin demolition of the historic St. Anthony Commercial Club and Washburn McReavy funeral chapel buildings in order to build a 42-story condo tower. Another tower, this one around 28 stories, has been proposed for a former U.S. Bank building at Hennepin & 4th.

Even the 75-year-old Grain Belt Beer sign, under new ownership from New Ulm, Minn.-based August Schell Brewing Company, is getting restored and relighted. The relighting would follow similar efforts to repair nearby riverfront sights like the Pillsbury’s Best Flour and North Star Blankets signs.

While there has been a recent wave of development, the neighborhood shift has been going on for years. The slew of new towers would join the neighborhood’s iconic condo buildings, like La Rive, The Falls and Cobalt.

The area is also home to growing commercial district with several restaurants and small boutiques. Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop is a popular shopping destination for spirits and specialties. And, despite the loss of Nye’s, there are longstanding restaurants like Nicollet Island Inn, Wilde Roast Café and Kramarczuk’s.

Today the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood blends historic landmarks, modern architecture and a growing commercial district on each block.

Nyes-1967Neighborhood Overview

Boundaries: The Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood includes Nicollet Island and is bordered by the BNSF rail line on the north and Central Avenue on the south.

How to get involved: The Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association board meets on the second Thursday of the month. Meetings are typically held at De La Salle High School, but times and venues change. Details can be found at

Demographics: The neighborhood’s population is 1,401, according to the most recent Census date cited by Minnesota Compass. The median household income is $77,863.

Special attractions: As part of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park, the Nicollet Island-East Bank riverfront is one of the city’s most popular park destinations, and there’s plenty to visit. Both Main Street and Nicollet Island offer picturesque trails for walking and biking. The Ard Godfrey House offers tours and hosts Dandelion Day each spring. During wedding season the Nicollet Island Pavilion and surrounding parkland are bustling with ceremonies, receptions and photo shoots. The neighborhood also has an active nightlife scene with venues like Ground Zero Nightclub and Ginger Hop’s basement bar Honey hosting regular dance and music nights.