Inside The 1300 Mystery in Dinkytown

Why is the building near Varsity Theater evicting all its commercial tenants?

Inside The 1300 Mystery in Dinkytown
Photo by Ralph Winn

The fate of a nearly century-old building is on the minds of Dinkytown denizens after its longtime commercial tenants were summarily evicted from 1300 Fourth St. SE, next to the Varsity Theater.

The news came as a surprise to tenant Dinkytown Optical. Owner Jason Davis says the business has been in the neighborhood since 1972. “Serving the community as long as we have, people know us. Plus, a huge part of our customer base is college students; we are the go-to for people with glasses who go to the U.”

He will be leaving, along with longtime barber shop Milo’s on Fourth and several other neighboring businesses. All were notified by their landlord, Brett Naylor, that they have to vacate by July 31, even though Davis says many have active leases.

“The economics of Dinkytown are changing dramatically,” says Randal Gast, president of the Dinkytown Business Alliance. “The business landscape used to be mostly ma-and-pa private businesses. Today, about half are chain operations.” (Longtime Dinkytown tenants Vescio’s and the Library Bar closed recently.)

1300 tenant Underground Printing has been in Dinkytown for about 10 years, but co-owner Rishi Narayan says the news was not surprising: “We had had discussions with the [building] owner, so we knew it would eventually happen.”

What remains unknown is the fate of the two-story commercial building. “It’s been a mystery,” says Gast, adding that it’s uncommon for landlords in the area to force businesses out.

Naylor has developed a number of student housing projects in Minneapolis, including the apartment building at 1301 University Ave. SE. Naylor did not respond to interview requests. While it’s unclear what will happen to the Dinkytown building, “it cannot be altered or torn down without a permit from the city,” says Jack Byers, manager of long-range planning for Minneapolis’ Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department.

The structure was designated part of the Dinkytown Commercial Historic District by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission in 2016. As of late March, no applications had been submitted for the property. 

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