202211 1 1By China Insight

If not for the tireless efforts of one man, the infamous building that is now government office space and a museum may have gone the way of the wrecking ball. 

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March 20, 1930 – Oct. 6, 2022 (Photo from 2019)

The man responsible for successfully fighting for National Historic Landmark status for this building, the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas -- the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots at President John F. Kennedy and injuring then Texas governor John Connally in 1963 – is no native Texan.  He was Chinese, born in Shanghai in 1930!

Weiming Lu’s family emigrated to Taiwan in 1949 where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He arrived in the U.S. as a young student, completed his Master’s Degrees in structural engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1954 and in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1957. 

A 2019 biography in the Minnesota Alumni magazine reported that one of Lu’s objectives was to make “the Twin Cities more people-oriented and less dominated by vehicles.”  And he succeeded.

Not only did he play a major role in transforming downtown Minneapolis, turning part of Nicollet Avenue into pedestrian-friendly Nicollet Mall, and developed the Loring Greenway and skyway system, his most notable accomplishment was in the revitalization of Saint Paul’s Lowertown, mixing in new construction amidst historic buildings.

In 1979, Lu was hired by then-mayor of Saint Paul George Latimer for the redevelopment project.  “He had the highest sophistication an architect could have, a love for historic preservation, and a detailed ability to implement those ideas,” Latimer said of Lu. 

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Aerial view of part of the Lowertown project


Lu oversaw the 16-block project from start to its completion in 2006.  He pursued development funds from the McKnight Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the St. Paul Companies and the City of Saint Paul.  Slowly, one-by-one, nearby warehouses were rehabbed and rented.  Mears Park, in the middle of the project, is recognized nationally as an example of smart urban design.  This all came about because Lu’s vision valued the neighborhood’s historic buildings, and saw that as an opportunity “to create a built environment on a human scale.”

Lu told MPR News in 2006, “I happen to come from an old country, and I respect tradition as well, and I try to continue to mix new and old, and to provide a sense of continuity and always welcome changes as well.”

On top of a successful career, Lu served on multiple boards, lectured at universities in Asia, Europe and the U.S. and found time to nurture his keen interest in Chinese calligraphy.  His work had been exhibited at several art galleries

He also had contributed to books on urban regeneration, historic preservation and sustainable development.  His own book “The Tao of Urban Rejuvenation: Building a Livable, Creative Urban Village” was published in 2013.

This gentle man of abundant creative talent passed away on Oct. 6, 2022.  He is survived by his wife Caroline and son Kevin. 

For deeper understanding and appreciation of Lu’s philosophy and more details on his many contributions, see “Chinese Americans continue to to contribute,” or the May 2017 China Insight PDF (on pp. 1 & 14).

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Weiming Lu taking a stroll in Lowertown St. Paul in 2016

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Lu; Linda Mealey-Lohmann, co-founder of MN China Friendship Garden Society; Lu’s wife, Caroline

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Lu, a young student in the U.S. in the 1950s



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