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Opinion: Stadium Village sucks

A look into the University of Minnesota’s most uninspiring neighborhood.
Image by Noah Liebl
A recent boom in housing developments has stripped Stadium Village of its character.

Picture this: The sky is crisp and clear and you’re soaking in the splendor of a sunny, winter Saturday as you walk back to campus from a friend’s apartment. You feel content striding down University Avenue, but your mood quickly sours. You stand on the threshold of Stadium Village trying to cross the dreaded intersection at Huron Boulevard, waiting for so long you momentarily wonder why you needed to cross in the first place. The cars rush past as you breathe in their acrid fumes and scowl at the traffic light that refuses to change. 

“Welcome to Stadium Village,” you mutter.

You finally cross and walk over to the main stretch of Washington Avenue. Passing the front lawn of the McNamara Alumni Center, you admire what seem to be the only trees in all of Stadium Village. The relief is only momentary because the glorious winter sun suddenly disappears from your Vitamin-D-deficient skin. 

The Hub apartment building looms above you, a hulking, blue-gray middle finger to students who could never dream of affording such astronomical rent (a one-bedroom apartment costs $1,885 per month). 

Sulking down the sidewalk, you look over at The Graduate and scoff at the architectural shortcomings. Your fifth-grade Minecraft creations were more visually appealing and somehow less blocky than this red-brick monstrosity. The light rail barrels down the street honking its horn. After passing the second Caribou Coffee within two blocks, you begin to wonder if urban development in America has lost its sense of integrity altogether. 

So goes a typical (and not at all dramatized) walk through Stadium Village — for me, at least.

What makes this University of Minnesota neighborhood so disappointing?

Besides lacking any quaintness, charm or curb appeal, Stadium Village is a discouraging demonstration of how corporate greed can squeeze the life out of a campus community.

Mikai Tasch, a second-year civil engineering student who lives in Stadium Village, mentioned how his father and uncle — both alumni of the University — noticed dramatic changes in the area since graduating in the ‘90s, especially within the past few years. 

“It’s just expanding rapidly and I feel like it doesn’t really have the character it used to have,” Tasch said.

With modern buildings in jarring shades of yellow, dark gray and beige crammed next to 20th-century brick-and-mortar storefronts, the aesthetic of Stadium Village is incongruous.

“They’ve kind of been building new right next to the old and I don’t really like that,” Tasch said. “It’s just kind of awkward, I suppose.”

Looks aside, Stadium Village offers students convenience with its proximity to campus, sports stadiums and the East Bank light rail stop, but this convenience comes at a cost. 

Edward Goetz, a professor of urban and regional planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, explained that Stadium Villages rents are high because of an increased demand for university housing in recent years that led to a series of cost-cutting construction projects. He said, despite a lower quality of craftsmanship, the new landlords charge higher-than-average rent prices.

“A lot of developers and builders got in quickly, and I think their primary concern was to get in at a cost that, relative to the potential for rents, would leave them most well off financially,” Goetz said.

He explained how owners of new developments charge rent that is often too difficult for local businesses to meet, allowing corporate businesses to proliferate. With a strip mall, three banks and more chain restaurants than you could count on both hands, the commercial offerings of Stadium Village are more similar to an outer Minneapolis suburb than a quintessential college town. 

“That’s unfortunate because you start losing what’s distinctive about the neighborhood,” Goetz said. 

Stadium Village has plenty of hidden gems, like Kimchi Tofu House, The Test Kitchen, Hong Kong Noodle and Afro Deli, among other beloved local businesses. But as rent prices continue to rise, a family-owned establishment could become a Subway faster than you can say “capitalism.”

Perhaps the changes in Stadium Village are an inevitable result of a growing university, but it’s hard to watch such a lively college neighborhood become devoid of any distinguishable characteristics. Stadium Village should look and feel like a place for students, not for out-of-state corporations looking to make a profit. 

Although Dinkytown has managed to maintain some of its historic characteristics, it faces an uncertain future due to a recent boom in new housing developments. Luckily, other campus neighborhoods such as Como and the often-overlooked West Bank have retained their uniqueness.

But I’m afraid that Stadium Village, with its flimsy apartment buildings, massive parking garages and heavily trafficked streets, is too far gone.

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  • JJ
    Feb 23, 2024 at 10:55 pm

    Grand Ave is another example of a unique area going corporate- bland. Maybe we consumers need to support what we want with our spending power.

  • Tony
    Feb 23, 2024 at 11:55 am

    It’s so unfortunate that what Stadium Village used to be when I was in college (20 years ago) is gone. While some will tout that it’s great there’s more places for students to live, all the developers build is mega expensive, granite counter top, LCD TVs everywhere, apartment buildings. The only businesses that can afford the rent are national brands, so now only chains are around.

    At some point what’s left of Stadium Village will get bulldozed (including things like Dinnaken House, about the only place left on campus that has reasonable rent, PS it’s owned by the UM Foundation) to make way for more campus buildings and things called “incubators” whatever that means. There will be no food places left anywhere close to campus that isn’t a chain, there will be no cheaper apartments (that aren’t owned by slum lords) left, there’ll be basically 1 bar left (Sally’s).

    The U is buying up all the land around campus since it got caught with it’s pants down when all these monstrosity apartment buildings got built in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Jimmy Johns & Stub & Herbs, the U owns it, land where BK is, U owns the whole mall, I already said that UMF owns Dinnaken Properties and won’t have any qualms about tearing down some of all of those buildings for some weird academic idea of a private/public incubator stuff at the expense of reasonable rent for students.

    Eventually McNamara will no longer be the end of campus, but squarely inside of it further destroying any character that Stadium Village once had.

  • Lael Gatewood
    Feb 22, 2024 at 10:38 am

    Love Bona, still there over the years.

  • kim
    Feb 22, 2024 at 10:18 am

    I have been on campus for 20 years and I completely agree with Leo the Stadium Village has slid into a cookie cutter, soulless space . It no longer has the quirks and personality that it used to have .

  • GVN
    Feb 22, 2024 at 9:54 am

    The first couple of paragraphs perfectly encapsulate my experience every day at The Quad last year. The only part you missed is the reliably icy and unshoveled sidewalks, although that hasn’t been much of an issue this year.

  • Blake Slette
    Feb 22, 2024 at 9:30 am

    “Stadium Village sucks.” “Stadium Village is too far gone.” What does this kind of language accomplish?

    To me it encourages people to give up on what survives of the neighborhood—devaluing the very thing that this article claims to value. There are still numerous small businesses, storied and unique buildings, and meaningful places in Stadium Village. We should be motivating University students to value, protect, and advocate for these places rather than dismissing them and fostering complacency. Think of Stub and Herbs for example. It’s one of the longest-running small businesses on campus and within one of the few original street corner buildings left in Stadium Village. It’s planned to be torn town and redeveloped by the University of Minnesota Foundation. Does this article help protect it, or harm it?

    A similar opinion article about Dinkytown was posted in the Daily several months ago, with the headline “Dinkytown is dead, Como dances on grave.” The headline alone speaks for itself. These articles are trying to do the right thing, but falling victim to the “easy route” of just giving up instead of advocating. Dinkytown, Stadium Village, Cedar-Riverside, Como, Seven Corners—these few neighborhoods are the only small business districts we have at the U. They will always continue to grow and change, but they will also always be worth advocating for and thoughtfully protecting. Giving up on them is the worst possible option.

    Another recent article, “A battle for the soul of Stinkytown”, is a step in the right direction.

    Feb 22, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Really insightful article Mr. H. This one reminds me of a lemon-lime Lacroix!

  • Catherine
    Feb 22, 2024 at 8:41 am

    Interesting take and as always very well written Mr. Huppke.

  • Jay Bee Class of 1989
    Feb 22, 2024 at 8:33 am

    With closure of Stub & Herbs Stadium Village lost it’s Soul , it’s lost it’s moral compass