NIEBNA, Old St. Anthony, CenHen: An Exercise to Name a Nameless Place

Some of the greatest places have some of the greatest names. The Grand Canyon is fairly self-explanatory–it’s a canyon, and it is rather grand. Coney Island, with its imagination-inducing name referring to an isolated floating group of processed meats, juxtaposes the lighthearted, artificially-flavored entertainment district in New York. Then again, some great places have ambiguous names, barely describing the locales geography in a tantalizing and mysterious manner. Before the Internet was your second life, Hidden Beach on Cedar Lake was probably either an urban myth or someplace where your hippie friends have slept.

But what do you do with a place that has an unfortunately placeless name?

"I was eating on a sidewalk patio in a place with no name"

“I was eating on a sidewalk patio in a place with no name”

The Nicollet Island – East Bank Neighborhood Association (NIEBNA, for short) is one of the most progressive citizen organizations in Minneapolis, and is encouraging urbanist idealisms to be mixed with incoming development. Within the NIEBNA boundary resides one of the first commercial districts in the city, traditionally cited as Old Saint Anthony. In the past couple years, the combination of urban market #Millennial trends, more ambitious developments, and the density-favoring NIEBNA group has pushed this activity node into Minneapolis’s “Top 5 Hottest” list. Since 2013, four significant mixed-use towers have been proposed:

1) Alatus-led Tower at Washburn-McReavy site near Central & 2nd Street, planned to be 40 stories

2) Nye’s Tower (also #NyeRise), planned to be 28 stories but currently fighting neighborhood support rescindation

3) Superior Plating Site megadevelopment along 1st Avenue N, with a good bundle of retail and a 2o-story tower

4) Recently announced Mortenson-led US Bank re-development at 333 Hennepin Avenue E., complete with an überfunky tower design, planned to be 28 stories

333 Hennepin. Please name this Portal Tower, or even better, Cake Tower. Source - Minneapolis Planning documents

333 Hennepin. Please name this Portal Tower, or even better, Cake Tower. Source – City of Minneapolis

The bottom line is, this area is booming! Its booming almost as fast as recently graduated frat bros are discovering craft beer taprooms. If even two or three of these towers come to fruition, this node will soon have thousands of new residents that will call it home.

But, again…what is “it”?

A historical conundrum

Originally established as the Town of Saint Anthony, the business district supported the various milling efforts along the Mississippi River. In 1872, Saint Anthony merged with the rival Minneapolis, but in an interesting quirk of history, a small two square mile section in the northwest corner of the original Town of Saint Anthony was not annexed, and remained unincorporated until 1945. This section became what is known today as Saint Anthony (or Saint Anthony Village), and took the proverbial thunder from the historic mill district’s naming lightning.

After post-WWII Americans did their due damage to inner cities, Minneapolis began a revitalization effort along its riverfront in the 1970’s. TIF-created developments like Riverplace and other condo projects turned the downtrodden riverfront into one of the premier urban development spots outside of downtown in the 1980’s. This area was marketed as “St. Anthony Main“, a simple yet chic nod to the original town name and the cobblestone-filled Main Street near the Mississippi River. Although a successful entertainment node, the “St. Anthony Main” branding turned its back to the still gritty district behind it during the Reagan/Boschwitz/Donald Fraser days. This area’s naming conundrum is still seen today – even with the commercial district’s growing vitality, St. Anthony Main’s own website shows the area only encompassing the Main Street strip, and does not include the business district behind it.

Red is St Anthony Main, Blue is nameless.

Red is St Anthony Main, Blue is nameless.

Previous suggestions

Due to the advent of the area’s massive developments, new residents, budding businesses, and its de facto location as the Gateway to cooler-than-you Nordeast, various humans have attempted to classify and name the nameless district. Suggested names and my probably overanalyzed responses are listed below:

St. Anthony Main – See two paragraphs above. In today’s lawsuit-crazed world, I fear that any attempt to brand something in the nameless district that is outside of the illustrated St. Anthony Main boundary will somehow force lawyers to be involved. It also does the nameless district businesses a disservice if they are going for something that caters less towards the St. Anthony Main demographic (potentially Minneapolitans-gone-Eaganians who are looking for a nostalgia-instigating Saturday away from the kids). Verdict: Too risky.

Old St. Anthony – Not terrible, as it is geographically AND historically accurate (hard to come by these days). But, the development surge mixed with the likely young-leaning age group it will bring is anything but “old”. It might also cause confusion with the City of Saint Anthony when someone tells you to go to Pizza Nea on Hennepin Avenue and you end up driving to Broadway Pizza off of New Brighton Boulevard instead. “New St. Anthony” might be better, but it sounds kind of like a teen romance movie.  Verdict: Too old. Too historically accurate.

NIEBNA – Some have suggested to call this area by its primary neighborhood acronym, because its just fun to say (I mean, seriously, say it out loud and try to not grin). The main problem with this is NIEBNA neither fully encompasses the St Anthony Main district nor the nameless district. Similar to the four neighborhood groups that encase parts Uptown, the nameless district has sections also located in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. Calling the Nameless District NIEBNA would also do a disservice to Nicollet Island and its associated residential area. It’d sorta be like suddenly calling Uptown “LHENA”, which would then set off a massive, Anchorman-esque turf war at the corner of Lake & Hennepin with ECCO and CARAG and East Isles. Verdict: Fun, but too war-prone.

Downtown Northeast – Again, not terrible. Its soon-to-be-high-rise-filled confines give it a downtown feel, and most of it is technically in the “NE” street grid. Still, it would be confusing to map-averse individuals trying to find Target Field, but instead arrive at Conga Latin Bistro. (For hypothetical purposes, this person is both map-averse and baseball-ignorant.) Advertising the area as Northeast would also do a disservice to the real, edgier, bohemian-spun Northeast attractions nearby. Verdict: Not enough towers to be downtown, not enough beards to be Northeast.

Nameless – Hmmmm. Verdict: HMMMM.

Hennepin Avenue NE, circa 1935. Source -

Hennepin Avenue NE, circa 1935. Source –

My suggestion

This district is entertaining, walkable, dense, transit-accessible, sumptuous but edgy, up-and-coming, and just generally exciting. It is also being assisted by the visionary folks at NIEBNA to become the go-to dense district of Minneapolis by next decade. Its truly historic, yet booming with energy. It is a stone’s throw to downtown, real Northeast, and the University of Minnesota area. The district’s name needs to pay homage to the history, the non-conforming street grid, and the bright future ahead of itself.

Per the reasons above, the nameless district should be branded as “CenHen“.

Other well-known hotspot entertainment districts, like NoHo in New York City (NOrth of HOuston Street), SoCo in Austin (SOuth COngress) and even LynLake in Minneapolis have clever, easily configured names that refer to associated core streets. CenHen, referring to the triangulated corner of Central Avenue and Hennepin Avenue, instantly provides residents and visitors a clear, descriptive idea of the district’s geographic location within Minneapolis.

Before the inevitable boom occurs, developers of these upcoming big-time projects should start advertising this name and pull the district out of its nameless category. Minneapolis officials should hop on board to sell CenHen as the next great urban neighborhood in Minneapolis, and build off the previous branding success seen with St. Anthony Main. CenHen, if marketed correctly, will illustrate a notion of green, urban, mixed-income living inside “North Loop 2.0”. Geographically, it will become a powerful and indicative crossroads of activity. One could take either Central or Hennepin to jump to downtown or to stroll to Northeast, but could also stay put in CenHen to enjoy the vast local amenities it has to offer.

CENtral and HENnepin = CenHen. Voila.

CENtral and HENnepin = CenHen. Voila.

As development moves to the northern side of CenHen, the currently underwhelming but severely angled intersection could potentially spawn the Flatiron Building of Minneapolis. As per the boundary above, the intersection is more or less in the center of the district, and will relish that advantage.

Uptown, Dinkytown, and Downtown instantly provide information on their geographic location to anyone in the MSP region. St. Anthony Main has had mild success in the same light, but leaves out the many businesses and residents to its north. In order to see the area’s fullest potential, I would love to see developers and Minneapolis visionaries brand the district “CenHen” as it turns into the city’s go-to community by 2020.

(If “CenHen” falls through, I guess “Nameless” is pretty cool, too.)

Chris Iverson

About Chris Iverson

Chris Iverson is a transportation engineer & planner for the City of Bellevue, WA and currently lives in Seattle. He holds degrees in both Civil Engineering & Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota, and worked on a myriad of transit & multimodal transportation projects in the Twin Cities. He is a former Minnesota Daily columnist, RAGBRAI participant, bad musician, marathon finisher, and an unabashed generalist.

28 thoughts on “NIEBNA, Old St. Anthony, CenHen: An Exercise to Name a Nameless Place

  1. Mike Hicks

    I’m still a fan of Old St. Anthony. However, Minneapolis should annex the current St. Anthony “Village”, which would then create a New Old St. Anthony neighborhood, whereupon this would become the Old Old St. Anthony.

    Yeah, screw it. Let’s go with CenHen.

  2. Matt Brillhart

    Non-serious suggestion: HennCentral 😉

    It appears the area (at least Hennepin Ave) is currently branded as just “Northeast”, per the existing business district banners:,-93.2568556,3a,15y,300.53h,98.93t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sOteukq1N0t7RINnQwpqwLw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    “St. Anthony” really is perfect (no “old” necessary). NIEBNA represents a really tiny geographic area and ideally could merge with “St. Anthony West” and “St. Anthony East” to its north. That would help unify branding around “St. Anthony” if the local neighborhood association shared that name.

    This is a good post though. This area really does not have a unified business district name. Calling it simply “Northeast” was probably fine just 10 years ago, as there wasn’t much going on to attract outsiders to the rest of greater Northeast until recently (taprooms, etc.)

  3. Wayne

    Being a resident of said nameless blue polygon, this is of particular interest to me. I do like CenHen, but I don’t see it catching on around here. I personally use a mix of NIEBNA and Near Northeast to describe it to people, sometimes I also just say “By the White Castle and Holiday” or “near Sudryk’s.”

  4. Southsider

    I didn’t know this is a nameless place. I’ve been calling it Old Saint Anthony for as long as I knew it was a place. Do other people really not call it that?

    1. Chris IversonChris Iverson Post author

      I think Old St. Anthony is pretty popular, but I still get confused with the whole “Village of Saint Anthony” nearby and the ambiguity of St. Anthony Main. Hence, the CenHen reveal.

      Besides, I think “Paul” has the Saint-based naming monopoly around these parts, anyways.

        1. Matt Brillhart

          Correction: Should never have let the suburb incorporate, instead annexing it into Minneapolis proper. It’s a svelte 2.35 acres… actually the Hennepin County portion is even smaller, as everything north of 37th Ave is in Ramsey County.

  5. ae_umn

    I’m not lover of the CenHen name, but I think it’s because it sounds forced. When I lived in the area, I usually referred to it as Hennepin-Central or “the St. Anthony Main” area.

    I prefer to stay away from acronyms, but I’m struggling to think of anything particularly interesting that would work as a name. East Hennepin wouldn’t be horrible, as that is the main commercial street through the area, but it also refers to the road that continues all the way to the Minneapolis border, so that could be an issue. I like the idea of a neighborhood owning its position on the river, so something that embraces it like Riverfront East or Mississippi East fit into that, but they feel clunky.

    Honestly, St. Anthony is the obvious choice. It’s accurate. It’s appropriate. And it would be hard to confuse fairly suburban St. Anthony city with the very urban neighborhood.

    NIEBNA itself is really quite odd for Minneapolis in that it’s almost entirely a commercial district (only a sliver of nearby housing is actually in the neighborhood) that is quickly turning into a mixed-use space. While Uptown is split amongst four neighborhoods, plus a business district, and who knows how many other groups, NIEBNA can be one very-urban voice. It would kind of be nice if we had more neighborhoods like it.

    1. Wayne

      What’s unfortunately not very urban about it is the streetscape. Once you get off of E Hennepin it’s wide roads with speeding traffic and tons of curb cuts. It’s a nightmare for pedestrians once you stray off the one nice sliver of it. They need to do something about the sidewalks and calm some traffic pronto or all the new residents coming in the near future are going to get killed by cars as soon as they try to walk anywhere nearby.

  6. Scott Merth

    I love it and I’m going to starting using it among my friends to spread the word. I for one, at least until I starting reading this blog, have been confused as to where individual “St. Anthony ______” neighborhoods actually are…because there’s like 4 of them all called nearly the same thing.

    For my use, I may add an extra ‘n’ on the back to make it ‘CenHenn.’ That’s because my brain first thought about chickens, and the extra ‘n’ rounds out the first syllable of Hennepin.

    Either way, this will help me define this area better than “kinda North of Nye’s, close to Surdyk’s, and somewhat South of that kink in Hennepin.


  7. Alex

    Since everyone outside of the Twin Cities (who has heard of them) thinks that St Paul is east of the Mississippi, why not call it West St Paul? Surely there is no other place with that name.

    CenHen is good, but it leaves out the other major street in the triangle: University. So I’d propose instead UniHenTral. Or HenTralVersity. Or CenUniPenTralHennIversity.

    Eh, St Anthony is fine. I promise you that no one will ever think of the suburb with the same name.

  8. Joe ScottJoe Scott

    I like Hentralversity. Its obviously tongue in cheek but has a good ring to it, and branding these days is all about making fun of yourself.

  9. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Throwing my offering out there, taking inspiration from Cincinnati here, they have Over-the-Rhine … call it Over-the-Falls

  10. Nathan

    I think for a lot of people simplicity is best, and since the region is already called North East by most laymen… I would think Downtown Northeast would be a good option, especially with more towers creating a bit of a skyline. and since we all love Abbreviations… DTNE kinda rolls off the tongue.

  11. Noelle

    I’ve been calling it “That Part of Northeast Around Where Central and Hennepin intersect” for awhile.


    I actually kind of like NIEBNA. I do think CenHen might be too forced (um, kind of like the MIA going by “Mia?”). I also like St. Anthony but it is also super confusing with all the other St. Anthonys out there – I’m also not totally sure which is which and where.

  12. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    When I first came to the Twin Cities, before I got interested in urban stuff, I knew the area as Saint Anthony Main. I didn’t know until a minute ago where the “Main” came from, but all the same, that’s how I knew it.

    These days, I’ve referred to the area as Saint Anthony and Saint Anthony Main interchangably Occasionally, I call it Northeast, when referring to it and the larger area.

  13. Steve

    I’ve lived in the area for almost 50 years and it was always called East Hennepin. As a commercial/retail area, it’s not likely to be confused with any other segment of the street because once you cross over 35W it’s mostly just light industry, warehouses and a scattering of homes.

  14. Doug TrummDoug Trumm

    The Big NordEasy?
    Upper East Bank?
    Otterburg in honor of the Otter Saloon?

    I also like Lower Northeast and CenHen.

Comments are closed.