Block E (Minneapolis)
Block E is the name of a block in downtown Minneapolis bounded by Hennepin Avenue, 6th Street, 7th Street, and 1st Avenue North. It is part of the Downtown West neighborhood in Minneapolis. It is one block south of the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue light rail station on the Hiawatha Line.
1850 – 1950
In its early days, Block E contained mansions and row houses. The mansions on Hennepin between 6th and 7th were gone at least by 1908 when the block acquired its row of small commercial buildings that remained largely unchanged into the 1980s.
In the mid to late 19th century, the commercial and political hub of Minneapolis was Bridge Square, at the convergence of Hennepin and Nicollet Avenues. Most of the early commercial activity in Minneapolis took place there.
However, Bridge Square lost its status as the hub of Minneapolis by the turn of the 19th century. Retail stores clustered on Nicollet Avenue for many blocks south of Washington Ave. The Jeweler's Exchange Building, at the intersection of First Avenue North and Seventh Street, was built in 1913 (it was six stories high). The Shubert theater (the Alvin Theater for a time and The Academy after that), was built in 1910 on 7th St.
The block was crowded by buildings constructed at the end of the 1900s, with the only survivor being the Shubert Theater (now on Hennepin between 5th and 6th streets). Arcade galleries, pool halls, ice cream stores, credit agencies, and theaters were among the many tenants.
1950 – 1988
After 1950, as the rest of downtown gentrified, especially as the part of the Gateway District east of Hennepin was demolished and replaced with modern structures and parking lots, lower Hennepin Avenue became known as a place for drunks, crime, and prostitution. Block E was the center of the squalor. One of the city's most seedy bars, Moby Dicks, was known for its "Whale of a Drink." Unsavory establishments, including bars, flophouses, and adult movie theaters settled in on Block E. The Hennepin face was anchored at each end by a Shinder's newsstand, each of which sold pornography. The chain began at the 6th Street corner in 1916 and later split into two companies, framing the block as bookends might at opposite corners.
However, the block by the 1980s was one of the choice places for punks and became a breeding ground for punk music, and was also known for its cheap rent, drawing such establishments as Rifle Sport Gallery. By the mid-1980s, the Minneapolis police had a paddy wagon parked more or less permanently between the contraflow bus lane and the northbound traffic lanes.
Other establishments along Block E included The Rand Hotel, Brady's Pub, and a McDonald's "Town House" restaurant franchised by McTeufel Inc.
A three-second shot of the Shubert/Alvin/World theater can be seen in Purple Rain. The theater is the only surviving structure from Block E, having been moved a block north to a new location on Hennepin Avenue. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest structure ever moved on rubber-wheeled dollies.
By 1987, the city council voted to demolish the entire Hennepin side of the block, giving tenants a limited amount of time to relocate. Moby Dick's and Rifle Sport Gallery did not survive the move, although the owner of Moby's briefly ran a bar called Melville's on Washington Avenue. The 7th Street Shinder's moved to a former Burger King at 8th and Hennepin, and the 6th Street Shinder's moved to 9th and Nicollet. (By 2007, both locations had closed.)
The city had an official celebration of its decision, during which they symbolically smashed up the adult stores, exploded "balloons arranged to look like sticks of dynamite", and Council Member Van White led a song to the tune of "Bye Bye Blackbird":
"Pack up all your crime and porn, Block or scorn, be reborn, Bye bye Block E"
"Moby Dick's is beached at last, Problems vast, now are past, Bye bye Block E"
"No one here can stop and aggravate us, No more hard-luck stories will deflate us, Say goodbye to urban blight, Now we'll light up the night, Bye bye Block E."
Citizens who had enjoyed Block E also had a celebration. Called "The True Tribute and Farewell to Block E", the celebration was held at First Avenue and showcased photographs, films, and salvaged signage of the block.
1988 – 2001
For over a decade, the Hennepin side of the block was a surface-level parking lot. In the mid-1990s, the Jewelers Exchange Building on 1st Avenue was also torn down. The only structures remaining on the block were the Shubert Theater and a two-story billboard advertisement. The Shubert was moved next to the Hennepin Center for the Arts by the Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center in February 1999.
2001 – present
The entire block is currently occupied by an enclosed shopping and entertainment mall of the same name, Block E, which was developed by McCaffery Interests, a Chicago-based real estate developer, and constructed in 2001. The mall housed establishments such as Shout House Dueling Piano Bar, Applebee's restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, and an AMC movie theater. The five-star Graves 601 luxury hotel occupies a majority of the block's frontage on First Avenue, and is 22 stories high. Other chains included Jimmy John's, Starbucks, Cold Stone Creamery, and GameStop.
The new Block E is accessible from street level, and loosely models itself after buildings which previously existed on the site (specifically on Hennepin). The development also serves as an important link in Minneapolis's skyway system, connecting Target Center to City Center.
Supporters of the project expected that the new Block E would bring back retail that has historically left Hennepin Avenue for other enclosed malls clustered on the Nicollet Mall as well as in suburban malls. In re-establishing the "character" of Hennepin as a Theater District, the new block E also attempted to promote itself as "Block Entertainment".
Snyder's Drugs, one of the original tenants, closed its location just barely a year after the complex opened. Borders, another of the original tenants, closed its Block E location on February 2, 2008. The club Escape Ultra Lounge, closed in July 2007. The upscale restaurant and night club Bellanote closed in July 2009.
According to a February 12, 2010 article in the Twin Cities Business Journal, The Block E Hooters restaurant in downtown Minneapolis owed more than $350,000 in rent, utilities, taxes and penalties. On August 24, 2010, the restaurant officially closed.
On March 16, 2010 Kieran's Irish Pub, originally established in 1994, took over the space previously occupied by Bellanotte. The owner of Kieran's, Kieran Folliard, signed a 10-year lease with the building that offers two 5-year extension options.
Between 2010 and 2012, various establishments of the mall closed. On March 30, 2010 GameWorks closed its doors. On March 13 the following year, the Applebee's restaurant closed its doors. On September 7, 2011, it was announced that the Block E Hard Rock Cafe would close on September 30. The next year, the AMC Block E Theater 15 closed its doors.
A state run casino was proposed for Block E, as a potential funding source for the new Vikings Stadium. In the meantime, the unused sections of the location are supported by an artistic initiative titled Made Here by the Hennepin Theatre Trust.
- "Relocation of the Historic Shubert Theater". Minneapolis, Minnesota: BKBM Engineers. 2005. Archived from the original on March 31, 2008. Retrieved March 16, 2010. "The undertaking is now recorded as the Guinness Book of World Records largest building moved on rubber-wheeled dollies."
- Jackie Crosby (February 12, 2010). "Party over for Hooters downtown?". Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota). Retrieved March 16, 2010. "The Hooters in downtown Minneapolis owes more than $350,000 in rent, utilities, taxes and penalties..."
- Tom Horgen (November 24, 2009). "Moving soon to Block E: Kieran's Irish Pub". Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota). Retrieved March 16, 2010. "The first big move ... Kieran's Irish Pub, into the vacant Bellanotte space in downtown Minneapolis' Block E."
- Gregory J. Scott (March 14, 2011). "Block E Applebees closes". Downtown Journal (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota). Retrieved March 14, 2011. "A small sign posted on the skyway entrance announced that the restaurant’s last day of business was Sunday, March 13."
- Horgen, Tom. "Hard Rock Cafe closing Sept. 30". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
- Horgen, Tom. "Block E in downward spiral as theater closes".
- Regan, Sheila (September 18, 2013). "Can local artists turn Block E around?". City Pages. Voice Media Group. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- 1908 photo of Hennepin side of Block E at MN Historical Society
- Emporis.com site for the Graves
- Q: When is a Mall Not a Mall, A: When It's Block E
- Looking down First Avenue North towards sixth street