When I walked up to Franklin Ave. to catch the bus to work last week, this is what I saw:
A construction worker filling in windows with bricks at the former Wings Financial Credit Union building. This building, and most of the rest of the property on the entire block, have been acquired by an organization called Norway House, which plans to do this:
All in all, the four extant structures on the West side of the block will be demolished. That parking lot in the lower left will be about here:
I first heard about the project in a letter from Wings, my now former bank, saying they would be closing the branch a quarter-mile from my house. Already feeling annoyed, I looked into the project and raised an eyebrow at the irony of an organization called Norway House demolishing a small piece of an originally Norwegian neighborhood to build a parking lot.
Shortly after moving into my house in the neighborhood, I had checked the original construction permit for the property and found that it had been built by Ole Olsen, the most Norwegian-sounding name possible – so, I figured maybe I could catch this organization in the act of demolishing a true Norwegian historical work of architecture for their dumb parking lot. I went to Development Review downtown and tried to pull the original construction permit for the house at right in the photo. No actual building permit was on file, so the house was probably built prior to records being kept. But, a permit to repair the foundation issued in 1903, the earliest record on file, listed the owner as a John W. Chaseman, not as Norwegian-sounding a name as I’d hoped.
Thus my plot to catch the Norway House in an act of hypocrisy and prevent them from building their parking lot fizzled.
Truthfully, the stuff they’re demolishing isn’t particularly noteworthy or great. The house on the Southwest corner of the block is a beigely vinyl-sided dud from 2004. But the fact that a bunch of Norwegians are coming into a neighborhood that they abandoned long ago and building a big, stinky parking lot, and blocking out the windows on an existing building is troubling. It smells like they’re using this neighborhood the same way the other institutional land uses in Phillips have: as cheap land near a freeway off-ramp. Something for people outside the neighborhood to drive to, that has nothing to do with the people in the neighborhood.
It would have been nice to see this organization try to revive some of the original urban character from when the neighborhood was predominantly Norwegian immigrants. Back when there were more than, I dunno, three buildings on a city block. Oh well.
You’ve been living in Maple Grove too long, my friend.