Author Archive

Can an Arena Help a Neighborhood?

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Businesses along West Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN.I discovered the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, when I had the good fortune to get to see the Minnesota Wild play their final pre-season hockey game (which they won -- yeah! -- though that's relevant neither to the story nor the Wild's standings). I didn't know it at the time, but I would be returning to the vicinity of the arena repeatedly, as the adjacent RiverCentre was the conference headquarters. I also hadn't realized that the "From Immigrants to Sports Fans: Transformations in the West Seventh Street Neighborhood" tour for which I was registered was focused on the area immediately surrounding the Xcel Center -- though had the title specified hockey fans, I might have caught on a bit sooner.

I decided to take this particular tour because I wanted to see how St. Paul handled development in the surrounding area. Washington, DC, my home for nearly 10 years, built an arena in Chinatown just before my arrival that inspired a tremendous economic boom, but also caused the flight of the immigrant population who gave the neighborhood its name. With the exception of the arch over H Street and Chinese characters on the signs for chain restaurants and shops, the streets surrounding the Verizon Center could be anywhere. The local character has been erased almost completely. I needed this tour to tell me that other cities find a way to combine growth and development with maintaining the unique flavor of a neighborhood.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Good Work, Rewarded

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by Sarah Heffern

 

I spent part of yesterday evening in St. Paul's beautiful Fitzgerald Theater (where Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" is taped weekly), as the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its annual Honor Awards.

I was amazed by the breadth of work honored, and found the presentations to be a fantastic way to see the many varied, unexpected ways that historic preservation touches people's lives.

Here are the winners:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Preservation=Revitalization

Posted on: October 4th, 2007 by Sarah Heffern

 

Details on the turret were uncovered during restoration this summer.Historic preservation has a little bit of an image problem. Most everyone knows the stereotype: little old ladies saving the dead white guy's mansion. And from Mount Vernon on down, preservationists have in fact saved more than a few abodes of the rich, famous, Anglo, and deceased.

It is important work, to be sure. Saving, maintaining, and sharing the places involved with major figures and events in American history has a great deal of value. But to think that this is all there is to historic preservation, however, would be to sell it short. Preservation has also become a critically important tool for community development and revitalization.

This type of work was the focus of the tour I took this morning, which was led by the staff of Historic Saint Paul. They showed us several in-process restorations in the Dayton's Bluff and Payne-Phelan areas of east St. Paul, where they are working with lower- and middle-income residents and immigrant communities to use historic preservation as the main tool for revitalizing their neighborhood. Their primary focus is exterior rehabilitation, to improve the streetscape and draw in further investment.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Wholly Modern

Posted on: October 4th, 2007 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis, MNI've always thought of myself as a modern, forward-thinking woman, except for when it comes to art and architecture, where I have always been something of a 19th-century girl. I used to think that Modernism was a little too sterile and stark for my taste, but over the past few years I have really grown to like it. I can't credit anything for this transformation beyond increased exposure, and the more I learned about mid-century design, the more my perception changed, and now I find it clean and calming--and beautiful. I'll never lose my affection for a fancy cornice, but I now feel similarly fond of simplicity.

I was, therefore, really looking forward to exploring Minneapolis on the tour I took Tuesday. On our way to downtown, we made a side trip to see a neighborhood church--though not a typical one by any stretch of the imagination. Nestled in the Longfellow neighborhood is Christ Church Lutheran, a Modernist masterpiece designed in 1949 by Eliel Saarinen with a 1962 addition by his son Eero. After we spent a few minutes exploring the exterior, built of Minnesota Kasota Stone, Pastor Kristine Carlson welcomed our group in the education wing created by the younger Saarinen and then led us into his father's final commission, the main church building.

Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis, MNOne of the first things I noticed was the amazing acoustics of the room; when I wandered to the front of the church to take photos, I could clearly hear Pastor Carlson as she continued speaking to the group. The warm browns and golds of the stone walls and wooden pews glowed in the gentle light shining in through the vertical windows. Even on a morning as cloudy as the one when we were there, it cascades gently through the room, creating a calming, spiritual space. I think one of my fellow tour attendees most accurately summed up the sanctuary when he said that it "conveys the infinite."

More information about the history and design of Christ Church Lutheran can be found here: www.christchurchluth.org.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

From Gateway to Greenway

Posted on: October 2nd, 2007 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Marquette Plaza, Minneapolis, MNI spent my day today on a tour called "From Gateway to Greenway: Modernism in Downtown Minneapolis." The weather wasn't ideal for a day outdoors, so I'm soaked from the rain in addition to worn out from walking, but I can say honestly that I think I am a little in love with Minneapolis. I found it to be an incredibly cool city, with a nice mix of historic and modern buildings, lots to do and see, and more green space than any city I have ever visited. It's also very pedestrian-friendly, with paths and footbridges making it easy to get around. (As a person who doesn't own a car, I have a soft spot for cities that like those of us who travel by foot.) Tour leaders Liz Gales and Todd Grover, along with several guest guides, did a fantastic job of sharing both their knowledge of the city's history and architecture and their enthusiasm for the place they call home.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.