Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Aging With Place

Dateline: 4:28 pm April 5, 2019 Filed under:

While grocery shopping last week I witnessed a person roughly my age helping her mother shop. I couldn’t immediately identify her mother’s ailment or reason for needing help, and little did I know I’d be doing the same thing for my own mother this week following her eye surgery. The “silver tsunami” is rapidly approaching for many of us in the sandwich generation, and I’m only beginning to understand the direct implications. For the first time in world history, there are more people on planet earth age 65 and over than there are children under 5, as discussed in a…

The Many Perspectives of Affordability

Dateline: 3:31 pm February 22, 2019 Filed under:

I was happy to see the Star Tribune counterpoint this week pushing back against a piece from earlier in February calling for reduced developer fees in order to make housing more affordable. The for-sale housing construction industry has every right to make this issue its priority, but as this week’s piece pointed out, communities need to pay for public amenities like parks and other things. We like nice stuff. I can accept the argument that part of the social contract in the Twin Cities is we have higher expectations for our public realm and developer fees are higher as a…

The Importance of Airport-Downtown Rail Connections

Dateline: 6:08 pm February 14, 2019 Filed under:

Direct transit links are not only good for urban quality of life but improve regional competitiveness. They should be a no-brainer. Being able to land in a city and board a train with assurance you’ll be downtown in a fixed amount of time provides peace of mind for residents, tourists and businesspeople alike. A pleasant and even scenic journey bolsters this experience, and makes a powerful first impression that can boost investment. On a recent trip to Denver I finally got to experience the long-awaited A Line, which opened in 2016. Having grown tired of the long drive in to…

The Future of Office and Co-Working

Dateline: 6:01 pm February 6, 2019 Filed under:

What is the future of the workplace? Co-working is increasing in popularity and office design is changing. What is a passing trend and what is a signal of permanent change? I spent a few months in 2018 working at JLL’s downtown Minneapolis office, complete with its standing desks, huddle rooms, a collaboration room (my kids liked it for the video games!) and more robust kitchen area typical of modern office buildouts. Perkins & Will’s downtown Minneapolis offices in the IDS take the concept a bit further, with a more modern and austere feel, exposed ceilings and open seating rather than…

Affordable Housing in Minneapolis and Beyond

Dateline: 4:52 pm December 4, 2018 Filed under:

The current debates over the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan and inclusionary housing raise some interesting ideas for consideration about the city and Twin Cities metro area overall. First, more housing at all levels of affordability is critical to the future of the city, not for the sake of density itself but rather the city’s ability to remain remotely livable. Second, a well-calibrated inclusionary housing policy is a workable idea but only a tiny piece of the overall housing picture that needs addressing. And third, it’s up to the metro area, not just the city of Minneapolis, to accommodate more affordable…

Minnesota Didn’t Need Amazon Anyway

Dateline: 4:41 pm November 27, 2018 Filed under:

Kudos to Twin Cities leaders for not offering the kitchen sink to Amazon, as it seems the company had New York and Washington in mind all along. In the time it took for Amazon to decide what city (cities) to build its new HQ2, the Twin Cities added nearly half of the jobs it would have gained from landing Amazon. It does beg the question – what are we doing to attract future employment and talent to the Twin Cities? And do we need Amazon anyway? A quick back-of-the-napkin calculation (I order my napkins and pens from Amazon) reveals the…

Street Pianos Add to City Life

Dateline: 4:36 pm November 8, 2018 Filed under:

Hands-down my favorite part of downtown Minneapolis this past summer was the pianos on Nicollet Avenue. Not necessarily a new idea, to be sure, but I was struck by the talent of seemingly random players and the joy it gave passers-by. Any given morning on my walk from the train to the office I’d pass the piano in the City Center doorway to hear someone pounding out some excellent blues. Most striking was the day I passed a homeless man camped out under his usual spot below a skyway on 7th Street one morning only to find him playing an…

Good Urbanism is Worth the Wait – Valparaiso, Chile

Dateline: 5:22 pm August 22, 2018 Filed under:

Valparaiso, Chile is my new favorite city. Its faded glory is encapsulated by walking the streets and admiring glorious views of the bay while dodging dog poo. Valparaiso gained fortune by becoming an important port for ships rounding Cape Horn. All that changed when the Panama Canal opened and the city slid into decline. Valparaiso’s fortunes have recovered in recent years, and today the city is renowned as a quirky place for public art, famous for its murals, large and small. First proposed in the 1960s when artists, most notably Pablo Neruda, settled in Valparaiso and pushed for art as…

Town Square

Dateline: 4:59 pm March 2, 2018 Filed under:

Everywhere we went on our recent trip to Chile our family could count on one thing: the town square. Up and down Chile, in any weather and any geography, big city and small village, we spent time in and around the town square. Day or night, we found them to be pleasant and active, with programming and informal gathering, something to bring all ages together. In Santiago, the capital of Chile, the Plaza de Armas was full of people one mid afternoon. The square is ringed by lovely old buildings with a distinctly European, particularly Spanish look. Indeed, the European…

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

Dateline: 7:36 pm January 31, 2018 Filed under:

“This is the most beautiful place on earth. “There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less…