Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Mainstreet Hopkins is Almost Perfect

Dateline: 8:25 pm March 29, 2017 Filed under:

Last week I met a colleague at Munkabeans Cafe & Coffeehouse on the beautiful Mainstreet in Hopkins, Minnesota. Of all the Main Streets in America, the Hopkins version is unique because they smash the two words together. Mainstreet. And a fine street it is, better than before, having been recently rebuilt and with some new businesses drawing me there. But there is just one problem. You have to apply to cross the street. After my meeting I was keen to visit Mill City Sound, so I set off on the four block walk. As it was bright but brisk, I…

Tough Love for Downtown Minneapolis

Dateline: 5:32 pm February 23, 2017 Filed under:

I took my mother to the Oak Grill in January. We needed to see the place one last time. Share one last popover. And a manhattan. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never been. So for me eating at the Oak Grill was a new experience in downtown Minneapolis. Looking around the dining room that day I suspect I was the only one for whom this was true. For them, a piece of downtown died last month. I’m not sure what it meant for me. The downtown I miss is shown in the photo above. Sure, I did shop at Dayton’s and…

Simple Urbanism – Inspiration and Aspiration

Dateline: 3:12 pm February 14, 2017 Filed under:

As a follow-up to the critique of a recent post about the urban design of Harriet’s Inn, let’s consider the parts of the city that inspire us and the standards to which we should be aspiring. To do so, we need only look past Harriet’s Inn, as well as the gold standard for old urbanism in the Twin Cities, Linden Hills. Assisting us is a really great recent how-to guide on urban storefronts by Steve Mouzon at Original Green. Looking up the Lyndale Avenue and across 40th Street from Harriet’s Inn (above) is the kind of streetcar-era mixed-use building that…

Urban Plan – Democracy in Training

Dateline: 7:06 pm January 27, 2017 Filed under:

I celebrated inauguration day last week by observing democracy in action. “Democracy in training” is probably the more apt phrase. The Minnesota chapter of the Urban Land Institute has been working with Roseville High School for more than a decade with their Urban Plan program, and last Friday seven student groups presented their RFP responses to the mayor and city council, and a winner was awarded the project. Here’s how it works. Students are put in groups of five and given a map of a redevelopment area in a city. Using oversized Legos, their task is to determine what uses…

Simple Urbanism

Dateline: 3:29 pm January 26, 2017 Filed under:

At first blush, the new Harriet’s Inn at 40th Street and Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis is a nice addition to the city and its urban fabric. Jucy Lucy’s on the menu, Polygamy on a nitro tap, kids eat free on Tuesdays, what could go wrong!? Furthermore, the building has an attractive brick facade, big windows, is built close to the sidewalk and corner, and replaces a SuperAmerica with a big parking lot. An urbanists dream? Far from it. The first thing I noticed is that the restaurant patio is located along the north side of the building, actually hidden…

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

Dateline: 8:14 pm January 19, 2017 Filed under:

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is an effective tool for financing the construction and renovation of affordable housing in cities and towns across the United States. Created in the 1980s with bipartisan support, it has resulted in the creation of well over 2 million new affordable housing units. However, the 2016 election results have impacted the demand for investment in tax credits and could affect the creation of new affordable units in the coming years. Generally speaking, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program leverages the private market to support the creation of affordable units. Enterprise Community Partners provides a good…

Urban Grocery Store Refresher

Dateline: 1:49 am January 17, 2017 Filed under:

With a grocery store proposed as part of a mixed-use development at 46th and Hiawatha (see the Planning Commission submittal to the Committee of the Whole last week for plans), it is time to review good urban standards for grocery store design. Grocery stores are complicated due to issues of customer access, parking, and truck delivery, and walkability and good urban design is sometimes sacrificed. Let’s look at some considerations for the 46th Street store. We’ll begin with the Lunds & Byerlys on University Avenue in northeast Minneapolis. This store is in many ways the gold standard for urban grocery stores…

Joe Urban at 10 Years – Grocery Stores, the Election and Good Urbanism

Dateline: 6:48 pm January 6, 2017 Filed under:

I write about cities. I’ve done so for 20 years, having gotten my start by writing a series of articles about urban planning in Madison for the Badger Herald while attending the University of Wisconsin. 2016 marked 10 years since I began writing for this website and working for myself. I’ve written about a wide range of topics in that time. They can all be found here. I’ve also assisted in the task of bringing two children in to the world, bought a boat. But it all comes back to the topic of my first post on this site describing…

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…