Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


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…

Prioritize Pedestrians at Hiawatha Avenue

Dateline: 2:14 pm February 12, 2015 Filed under:

The City of Minneapolis is asking citizens for input on the signals at major intersections of Hiawatha Avenue. Yesterday evening, when the “smart” pavement sensor recognized my car and gave me a green light, I passed a pedestrian stranded on a porkchop island who should have had a Walk signal as part of that light phase. As I drove past him, I saw him glance up at the signal, confused as to why he still had a Don’t Walk. I glanced up at the thermometer in the console of my warm car. It read seven degrees. For all I know, by the…

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…