What’s next for the Kmart site blocking Nicollet?

If you’re outside the metro, you probably don’t care about that. Even if you’re on the subway, you probably don’t care that much. But wherever you are, imagine a street that everyone uses to get around, then imagine someone dropped a Kmart in the middle of it.

“Without warning?” you ask. “How many people were run over? Did Kmart settle with the surviving families?” No not like this. But there’s been a Kmart blocking Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street for decades, and a lot of people hate it.

Over the years, people have come to think of the simple detour around the store as a trip down Donner Pass, with cars running out of gas, occupants reduced to cannibalism.

Now he’s gone, and the city wants to know what people want to replace him with. There is a survey, with unimaginative options. Do you want accommodation? Yeah, sure, I guess.

Better questions would be like this: what kind of huge neon-adorned steel roller coaster do you want?

1. High speed with tight turns.

2. Crisscross inversion that breaks the neck.

3. Serpentine maze of intersecting railroads that give the illusion of almost constant peril.

The end result of this the survey will be “people want this kind of a crazy rollercoaster,” and that’s what the city will be forced to build.

Another question they might have asked: what beloved Minnesota archetype should be erected in colossal form to stand astride the newly reconnected Nicollet Avenue?

1. The Pillsbury Doughboy. A thousand cinnamon buns flew out of her smiling mouth every noon, followed by a trickle of icing from the public fountains.

2. A huge Paul Bunyan animatronic, whose ax is raised in an approximation of the sun’s position in the sky so everyone can see for blocks around what time it is.

3. A statue of Bob Dylan. (Note: As with the real Bob Dylan, this statue will hang around for a short time, then decamp for good somewhere else, but there will be a plaque saying he was here once.)

4. A statue of Mary Tyler Moore as the Statue of Liberty, holding a “Blue Light Special” torch. Alas, the polls show – or would, if I weren’t making it up – that a shocking percentage of people under 35 have no idea what it meant to this city. If only she had married Fran Tarkington at the top of the Weatherball. But no.

They will build housing, of course, and it will look like everything else that is done today. It will have showcases on the ground floor. There will be a Starbucks, a UPS store, and a new restaurant chain that serves “bulk chicken” or Peruvian-Alaskan fusion or burgers. Or a new UPS-burger fusion restaurant, where you order at the store, come home, it’s delivered to your doorstep and stolen before you get there.

All of this would be better than the grand mal of the Kmart store.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Maybe we could say, “Hey, could you build boring boxes with tiny balconies and slam thin boxes on the front so they look like a halfway house for crossword junkies?”

It might drive them crazy. “No, we won’t,” they said. “We’re going to show you. We’re going to build brick apartments, something that doesn’t look like a training ground for the Big Bad Wolf, and there’s going to be classic ornaments and fireplaces and everything solid. You go get it and you’ll love it.”

You know, we probably would.

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