Residents of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood are ethnically diverse, many of whom currently are immigrants from Northeast Africa and Somalia. The 39-story Riverside Plaza apartment building (one of six buildings) stands out next to I-94 and I-35 and not necessarily in a good way. While the panels were recently upgraded to the original palette of primary colors, I’m not a fan of modernist and brutalist architecture.
I lived on the West Bank during my first two years of college, and we often referred to the buildings as the “Crack Stacks” or “Ghetto in the Sky,” likely for reasons more imagined than real. Today, it’s earned the nickname of “Little Somalia” or “Little Mogadishu.” For a farm boy fresh to the big city, this stretch of Cedar Avenue was a curious contrast in diversity, compared to my hometown. In the fall of ’99, I walked down the street once, and ever since, it’s been a drive-by experience to connect with I-94 or Hwy 55. After a decade plus of city living, life experiences, and world travel, it hardly seems intimidating anymore. There’s a lot of history in this area, and maybe this will be my year to explore it.