Mini-golf and sculpture garden arrive at Seven Points in Uptown

The prestigious corner of Seven Points Mall in Lake and Hennepin in Minneapolis will be transformed into Arts & Rec, an experiential mini-golf, art and restaurant concept developed by a local group of arts-focused entrepreneurs that includes the co-founders of Can Can Wonderland.

The 13,500-square-foot concept announced Wednesday for the space most recently occupied by Fig + Farro will include an arts performance area, a rooftop sculpture garden and an artist-designed mini golf course, the same type of attraction that Jennifer and Chris Pennington brought to a new level at the entertainment venue St. Paul which opened to rave reviews and large crowds in 2017. The Penningtons left Can Can Wonderland in 2019 and formed Arts & Rec with partners Esther Callahan, a former Mia curator and board member of Franconia Sculpture Park and Joel Hernandez, leader of an educational technology company and CEO of Arts & Rec. Collaborators are working at other public art installations in southern Minneapolis and the northeast, but Seven Points will be the first Arts & Rec company to open in spring 2022.

“Arts & Rec was founded to bring art, food and fun together, and launching our first location at Seven Points is a unique opportunity,” Hernandez said in a statement. “We believe that Uptown has all the possibilities for art and the community to come together to celebrate.”

Retail exodus from Uptown

Uptown needs a win. Businesses in the region have been hit hard by civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and then again last summer following the fatal shooting of Winston Smith by law enforcement in the Seven Points parking ramp. In June, Juut Salonspa relinquished its corner spot opposite Seven Points after a 35-year run in the neighborhood. In October, Canadian shoe salesman John Fluevog, one of the last retailers in Hennepin and 31st, pulled out.

But high-profile outings were a problem in Uptown long before the pandemic. Since 2018, Lake and Hennepin have lost Victoria’s Secret, Columbia Sportswear, North Face and Apple. Within Seven Points, departures including Famous Dave’s, Libertine and Arc’teryx have become so frequent that Sephora’s January shutdown barely made the news. The street-facing anchor point at Seven Points – best remembered as the center’s heyday Figlio formerly known as Calhoun Square – has been vacant since Fig + Farro closed in May 2020 .

New owner

Chicago real estate firm Northpond Partners bought Calhoun Square in fall 2019 for $ 34.5 million, about half the price it sold five years earlier. The company quickly changed the name to Seven Points and promised to reinvent the struggling center. But between Uptown’s tough business environment and the pandemic, the promised renovations have been slow to take shape. But things are starting to happen.

In addition to Arts & Rec, Northpond signed Chase Bank. Curioso Coffee recently replaced the old Dogwood counter at Seven Points. The center hosts a holiday pop-up shopping market called the True North Collaborative. The additions bring Seven Points to 72% occupancy, a spokesperson said. However, last week, Kitchen Window, a 35-year-old tenant, announced it was closing.

Seven Points focuses on its “future vision”. Boards recently descended from the entrance to the long shuttered shopping center of Lake and Hennepin, a sign of new energy to come, the developers said in a statement.

Something to give hope to commercial real estate brokers. “The concept of entertainment is the beginning of evolution” for Seven Points, said Stefanie Meyer, director and senior vice president of Mid-America Real Estate-Minnesota. “I believe restaurants will continue to thrive and entertainment uses will find a place in and around Uptown.”

For Jennifer Pennington, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Impact at Arts & Rec, being part of the Uptown monument revitalization feels like a moment of loop. “I worked in Calhoun Square when I was 19,” she said. Pennington was a salesperson at the Heartbreaker store. “I remember when Uptown was booming, and we think it’s still possible.”

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