Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Drinking My Way Around England

Dateline: 4:26 pm December 2, 2016 Filed under:

English pubs are among the premier “third places” in the world. Despite rumors of their death, they remain vital to the community, and I’m impressed by how well they fit in to the urban (and rural) fabric. The English pub is a great place to gather with friends or strangers. They are also quite amenable to the solo traveler. There is no waitstaff to bother you, and it’s possible to linger at a table with a book and a pint. But lest you think Merry Olde England is a nonstop flow of pints of warm beers like Old Toejam, Cheeky…

Observations of The Commons Park

Dateline: 1:24 pm November 2, 2016 Filed under:

Since The Commons opened this summer, I’ve visited a few times and passed by several times, making a point of counting patrons and observing how people use this new public green downtown space. After all, how people use a new park is the best indicator of success, right? Here is a collection of observations so far. One of life’s pleasures is walking barefoot across an impeccable lawn, so the first thing I did on my very first visit to The Commons was take off my shoes and walk across the brand new, unblemished great lawn. This was the evening of the first…

The Need for Small Blocks – 38th Street Station

Dateline: 4:37 pm November 1, 2016 Filed under:

The Need for Small Blocks is the title of Chapter 9 in Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” The chapter begins with the introduction: “Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.” Jacobs goes on to eloquently lay out how short blocks have a multiplier effect in terms of pedestrian choices. If you live on a long block, you are left with essentially one path to reach a major cross street. Jacobs calls these streets both socially and economically constricting. If blocks are bisected by more frequent streets…

Let’s Get to Work, Minneapolis

Dateline: 4:49 pm October 27, 2016 Filed under:

Cycling home from Merlin’s Rest the other evening started out lovely. I passed by the Eero Saarinen-designed Christ Church Lutheran, and found its tower so nicely uplit in the night sky that I circled back, stopped, and stood in the courtyard for some time, listening to the fountain and watching clouds scuttle past the moon. I continued my ride down to 38th Street and Hiawatha, where my reverie was disrupted by a coincidental chain of events reminded me that, despite progress, our city is still fundamentally built for the movement of cars. It’s time to get to work. The short…

Proving “A Sense of Place”

Dateline: 3:41 pm October 19, 2016 Filed under:

It is fair to say defining a “sense of place” is a tricky proposition at best. Wikipedia’s definition is a good starting point, but remains incomplete. I’ve been struggling for almost two decades to define it, but it still eludes me. I just know it when I see it. Somewhat similar is this year’s presidential election campaign, as John Oliver points out, that includes the argument that the country “feels” headed in the wrong direction or the economy “feels” stuck. I don’t doubt a great number of Americans feel this way, but it is also possible to prove this argument wrong by a…

The Well-Tempered City – A Review

Dateline: 8:27 pm October 7, 2016 Filed under:

Most books written by urbanists have limited readership for two reasons: one, they lack flow and a certain literary quality; and two, they are really intended for other urbanist geeks and/or are reference books for those in the profession. Walkable City and Happy City break this mold somewhat by being both highly readable and good urban reference books. The Well-Tempered City, by Jonathan F. P. Rose, goes deeper and cuts across urban history and a wide range of topics to consider how we may live in cities in the future. It is also pretty readable if you are smart enough…

Great Urban Boulevards

Dateline: 7:22 pm October 4, 2016 Filed under:

With so much attention paid to buildings and streets and how they relate to each other, we must remember the boulevard is a very important piece of public infrastructure, requiring careful consideration and planning. I’ve observed some very good examples of boulevards that are appropriate for their urban context, and others that need some work. Let’s explore. The first example (shown below) is a boulevard along Cleveland Avenue near Ford Parkway in Saint Paul. Here, the sidewalk width is plentiful for people to pass, including strollers and wheelchairs, while still leaving space for outdoor seating. The parking lane provides shelter…

The Lived-In City

Dateline: 4:43 pm September 13, 2016 Filed under:

At dinner last night at Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago, my wife and I were trying to find the word to describe why we liked the place so well. Miller’s Pub in Chicago and Murray’s Steakhouse in our own Minneapolis are similar in this regard. Shaw’s is old without being aged, clean without being immaculate and happily humming without being overcrowded. We settled on the term “lived-in.” Shaw’s was a wonderful experience because it felt “lived-in.” Do they feel “lived-in?” This is a very tangible yet subjective measure, and is often missed when discussing development and cities. And so, my view…

Urban Design Review – the New Seward Co-op on 38th Street

Dateline: 4:47 pm September 7, 2016 Filed under:

Earlier on 2016 the Seward Co-op opened its Friendship Store at 38th Street and Clinton Avenue in south Minneapolis. While this new grocery store has received good reviews, and deservedly so, I must chime in to point out a few quibbles I have with its urban design (well, someone has to). Hopefully we can learn from these mistakes, and perhaps there are ways to address these issues in a proactive manner. First off, the doors. Two doors are available for customers. One (shown above) faces west towards the parking lot, has easy-to-access sliding doors typical of grocers, and for all…

Walking in England – Climbing Ravenscar

Dateline: 2:01 pm August 24, 2016 Filed under:

I set off for Ravenscar in the morning, having spent the night in the ultra-quaint English seaside village of Robin Hood’s Bay. I had arrived the previous afternoon at low tide, and wandered amongst the pools and eddys on the expansive beach. In the morning the tide was high and the beach was entirely underwater, and I was eager to set off on my amble along along the Cleveland Way and this amazing stretch of English countryside. Ravenscar is a 600 foot cliff on the edge of the North Sea, two miles southeast of Robin Hood’s Bay and about midway…