Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


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…

Downtown Minneapolis Salvation

Dateline: 4:20 pm November 16, 2017 Filed under:

Alright, I’ll bite. Nick Magrino’s recent post in the City Pages, One Weird Trick to Fix Downtown Minneapolis, got me thinking. While I’ve advocated for (and been criticized for) skyway removal, my ultimate goal is the same as that of many Minneapolitans, that I just want to see a vibrant downtown Minneapolis street life, with ground floor retail spaces buzzing with activity. I say remove the skyways. Nick Magrino suggests banning skyway level retail. Let’s consider this. Early in my career I was a commercial appraiser, working downtown. One comparable retail space table stands out in my mind all these…

While I’m Fishing, the Grocery Industry is Churning

Dateline: 4:22 pm October 24, 2017 Filed under:

On a couple occasions this summer I was able to go fishing on a Thursday. That’s the day we receive delivery from our CSA from Turnip Rock. I arrive home with a couple fish on the stringer, eager to know what vegetables we got from the farm. For dinner the entire meal is either direct from “our” farm or caught by me, including a growler of beer from the Northbound! It’s pretty cool to come home with a fresh catch for dinner, but even more gratifying to know my kids understand where some of their food comes from. I do…

Panama Canal Impacts Logistics, Real Estate and the Global Supply Chain

Dateline: 3:42 pm October 12, 2017 Filed under:

The global economy is fascinating to me, particularly the supply chain, logistics and how goods are moved across the planet. I’ve followed this since writing two articles in 2009 and 2010 for Urban Land magazine. Now that the expanded Panama Canal is complete (in 2016), allowing significantly larger container ships through, what are the impacts on global trade and real estate? Research departments at the large real estate firms are already speculating, and reporting some shifts in activity. Most consumer goods imported from across the Pacific are unloaded at west coast ports, and containers are loaded on trains and/or trucks…

Little Infill – 3535 Grand

Dateline: 7:07 pm April 25, 2017 Filed under:

Among the latest little infill projects in Minneapolis is 3535 Grand, by the Lander Group. This project builds somewhat on Lander’s recent Motiv, but breaks new ground (pun intended) in a number of ways. There are 24 somewhat affordable units on what were two city lots, parking is in back where it belongs, and the building is an attractive addition to the urbanity of this street. Based on the notion that the surrounding neighborhood and city holds the amenities, Lander Group added very few within the 3535 Grand building. Much has been made of the missing middle in the past couple years as developers struggle to…

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…