Extreme Makeover: Lake Street

Hennepin County and Minneapolis are spending millions to rebuild south Minneapolis's main east-west thoroughfare in a new image. But whose vision is it?

Still, he welcomes the project. "You only do this once every 50 years, so you survive," he says. "It will not look like Southdale. It will not look like Calhoun Square. This will look like a neighborhood that has wonderful businesses serving Allina, Wells Fargo, and shoppers from all around. There has been this perception that Lake Street is a dangerous place, and we want to change that, pull people from the Mall of America."

Across the street, the Midtown Exchange is selling million-dollar lofts. "The genesis of this project was that we wanted to make traffic flow better," says Wolf, who has sat on a number of "subcommittees" regarding the project. "Now maybe it is about upscaling. But nobody wants it the way it was." Wolf concedes that he can afford to think that way. His has a big enough business to weather the economic storm. Many merchants in the neighborhood, he knows, are about to get pushed out. "As far as the immigrant community, what are the county and Smith Parker supposed to say?" he asks. "They care? Of course they care. Is it lip service? Maybe. But how can they show they care beyond lip service?"

Just across the street, Miguel Hernandez would settle for lip service. No one, he says, has come to offer him assurances that Marisquería El Nayarita will make it through the long spell of construction. The thought of 18.5 percent loans leaves him shaking his head. The project will go on hold after November, when winter comes, then pick up again in the spring. Hernandez knows now that Lake Street, the main route to his business, will be torn up for the next three years.

"This is not business for me," he says, looking out the window. "I believed this was an opportunity, but this is not it. My landlord says the rents will go up when it's all done. I guess you could say that got me kind of down, because I was just hoping to make it through, and that's it. But sometimes I wonder: Who is this all for?"

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