Welcome to the Neighborhood

This morning, we (and a couple hundred of our closest friends) stood in line for the grand opening of Marc Heu Patisserie's new location, just up the street from us.

We've loved Marc Heu since I first bit into one of his passionfruit pastries at a Little Mekong night market years ago; let's face it, though we periodically stopped at the location on University, this one is (almost too) temptingly close.

(no wonder they sold out by 1:00)

The building it's in, a former automobile garage from the turn-of-the-century, was slated to be torn down as part of the new development that looms behind it. The public meetings were online during the height of covid, an I think the developer thought it would be easy to tear the building down since it was "nothing special." Spoiler: it wasn't.

Buildings like this represent the whole of our built history and sense of place. Barbara Bezat, a brilliant historian, conducted some research and found it was the only building of its type remaining in Saint Paul. And it clearly sets a sense of place. So we fought it.

For far too long, the historic properties deemed worth of saving have represented mainly those demonstrating the highest examples of style and purpose, the “Washington slept here” kinds of places. It’s natural for the preservation movement to have started there — but we’ve moved beyond that. We are currently in strong danger of losing a great number of the properties that clearly represent our larger patterns of history, the kinds of places where people from throughout the community gathered (and continue to gather), like this one.

Because it's this sense of place that draws people, both business owners like Marc Heu and the  remarkably successful hair salon next door. And draws customers. And gives a sense of liveliness, even as the ground levels of all the 5/1 new construction apartment that are popping up like toxic fungi remain vacant.

Don't believe me? Believe Dara Moskowitz, who understands about restaurants and what people are looking for:

And as I stood in line, I could look across the street at Mississippi Market, and think of the days when that was an empty lot considered suitable only for an un-bank and a video rental store, and of the hours that I spent sitting on the corner in folding chairs with the store's former GM, Alan, doing traffic counts to convince the board that building on that site was a good idea. And of the community meetings and planning and work that it took to put it there.

I'm proud of my neighborhood. I'm proud of the work I — along with so many others —  have put into it. And I'm not going to stop. See you at the city council meeting this week.


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