Fire destroys well-known building on Minneapolis' Lake Street

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A fire tore through a well-known building on the corner on Chicago Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis Sunday night.

Minneapolis fire officials say the blaze started around 10:30 p.m. in the building that dates back to 1895. The building is home to businesses and artists’ studios, and for 77 years the building was home to a Lake Street landmark.

Now its future is in doubt.

For Mark Simon, watching the building that has been a part of his wife's family for more than 80 years become engulfed in flames was like losing a member of his own family.

“I felt helpless. I couldn't run and do anything,” Simon said. “It was saddening and moving at the same time.”

Investigators believe the fire started in the basement but then spread to businesses on the first floor and artist’s studios on the second and third floors where firefighters escorted two people outside to safety.

“I feel bad for my tenants. Some of them lost everything. Not all of them had insurance,” Simon said.

Nate Roberts started Roberts Shoes in 1937. Simon started working there in the early ‘80s and eventually took over the business before closing it in 2014. 

Simon had put the building on the market but recently reconsidered selling, even though "For Sale" signs are still visible on the outside.

“I felt like I could keep running it indefinitely because it was full and active and I had good tenants,” he said.

The road in front of the building has been taped off because of concerns the 123-year-old structure could collapse. But Simon hopes he'll be able to salvage the place where he made so many memories.

“This was like the final nail in the coffin. I never expected it to end that way on Chicago and Lake,” he said.

In addition to Roberts Shoes, the cult novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was written in a second floor apartment in the ‘70s.

Simon said he'll meet with a construction company to see if the building can be salvaged or if it has to be torn down.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the tenants.