MSP Magazine - Chris Clayton
First came light rail. Then Surly. Soon the ambitions "Malcolm Yards" development could further transform Prospect Park's old milling and machinery district.
It's a late spring afternoon and the sun has finally breached the cloud cover that's hung over the city for weeks. Cyclists zip down a paved trail, past grain elevators and old factories that serve as crumbling reminders of the Southeast Minneapolis Industrial (SEMI) district. Prior to globalization and the dreaded Death of the Middle Class, this 700-acre swath near the U of M buzzed with mills and machinery shops. It's not all tumbleweeds and ruin porn, though. If local boosters were smart, they'd rename SEMI "Surly-ville" for the sprawling brewery-funhouse that's turned this dusty corner of Prospect Park into an unlikely tourist draw.
Surly May have revived the area, but John Wall is our story's real trailblazer. In the late '90s, his family's development firm began buying up industrial lots between Malcolm and 29th Avenues, just north of Fourth Street and west of where Surly now stands. Wall envisioned a research and technology park for the 18-acre property, but when the U of M failed to offer financial support, he switched gears, dubbing his new plan "Malcolm Yards."
"The switch wasn't a pivot as much as a jump-start," says Wall, standing outside a long two-story brick building near the bike path in question. Hist rimmed white hair and tailored suit feel out of place at the overgrown lot, which is littered with glass and scrap metal. Cyclists continue to pedal by, but Wall believes they'll stop here en masse once he turns the former machinery building into a food hall, with 12 or so stalls and an anchor restaurant and bar.
"I'm sure people drive over here today and say, 'You've got to be kidding me, '" says Wall, acknowledging the aesthetic challenges of the site. "But once everything's cleaned up and landscaped, the hall will add to this neighborhood as a destination." Other planned projects for Malcolm Yards include a public park and greenway, a climbing wall, and apartments, and office space.
It will be years before Wall's vision is fully realized - and of course that vision could change again. But we like to dream. Here's how it would bolster SEMI's burgeoning eating-drinking-biking-living-millennial utopia. You could call it Surly-ville.