Music fans fear development may affect St. Paul rock club

by Dan Haugen

For years, the future of First Avenue seemed to teeter back and forth with each new Block E design proposal. Now, on the other side of the river, patrons of St. Paul’s premier rock venue, the Turf Club, are hoping development plans won’t mean major changes at their favorite hangout.

Late last week, a semi-alarming email, originating from Turf Club soundman and booking dude Rob Rule, began circulating local listservs and message boards.

“[The Hamline Midway Coalition] wants to change OUR Midway,” Rule wrote. “We don’t know that they want to rip down our club. We don’t really know what they are up to… We do know that we will do everything we need to make sure that they don’t ruin what we’ve got going.”

The message calls for supporters to show up at a Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC) meeting this Thursday to “hear what they have to say” and voice opinions.

HMC is one of 17 community councils in St. Paul set up to facilitate participation in community organizing, crime prevention, youth programs and economic development. They’ll be meeting Thursday to discuss possible development around the Snelling and University intersection.

Dave Gagne, Economic Development Coordinator with HMC, said the meeting is in response to a recent merger between Dakota Bank and Midway National Bank. Right now, Dakota occupies the lot between the Turf Club and Snelling Ave., and Midway National has office space across University Ave., in the Spruce Tree Center. Gagne said he and other neighbors suspect that Dakota may move out of their current space and into Midway National’s. He added that the banks are said to be on friendly terms with Dakota’s adjacent neighbor on Snelling Ave., Diamond Lake Furniture. According to Gagne, Dakota and Diamond Lake also each have a stake in the parking lot that sits behind both businesses. If-and that might be a big if-both businesses were to try to collectively sell their property, it would make a big, awkward “L” shape without including the Turf Club’s and other University Ave. store’s plots. The lot might look a lot more lucrative if it were to include the Turf Club, or even the entire block. But that’s a lot of speculation.

For the time being, though, there is no plan, “stated or unstated, intentional or unintentional, to go after the Turf Club or any other business on that block,” Gagne said.

“The purpose of the meeting is to discuss, as a group of residents and business owners, what we would like to see on that corner,” he said. “We’re assuming that somebody larger than the neighborhood will be doing the development, but this way, once the process begins, we will already have our agenda organized and on the table.”

“I think that email went out before we got a lot of the information,” said David Ricker, a bartender at the Turf Club who will be representing the club at Thursday’s HMC meeting. “We’re going with an open mind.”

Ricker said they’re definitely interested in what’s going to happen, but more from a perspective of wanting to know who your new neighbors might be, not fearing buy-out.

“Hopefully [the plan] involves some local St. Paul businesses,” he said. “We’d like to see something not totally corporate.”

It’d probably be premature to start your petition drive now, but if you’d like to get involved in the process you can attend the Hamline Midway Coalition meeting on Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at 1564 Lafond Ave. (on the corner of Lafond and Snelling).

Dan Haugen is the Lens music editor. Please send comments and correspondence to [email protected].