Cruising around town on the furry bike for a little exercise - after some sweet late-season skiing yesterday at Northstar - and getting geared up for tonight's Art Walk (and a check-in with Music Circus' auditions). Ran into a couple of friends, both of whom are in the process of transforming midtown - or, in the case of one, being transformed OUT...
Entrepreneur Andrea Lepore was out in front of the northeast corner of 16th and Q Streets, supervising a work crew who were hanging a new vinyl banner along the cyclone fence that now closes the sidewalk while her construction crews begin the serious cosmetic work that is going to transform what was Young's Fireside store for as long as I can remember, into Hot Italian, whose logo features a motorscooter and whose motto is "Pizza and panini bar - motors and gear."
Would you like a little axle grease on that panini, bella mia? (Forgive the Pidgen Italian.)
As Lepore told me, there are a lot of mid-century buildings around town that haven't had much done with them, and she's aiming to turn this corner into a showcase. She's certainly got the location - and the chutzpah. Now, bring on the pizza! That should happen by the end of June, says Lepore, with fingers verbally crossed.
A few blocks away, at 20th and Capitol, another businessman who has long defined midtown - bicycle manufacturer and all-around repair guy Steve Rex - is being booted out of his all-too-central location to make room for a new Mike Heller development. Rex, who has been at the location seemingly forever, will be moving over to 18th and E Street, near the New Roma Bakery at the end of May.
According to Rex, Heller and partner Paul Thiebaud (son of...) are going to build a "heritage building" in honor of their developer and painter fathers. According to Rex, Heller and Thiebaud plan to tear down the more than 100-year-old building that has long housed both Rex Cycles and A&A Auto Repair, a building that was originally built as a livery just as the "horseless carriage" era dawned.
Will the city building department that routinely makes life so difficult for some people to change the slightest thing on buildings half its age allow Heller to tear this one down? It's not a good-looking building right now - the place doesn't appear to have been repainted since it was built - but perhaps at least the facade could be combined, post-modern-style, into what ever Heller has planned? I say this will full recognition of the great work Heller has done around town, most notably his excellent transformation of an old storage facility into the dazzling MARRS Building further down 20th, at J. And the "heritage" hook is hearsay, admittedly. But what about our heritage? I'm not particularly versed in this, and I'm happy to be corrected by Messrs. Heller or Thiebaud. But this isn't looking great from street level, guys. At least, not yet.
Anyway, that's a casual look at life on the Grid this morning. It's a beautiful day - I think summer unofficially started yesterday, The Bee actually gave some substantial coverage to Second Saturday, and there will be THOUSANDS of people cruising the Grid tonight!
That's a lot to be grateful for, and then there's this: Those hideous, insidious fried-egg-shaped seed pods from (I think) English elm trees, which have been swirling and piling up in drifts in neighborhoods around town, are finally starting to stop falling. I hope. (Damn, some just blew past my window as I typed that.) Anyway, I'm optimistic.
Bring on Second Saturday!