Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


The Soul of St. Paul’s Highland Park

Dateline: 3:29 pm January 29, 2015 Filed under:

If you’d have told me ten years ago that I’d be bemoaning the loss of a large-format chain retailer, anywhere, I’d have been suspicious. Stranger things have happened, and as of January 1, 2015, Barnes & Noble in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul closed its doors. The neighborhood lost not only a bookstore but a “third place,” a beloved gathering space. I used to get my Financial Times Weekend there (the House and Home section is my guilty pleasure), and I miss it. As well, sidewalk replacement in late summer 2014 cost the neighborhood a little public square nearby at the southwest corner of Ford Parkway…

Making Downtown East Commons a Great Place

Dateline: 1:14 pm January 15, 2015 Filed under:

This past weekend the Star Tribune reported the Minneapolis city staff have recommended approval of a $1.8 million contract with Hargreaves Associates to design Downtown East Commons, the 4.2 acre park proposed on two and one half blocks near the new Wells Fargo campus and Minnesota Vikings stadium. The park and campus are being developed by Ryan Companies. What is worrisome is the target completion date of summer 2016 and the difference between the city’s estimate that the park. The Strib reports that “some estimates” (the city’s, I think) are the park will cost between $6.3 million and $10.5 million, whereas Hargreaves envisions…

A Few Questions the Planning Commission Should Ask About TOD at Lake and Hiawatha

Dateline: 3:14 pm December 18, 2014 Filed under:

In early December, Hennepin County and L&H Station (“the development team”) submitted plans for the development of L&H Station at 2225 East Lake Street, at the southwest quadrant of Lake Street and Hiawatha, a six-acre site immediately adjacent to the Lake Street station of the Blue Line. Below is the ground level plan submitted. In the context of the years of planning that led up to this submittal, and posts of my own, the following are a few questions I think the Planning Commission should ask. Can meaningful improvements be made to activate the 22nd Avenue frontage? (see below for…

Transit-Oriented Development: Quality Over Quantity

Dateline: 3:08 pm November 20, 2014 Filed under:

A colleague of mine (from a more urban city) recently visited. When he arrived, I offered to show him around and he wanted to see transit-oriented development (TOD). Hmm…. I wanted to impress him, but I was stumped. Despite all our attention as a city and region to TODs, I don’t believe we have any great transit villages right off the platform where we could go that would really resonate with him. There’s Nicollet Mall and Target Field Station, but I wanted him to say, “wow, this is great!,” but I didn’t feel those would produce that response. Maybe I have impossibly high standards (maybe I’m just getting old and codgery), or…

Front Doors and Walkable Cities

Dateline: 4:20 pm November 6, 2014 Filed under:

Front doors are an important part of the urban landscape. Irish doors may be the most famous example (just Google it). I have successfully advocated for front doors in the past, and I even came up with the GDA, or Gehl Door Average, based on Jan Gehl’s book Cities for People, whereby only when there are 10 or more doors per 100 meters of street frontage can you consider it “friendly.” Gehl isn’t simply calling for more doors, but rather that doors add to the quality of our “eye-level” experience of place, and designing doors properly is key to making streets and cities more walkable. Today we’ll be looking at urban…

Making Transit Oriented Development Great at Lake and Hiawatha

Dateline: 9:00 am October 22, 2014 Filed under:

There is room for improvement at the transit-oriented development proposed at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue. It has been a long time coming, but the latest version of the project (shown below) has Hennepin County acting as master developer, working with a private design and development team led by BKV Group. A Hennepin County service center will be the primary tenant of a mixed-use office/retail building on the 6-acre site, which will also include an approximate one acre public plaza that will be home to the Midtown Farmers Market, as well as around 500 housing units. The county has indicated a short timeline to…

A Better Block Indeed! PARKing Day Rocks!

Dateline: 4:28 pm September 24, 2014 Filed under:

Last Saturday some neighbors, local business owners and I put on a Better Block event, and for one glorious day a pretty darn good commercial corner of Minneapolis was made a much better place with trees, an on-street bike rack, a PARKlet, live music, a Ping-Pong table, and most of all, people enjoying themselves in our public space. There were even bubbles. Here is what we did (above). A few rolls of sod, table and chairs, a bookshelf with books and games and bench for reading. Hay bales demarcate the bike rack and flowers to form the edge of the PARKlet. We…

Dreaming of Hennepin/Lyndale Avenue

Dateline: 2:11 pm September 10, 2014 Filed under:

I had the most beautiful dream a couple months ago. In my dream I was strolling through the Loring Park neighborhood in Minneapolis. It was a lovely warm summer evening, and I wandered past the mix of mansions, apartment and commercial buildings and through the park we all know. Then a strange thing happened. In the dream, I emerged from the neighborhood at Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues, but instead of the car dominated, treeless bottleneck of a stroad we know today, Hennepin/Lyndale was instead a lovely, tree-lined boulevard. Running down the middle of the boulevard was a broad median and…

Minneapolis Can Salvage the Hiawatha Crosswalk “Improvement” Project

Dateline: 4:03 pm September 3, 2014 Filed under:

The City of Minneapolis can salvage the Hiawatha Crosswalk “Improvement” project. All they have to do is send out a traffic engineer to reprogram the signals so the Walk signals automatically appear. Pedestrians deserve the right to an automatic Walk signal, particularly in a city-designated Pedestrian Overlay Zone near the Blue Line, a nearly $800 million transit investment that is approached on foot by every single rider. Hundreds of pedestrians cross Hiawatha Avenue every day, and not just to access light rail. We deserve automatic Walk signals. An early review of the pedestrian “improvement” project appeared on this site in July. As you can see, the results of the…

Missing the Point on Transit and Land Use

Dateline: 3:43 pm August 29, 2014 Filed under:

I took exception to a few reader comments in today’s Strib Opinion page. First off, Carol Adelmann Linders of Arden Hills applauds the improved transit hub at the Minnesota State Fair, as well she should. However, her beef are with park-and-rides that are “bursting at the seams.” She calls for parking spaces at park-and-rides that match the number of riders. And who will pay for these additional park-and-ride spaces that are used just 12 days a year? From a perspective of capacity, perhaps the best State Fair park-and-ride locations are shopping malls with excess parking. Or just suck it up…