When was the last time you went for a drink at the Blue Rider? If it’s been a while, put it on your ‘to do’ list.
When you go, take a moment to walk across the street and check out the buildings and the well-hidden diagonal alley along the railroad tracks. It’s not much to look at right now so be careful about muttering your thoughts out loud, especially if you’re in polite company.
But once you get past the first impression, see if you can reset your mind. See if you can paint a different mental picture. Imagine a boardwalk along both sides, and instead of out-of-time siding and institutional-beige doors, picture an elegant entrance to a gallery and a small Pride of Dakota shop. On one end there’s a bakery. On the other, a taproom for a local brewery.
And when you look down the alley, scrub your mind of the broken concrete and graffiti. Replace it with a combination of brick hardscape, green grass, maybe even a narrow lane with a streetcar stop. There’s, of course, a man standing behind a cart selling hot dogs — can you smell them? So too are there plenty of places to sit and watch with your cup of coffee or your beer, because in a space like this, simply being there is the experience.
That’s what I imagine, and I can’t help but get excited when I think about it.
When you strip away the years of neglect and add a few people-friendly elements, what we have in that alley is a uniquely-Minot space with all the x-factors that designers and architects hope they can capture in all their projects.
If you didn’t know, this alley and other portions of the block is the chosen location of Minot’s downtown gathering place. That project is in motion, and we’ve got a huge head start in the form of $6 million from HUD to make it happen.
But it’s an idea not yet fully imagined much less realized. On the imagining part, the time to start is now. Tomorrow at Oak Park (Wednesday, June 13, 6:30 pm), the City will be hosting the first of its public input meetings on the project. Get there and feed your ideas into the idea mill.
And as the first topic of discussion, perhaps we should call it ‘Diagon Alley’. The area cuts across the grid, and we are, after all, the Magic City.