Twin Cities Thinkers

Meet the Minnesotans shaping our future

"Gaudi was an absolute genius, and replicating that could easily come off trite," McKee says, adding that Shea kept the details from going over the top. "I'm really proud of the job he did."

Shea's focus on restaurant design started shortly after he moved from Boston to Minneapolis in 1978. Carl Pohlad introduced him to Leeann Chin, who hired Shea to design first one restaurant, then 20 more.

Over the years, Shea frequently dined out, which is how he got to know the city's top chefs. Among the restaurants in Shea's portfolio are the Dakota Jazz Club, La Belle Vie, Barrio, Tryg's near Lake Calhoun, and the Guthrie's Sea Change. Each has a different look, but all share a keen attention to detail.

David Shea
Nick Vlcek
David Shea
Joe Selvaggio
Nick Vlcek
Joe Selvaggio

"David has a lot of ideas," says Warren Beck, owner of the Galleria Shopping Center in Edina that houses Crave, a Shea-designed restaurant. "He travels a fair amount—he pays a lot of attention to retail and architectural environments, and he always brings that influence here."

Schmoozing the Rich to Help the Poor

Joe Selvaggio believes that society functions best when the poor are empowered to help themselves—and that the wealthy have an obligation to make this happen.

But Selvaggio doesn't foment class warfare; he charms the rich into following his lead. For 50 years, Selvaggio has helped poor people get housing and jobs. His influence has contributed to a culture of giving in the Twin Cities.

"Joe is extremely soft-spoken, but he's the king of the hard asks," says Minneapolis Mayor Rybak. "To know Joe is to know that you will have less of your free time and money. And that's fine, because he uses them for the right things."

The son of Italian immigrants, Selvaggio was raised in Chicago, where he studied to become a priest. He served in a Minneapolis parish during the 1960s, where he got involved in the social movements of the era.

After three years, Selvaggio left the priesthood. A friend suggested he ask wealthy contacts to sponsor his social work.

"For $5 a month, he would be our personal advocate in the areas of peace, poverty, and racism," says Lee Lynch, founder of ad agency Carmichael Lynch, who became one of Selvaggio's first sponsors.

Selvaggio persuaded Harold "Hal" Greenwood of Midwest Savings & Loan to start a million-dollar fund for building homes for poor people. He'd pay the building contractors $25,000, then sell the houses at cost. This was the beginning of the Project for Pride in Living.

"I think Joe is viewed as a person ahead of his time in terms of bringing attention to the issues of the inner city, and the need for investment and helping people have the resources to build a better future for themselves," says Steve Cramer, executive director of Project for Pride in Living.

Selvaggio stayed with the organization for 25 years. While he was at the helm, the project built hundreds of homes and thousands of rental properties. Now it counts a $17.9 million annual budget.

In 1997, Selvaggio founded the One Percent Club. Kenneth and Judy Dayton, heirs to the Dayton department store fortune, were the first to sign up. The goal was getting the richest to give 1 percent of their net worth to charity. Each year the club added 100 members. When it hit 1,000, Selvaggio moved on.

"He's got these connections to the Daytons and the crème de la crème of the rich society, and I think they're sort of humbled by this very ordinary man," says local businessman Terry McGann.

Selvaggio's most recent endeavor is Microgrants, a nonprofit that has given out 1,500 $1,000 grants for job-related costs. Selvaggio makes sure the recipients are worthy: He has enlisted a network of social service agencies to screen applicants and recommend the most deserving.

Most days, Selvaggio works out or eats lunch at the Minneapolis Club. He joined 20 years ago for the express purpose of hob-knobbing with the city's elite.

"That's my unique thing: I love good rich people," Selvaggio says. "Most of my cohorts in the nonprofit world say, 'You're sucking up to rich people, and I hate that part of the job.' I work the heck out of that."

The Vehicle of the Future Is a Bike

Twenty years ago, Minneapolis was a city with lovely recreational bike trails along its lakes and riverfront. But Tim Springer and George Puzak wanted more than that: They wanted bike trails to become commuter routes.

Puzak was the first to imagine a cycling highway in the 29th Street railroad gorge. He mapped it out and sent letters to leaders of the 16 neighborhoods abutting the gorge. Puzak created a slideshow—the old-fashioned kind that clicks loudly—and screened it around the Twin Cities.

Then Springer joined the cause. In 1992, with a few of their friends, the pair formed the Midtown Greenway Coalition.

Actually getting the pathway built was a Herculean effort. It took 15 years and a lot of lobbying, starting with trips that were dubbed milk-crate tours—Springer would stand on a milk crate on a bridge above the railway path and lecture about the city's bright biking future to anyone who would listen.

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