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…

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…

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…

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…

Minnehaha Avenue Will Test the City of Minneapolis Climate Action Plan

Dateline: 3:47 pm October 9, 2013 Filed under:

Hennepin County has decided to proceed with rebuilding Minnehaha Avenue in 2015 and 2016. A good plan, but not great. The much-discussed cycletrack is off the table, and the street will be rebuilt with bike lanes similar to today but with some improvements for pedestrians and cyclists alike. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s announcement shows that organization’s disappointment with the County’s unwillingness to both listen to significant public input favoring a cycletrack or to provide a meaningful cycletrack design for the public to respond. As this video on Upworthy by a mystery Dutchman shows, the county’s proposal doesn’t ensure much of an improvement for cyclists (the county will…

Don’t Overthink Good Urbanism on Nicollet Mall

Dateline: 4:10 pm July 31, 2013 Filed under:

The City of Minneapolis is promising to spend a lot of money on some critical pieces of downtown infrastructure. The new Vikings Stadium and Downtown East area, Peavey Plaza, Nicollet Mall all are being considered for major capital investments. With Nicollet Mall, take one look at the people using the street and you can see that maybe the answer doesn’t lie in fancy infrastructure and world-class designers, perhaps the key is the social realm. What’s more is it’s already happening. We need look no further than food trucks, the farmers market and the Piazza on the Mall for proof. Earlier this week…

A Failure of Frontage

Dateline: 12:10 pm March 13, 2013 Filed under:

Do cities have a “failure of frontage?” I credit Dan Parolek of Opticos Design for coining the term. When I was researching a post on form-based codes in the Bay Area, Dan explained he believes cities everywhere have a failure of frontage, that we focus so much on other elements of urbanism that we overlook the basics. We worry about shape, height, bulk, ever-evil DENSITY, parking and traffic problems, but we fail to do the simple thing and make the building engaging to the pedestrian. We have a failure of frontage, and it’s not unique to Minneapolis. A recent post of mine at…

We Must Accept Density and Rental Housing at the KMart Site

Dateline: 7:42 am August 28, 2012 Filed under:

Let’s get one thing out of the way…high density and rental housing will likely be required as part of the redevelopment of the KMart site in Minneapolis. If we can accept that as fact, perhaps we can get this thing done and reopen Nicollet Avenue, perhaps add a streetcar, connect to the Midtown Greenway, and create a wonderful urban development that raises the value of the city around it. Everyone has their own story about how much they dislike that KMart or how it is bad for the city. As for me, four years ago I completed the Lyn-Lake Small…