My debut novel, Edge of Shadows, is set in the Uptown/Lakes District of Minneapolis, MN. It’s amazing how much inspiration that area proved for my writing of that story.
Edge of Shadow’s main character, Ellie Coulter, lives and works in the neighborhood, and I thought she’d be the best person to tell us a little bit more about why she chose to settle there. Ellie..take it away!
Ellie: Thanks Cege! Although I am a bit uncomfortable being in the spotlight like this, Cege told me it would be easy because all’s I had to do was share why I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Uptown.
It all started when I had to make the decision about where to open my coffee shop. I lived in the burbs at the time, but in my exploration of the cities over time (I’ve lived here all my life), there was always something about Uptown that drew me in.
The first thing you notice is the architecture. In downtown Minneapolis, just a few short miles north, there are the usual massively tall buildings that are trying to touch the sky, but in Uptown it’s a mishmash of old and new buildings that are more hunkered down to the ground. Everything here centers around the Hennepin/Lagoon Ave intersection and builds out from there. I’ve watched lots of movies in the Uptown Theater on its single screen, and I actually prefer it to the modern cineplexes.
A block up from the Lagoon theater is Calhoun Square, which is the Uptown equivalent of a suburban mall. You’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, and even a gym there. Then spreading out from Calhoun Square, you’ll find more independent shops standing alongside some bigger name chain stores that we all know, but for some reason, it all works.
Because space is at a premium, parking is always a little bit of a challenge so a lot of people do their shopping and night life clubbing on foot. It’s just easier to get around. You’ll see all sorts of people on the streets: young and old, professional, hippie, artistic, and goth. They are all here and they all blend in together. For someone like me, who has never felt like I fit in anywhere, the “come-as-you-are” vibe immediately made me feel comfortable.
So I leased a small space not far from the Hennepin/Lagoon Ave intersection and set up my coffee shop. I worked hard to make the space welcoming for everyone and I feel really fortunate to have some regulars.
When I got divorced, it was natural for me to move closer to work, and I found a great little studio apartment in one of the old homes just a few blocks from my shop. There are lots of places like that here. The big old houses that were built around the turn of the last century don’t always make sense to keep as single family homes, so the owners subdivided them into smaller apartments. It’s quiet and I love it.
Adjacent to the Uptown commercial district are three recreational lakes: Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, and the Lake of the Isles. I walk my dog Skipper around Lake Calhoun almost every day.
It’s fun visiting with customers who come into the shop from out of town because they always say that when they think of Minnesota they immediately picture big snow drifts and hostile winters. Sure, winters are a bit more extreme here than other parts of the country, but Minnesotans don’t let a little thing like the weather keep them indoors. Regardless of season, there are always walkers and joggers taking advantage of the trails that follow the curves of the lakes. (And during the winters, the lakes freeze over and you can actually walk on them- I’ll admit that freaks me out.)
But one of my favorite parts of living here is the mansions over on the Lake of the Isles. Cege will tell you that I’m a bit of a daydreamer, and I love to just walk along the bike path and imagine what life would be like if I lived in one of those big houses. One of my employees, Linda Jordan, owns one of them. In Cege’s book, Edge of Shadows, I actually get to live in it for awhile, but things get pretty hairy pretty quickly.
History, art, theater, food, people, and fun. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Uptown, Ellie! Hopefully the next time someone visits Minneapolis, they’ll want to check it out.