Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Time for Downtown Minneapolis to Turn Over a New Leaf

Dateline: 4:04 pm August 13, 2015 Filed under:

I perked up this morning at the Star Tribune headline, “Growing a Greener Downtown Minneapolis,” written by the newspaper’s editorial council. While I applaud plans for more trees and greenery downtown, I must question whether Minneapolis has indeed “turned over a new leaf,” so to speak. While the Pathways to Places remains a plan, the evidence speaks to business as usual. Now comes the hard part of re-allocating resources to pay for, plant and maintain a greener downtown. The editorial contained two glaring problems. The first is the self admission that a greener downtown “will require money that the city doesn’t…

Denver Union Station and the Value of Great Public Realm

Dateline: 2:39 pm June 19, 2015 Filed under:

Denver Union Station is up and running, and quite beautiful. I had the opportunity to stroll through on a visit to Denver last week, and it is a wonderful thing to know that thousands of people per day pass through this intermodal hub using transit and their own two feet. Most impressive is how well-designed and functional the public realm is at and around Union Station. The project is a seamless addition to the existing downtown, and a lovely place to walk. A recent Wall Street Journal article caught my eye, as it cites Union Station as a driver for a new speculative office…

Street Level Design and Beautiful Cities

Dateline: 11:11 am June 4, 2015 Filed under:

It was exciting and an honor to be featured in Eric Roper’s recent Star Tribune story about the ground floor design of recent developments in Minneapolis. Roper did a good job of explaining the concepts that those of us in the real estate industry take for granted; we speak in tongues and he translated it well. I hope this piece is a valuable addition to the ever important conversation about how we design and develop real estate in Minneapolis and elsewhere. I hope it helps developers, architects, CPED, elected officials and neighborhood groups to help express the kind of development we…

Urban Boating (Excelsior and Lake Minnetonka)

Dateline: 12:46 pm May 7, 2015 Filed under:

Lake Minnetonka is one of a few places that combines two of my favorite things: boating and urbanism. Last Saturday my father, my two kids and I took our boat out for a voyage to explore the lake and have lunch in excelsior. While our Lund “Mr. Pike” boat (and Mercury “Classic Fifty” motor) is more than thirty years old, it is new to us, having bought it last fall, so every excursion is a chance to explore a new body of water. Lake Minnetonka is definitely worth exploring, and stopping for lunch and strolling the sidewalks of a traditional small town…

Better Urban Design From the Ground Up

Dateline: 1:49 pm April 23, 2015 Filed under:

The past couple months has seen a robust conversation about development in Minneapolis, starting with Tom Fisher’s Star Tribune piece and followed by Jason Wittenberg’s streets.mn rebuttal. But taste is subjective, so rather than talk about what makes a building “ugly,” let’s instead discuss the ground floor and how it relates to the public realm around it. Building frontages are at eye-level, and together with the streets themselves, this is by far the most important element to get right for a vibrant, livable city. In his post, Wittenberg cited the City of Minneapolis one-pager guide called Exterior Building Walls and Materials. But here is another one-pager dealing with building footprint and massing, context,…

Downtown East Commons Access Paths – X Marks the Spot

Dateline: 2:12 pm April 16, 2015 Filed under:

With so much attention focused on bells and whistles and whether or not Portland Avenue should be closed through the park, when it comes to the debate about Downtown East Commons, perhaps quite literally we can’t see the forest for the trees. Playgrounds, restaurants, gardens, terraces, and even water features are all well and good, but what about the countless visitors to the park who simply want to stroll in, maybe find a bench, or just pass through? Past coverage has estimated that, for the park to be successful, 1 to 2 million people must visit per year, and it is reasonable to estimate that…

Kensington Park – Ten Years Later

Dateline: 2:04 pm April 9, 2015 Filed under:

For the third installment of the “Urban Design – Ten Years Later” series, we head to suburban Richfield, Minnesota to take a look at Kensington Park. What was envisioned back then? How is it used and loved today? Has it lived up to the hype? Is it a great place for people? The good news is Kensington Park, when viewed in isolation, is an attractive, successful project that mixes uses well and adds tax base to the city. Where it falls short is adding to the walkability and multi-modalism of the city, but this can be mostly blamed on its surrounding…

We Can Make 28th Avenue Better for People

Dateline: 12:45 pm March 26, 2015 Filed under:

Driving 28th Avenue from 38th Street to Minnehaha Parkway in south Minneapolis is a pleasure, a little too much so. Traffic is relatively light compared to so many busy streets in the city, the speed limit is 30 MPH, the road surface was repaved last year and is nice and smooth. The only likely place you have to stop is the signal at 42nd Street, but even there you have close to 50/50 odds of a green light. There is the occasional cyclist trying to cross at the Minnehaha Creek crosswalk. Otherwise 28th Avenue is clear sailing. Taken in isolation, smooth traffic…

My Favorite Place in New York City

Dateline: 1:52 pm March 12, 2015 Filed under:

My favorite place in all of New York City is a front stoop on St. Marks Avenue in Brooklyn. On a vacation last spring, I’d sit on the stoop every morning and sip my coffee, watching the sun come up and the world go by. Alas, we saw and did much on that all too brief vacation, and my wife and I discovered many potential favorite places across the city, but I’ll take the front stoop. Contending for favorite place was the first restaurant we visited: Pork Slope, located along 5th Avenue in the Park Slope neighborhood. The beauty of airbnb is…

The Midtown Exchange – Nearly a Decade Later

Dateline: 4:36 pm February 26, 2015 Filed under:

Can you believe it? Has it been that long? Indubitably, it has been nearly 10 years since the Midtown Exchange was redeveloped in the old Sears building. I was there, with a very pregnant wife, for the grand opening in June 2006, and today my wife works there at Allina’s headquarters office, and we take our two kids there frequently to enjoy the offerings of the Midtown Global Market (I love Manny’s Tortas). Nine years on, the Midtown Exchange is a success from a number of perspectives, including urban design, and is loved by many. While architecture review is a very important part of our…