Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Detroit Still Exists

Dateline: 8:35 pm July 21, 2016 Filed under:

I spent a few days last month in downtown Detroit at CNU 24. CNU is smart enough to host their annual “congress” in and around the city. We spent not a single moment in a conference center, but rather in beautiful old theaters, bars, parks, pop-up event spaces with food trucks, tables, vendors and Ping-Pong, and informal gathering spots. In other words, out in the city. Between walking to and from my hotel to various conference events, I observed and soaked up quite a bit of downtown life. I have to say, I’m very impressed. Detroit’s public realm and remaining building fabric provide a strong basis for…

Walking to 38th Street Station

Dateline: 1:43 pm June 15, 2016 Filed under:

I’ve lived near the 38th Street station for 12 years, and have observed the many ways people get to and from the station. I have my own personal habit, and follow different paths going to and coming from the train. So, in the spirit of Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl, PPS and urban nerds everywhere, I sat for a half-hour last month to observe and actually plot on a map how people get to and from the station platform. How we all get to 38th Street Station influences how we plan for development nearby. The results, shown below, are interesting. I printed a black and…

Delivering the TOD Pizza to 38th Street Station

Dateline: 9:46 pm June 1, 2016 Filed under:

Imagine walking to the 38th Street station to catch a Blue Line train and walking along a tree-lined 38th Street, stopping to grab a coffee and having a chat with a neighbor at the plaza. Imagine getting off the train after a Twins game and stopping for a drink at a sidewalk café or picking up some fresh vegetables from a vendor. Imagine this occurring right at the station. The Lander Group 38th Street Station plan envisions all of this, with additional housing and retail options all framed by a vastly improved public realm. I’ve been working with Lander Group for about nine months on the 38th…

Decision Time for Minneapolis Director of Public Works

Dateline: 7:06 pm May 16, 2016 Filed under:

The other day I saw a father and his kid stand at the corner, waiting to cross the street. They had just bought a doughnut at A Baker’s Wife (the best bakery in the city), located at 42nd Street and 28th Avenue in south Minneapolis. Whether they were heading to their car or walking home, crossing the street was required of them, and the light was red so they had to wait. The kid was perhaps three years old, wise enough to know the basics about crossing the street.   What happened next was profoundly sad. Remember how Ralphie feels…

With Denver on the FasTracks, Hoping the Twin Cities Aren’t Derailed

Dateline: 6:29 pm May 9, 2016 Filed under:

Last month Denver opened its long-awaited A Line train service connecting downtown and Denver International Airport. The twenty-three mile service takes thirty-seven minutes and costs nine dollars each way. The important fact that Minneapolis has had downtown to airport train service for 12 years notwithstanding, the opening of Denver’s A Line is symbolic of something much more. The A Line represents more than a decade of political and financial commitment in the Denver region (and the State of Colorado) to building transit infrastructure. Here in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Legislature’s uncertainty about funding the Green Line extension (SWLRT) represents a potential long-term threat to the…

3828: Building a Likeable City

Dateline: 10:50 pm March 21, 2016 Filed under:

Andy Root has a decade of experience buying older streetcar commercial buildings in south Minneapolis. Perhaps the most notable tenant in his portfolio is the Northbound Brewpub. So when Andy bought the building plus a small lot across the street from the Northbound, he sought a partner to develop that site. He picked up to phone and called Michael Lander of the Lander Group. Michael had been quietly interested in transit-oriented development near the 38th Street station, and offered to partner with Andy. I already knew Andy, as we’re both investors in the Northbound, and when Michael reached out to me, I was happy to…

Boating to Stillwater

Dateline: 8:32 pm January 29, 2016 Filed under:

The mid-winter thaw has me in a boating frame of mind. With perhaps barely two months left before the first spring outing, the sound of dripping gutters has me recalling adventures last year and plotting more in 2016. I wrote last spring about the joys of boating to lunch in Excelsior, so here is a little outing to historic Stillwater this past summer. I hope your takeaway is two-fold: being on the water is wonderful, and walkable urbanism is really pretty simple. My two boys and I launched our 1984 Lund “Mr. Pike” with Mercury “Classic 50” (Long May You Run) at the…

Civic Pride and Outdoor Football!

Dateline: 5:35 pm January 14, 2016 Filed under:

“Outdoor football!” was my exclamation upon exiting the Metro Transit Green Line train last Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. When I saw the forecast last week for the possibility of subzero temperatures on Sunday, I knew I had to attend what appeared to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was two years old the last time the Minnesota Vikings played an outdoor playoff football game, and even though I’m no longer a fan of the team, how could I not go!? The pregame hype was a mix of reminiscing about the good old days for those older than me and curiosity among those who are younger. Regardless of the…

Walking in Hackney

Dateline: 3:15 pm December 3, 2015 Filed under:

Every once in a while I discover a truly wonderful, utterly walkable neighborhood. Sometimes it requires traveling 4,000 miles to find it. On my recent trip to London I stayed in a neighborhood in the borough of Hackney, just north and east of the City. I checked in to my Air B&B and set off on foot to explore. I was immediately captivated and happy. Don’t get me wrong, you could set me down on any street there, and I’d take one look at the color of the bricks and the distinct chimneys and I’d exclaim “I’m in London, and…

Great Streets and Human Enjoyment

Dateline: 1:51 pm November 19, 2015 Filed under:

My goodness but people certainly drive fast in the United States; it sure makes streets unpleasant. That was my first impression upon returning home from a recent trip to Paris and London, and I was only crossing 38th Street, hardly the biggest or fastest street around! Then, just this past week, two non-urbanists in my life had negative comments about street speed in Minneapolis. My mother indicated how she’s uncomfortable sitting at a sidewalk table along Lake Street in Uptown because of the proximity to and speed of passing traffic. A friend of mine who lives downtown is happy about all the development but really…