More than 50 years ago, Minnehaha Mall opened as one of Saint Paul’s first “modern” shopping centers. Minnehaha Center, Midway Shopping Center and Phalen Shopping Center were among Saint Paul’s earliest answers to the shopping centers of the suburbs.
Minnehaha Center had more than a dozen stores in its heyday. Its property has been used for everything from customer appreciation events to a neighborhood cleanup site.
But it has always faced challenges, not just from larger shopping centers.
Part of its site was swamp land and a city dump site. Some of the property was a peat bog. While former Frogtown children have fond memories of going to this site and other dumps to search for treasures, the geography made development difficult.
The shopping center had various supermarkets over the years, as well as a drugstore. But what it may have been best known for was the 50-year-old Minnehaha Lanes. The landmark bowling alley closed in 2008. It was once one of the busiest bowling alleys in Saint Paul, with leagues crowding its lanes every night. The lanes were founded in 1958 by William Manion. Manion was a St. Paul native and well-known bowler who died in 1997.
The Saint Paul Port Authority bought the property and the four acres around it, to developer a new headquarters for Terry Bear Corporation. The Port was a recipient of a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant, the first of its kind, to clean the property for redevelopment.
A few years before the Port took control of the northern part of the property, the Salvation Army had considered the site for a large community center. That proposal caused considerable controversy, with some neighborhood residents in support and others against it. The nearby Wilder campus was also eyed as a site before the proposal fell through.
The rest of the shopping center remains in place, with businesses and services for the community.