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Uptown Theatre’s Iconic Sign Is Gone. The City Is Investigating.

The signage came down Tuesday amid remodeling efforts, prompting Racket readers to ask: What the hell?

In a word: huh?
Jessica Armbruster

You probably remember Uptown Theatre’s sign looking like the image below. The 106-year-old Minneapolis building has sported that 50-foot vertical UPTOWN signage since 1939, after a fire resulted in the remodeling of its façade.

Credit: Jay Boller

As of Tuesday, the sign looks like the featured image in this article—UPTOWN-less! The sight of workers ripping down the iconic letters alarmed more than one Racket reader (two, specifically), so we contacted the city of Minneapolis comms department for answers.

“While city permits have been acquired for some work now taking place at the Uptown Theatre, none of those permits included any changes to the building’s iconic sign,” spokesman Casper Hill tells us. “City inspectors are now investigating this project.”

As scooped by Racket in January, the Uptown Theatre is currently being transformed from a dormant movie theater to a 2,500-capacity concert venue. The reason why developers are monkeying with the sign could be benign; perhaps they’re replacing the bulbs or shining the glass. (Sign experts: Please sound off in the comments.) But, as Hill notes, they don’t appear to have permission to alter that aspect of the historic building.

In search of additional details, we reached out to owner/mysterious mega-developer Ned Abdul—whose Swervo Development is undertaking the Uptown’s reimagining—but didn’t hear back. Ditto with Rita Goodrich of MacDonald & Mack Architects. We’ll update you if/when we do hear back, with explanations exciting or otherwise.

(Update, Sept. 30: The city slapped the owner with a violation letter; a preservation application and still-in-review signed permit were submitted to the city late Thursday.)

Abdul’s Lagoon Partners LLC acquired the Uptown Theatre for $466,667 in 2009, according to county records. Another of his companies, Armory Holdings LCC, is listed as the current owner. Abdul’s firm brought the Armory, which had become a run-down parking garage, back to life in 2017. In August, the city of Shakopee approved plans for Swervo to build a 19,000-capacity amphitheater outside Canterbury Park.

The most recent Uptown Theatre tenant, Delaware-based Landmark Theatres, bailed last year under threat of eviction due to $340,000 in alleged unpaid rent. They’d operated the movie theater since 1978.