Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

The Marcy-Holmes neighborhood has an identity that is dynamic. It has been changing for a long time with new housing projects, new businesses, and of course the constant change of people in the neighborhood.

The changing demographic is mostly caused by the University of Minnesota, with the changing student body. As seniors graduate, they move out of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, more specifically Dinkytown, and the incoming freshmen take the opening spots. This causes a flux of new faces to the neighborhood, with each new face contributing to the identity of Marcy-Holmes in a different way.

Recently, many students have volunteered during the Earth Day event in Marcy-Holmes. Aimee Blanchette, writer for the Star Tribune writes:

“Neighborhood volunteers and landscape architecture students have installed several rain barrels, rain gardens and green roofs … And each year, neighbors participate in the annual Earth Day River Clean Up.”

This part of the Marcy-Holmes identity could be considered eco-friendly, volunteerism, and awareness of its surroundings. In as recently as 2007:

 “The Marcy-Holmes neighborhood … was nominated one of the top 10 eco-neighborhoods in America” (Bruce, Charley).

This is most likely influenced by the students who live in the area and Marcy-Holmes participation groups.

The neighborhood’s history has significantly come into play in developing the dynamic identity of the community. The historic landmark, Pillsbury A-Mill, has recently become the large construction project. The plan is to renovate the inside and turn it into affordable apartments geared towards artists in the area (Buchta, Jim).

Not only will there be a more cultural vibe to the identity of the neighborhood, the artists will also be able to put their works on display at The Soap Factory, a transformed factory which now presents artwork from local artists.

However, the neighborhood’s history has not always been so grand. I was able to interview an elderly couple, walking down Main St. in Marcy-Holmes, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had lived in the area for 25 years. Their names are Bob and Joanne and they said:

“The area used to have nothing. There was nothing really here during the first couple of years. We do remember that you wouldn’t go out at night because there were homeless and drunkards along the river.”

I had a similar understanding of how the neighborhood had changed by Roaster Paul, the roaster at the Dunn Brothers Coffee Shop. He said there used to be a lot of homelessness, or in his wording “crazies” walking the streets.

But, what the elderly couple and Paul agreed upon was that the neighborhood has grown younger, both with the new blood roaming the streets, and by this I mean students, and how these new people have influenced a change. A cultural change which has transformed the identity of Marcy Holmes.

The Marcy Holmes neighborhood has changed from a commercial identity to a cultural hotspot identity. Brian, a resident of the area, says, “The area has become more culturally diverse and more family centered.”

So, when you stroll down 2nd Ave. and parts of Main St., you may think the area is somewhat rundown with crumbling old buildings, vacant lots, and with unoccupied leased malls. But I encourage you to peel back the paint and investigate. Either walk further on or look at the old buildings, and you will find a rich history. An identity that is forever changing, with its constant waves of new faces and with the new people’s cultural background.



Blanchette, Aimee. “GREEN NEIGHBORHOOD SPOTLIGHT; MARCY-HOLMES; Recognition for a neighborhood in bloom.” Star Tribune. February 10, 2007.

Bruce, Charley. “Marcy-Holmes dubbed eco-friendly neighborhood.” Minnesota Daily. February 7, 2007.



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