Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Eastern Market in Washington D.C. – The Art of Walkability

Dateline: 4:56 pm February 26, 2014 Filed under:

Exactly what do we mean when we say crazy stuff like “center of gravity,” “critical mass” and “transit village” when describing whether a neighborhood or transit station area is successful? Good question. I said those things last week in Eric Roper’s insightful Star Tribune piece about the progress of development around the Lake Street station in Minneapolis. Most urbanists know our little code words; we nod and wink about good urbanity, but what do we mean? Well, I guess it boils down to “would you want to take a walk there?” and “would you want to live there?” Setting aside the complicated…

Kare 11 Covers the Nicollet Mall Skyway “Debate”

Dateline: 3:55 pm February 5, 2014 Filed under:

Kare 11 interviewed me yesterday about my elegant idea to remove one downtown Minneapolis skyway per year until they are gone, at which point many of us will be long gone from this world but our children and grandchildren will thank us for leaving them a Minneapolis with more vibrant streets. You can watch the video at Kare 11 here and the story on the Kare 11 website here. Also featured in the story and video is David Frank, Director of Transit Oriented Development for the City of Minneapolis. Never fear, Minneapolis! I don’t think this idea has much traction, but I do hope…

Minnesota Public Radio is Interested in A Better Nicollet Mall

Dateline: 8:10 pm February 3, 2014 Filed under:

I was interviewed this morning about my latest post outlining how Nicollet Mall can live up to its billing as one of the most vibrant public places in America. As well, it was crossposted at streets.mn, picked up by the Downtown Journal, MinnPost and MPR, the latter of which led to interest in the interview. Takeaways from the interview are these: Even on the nicest days, when Nicollet Mall draws a crowd, thousands of people are still in the skyways and never set foot on a downtown street. Whereas skyways are comfortable on the coldest days, they take people off the sidewalks every day. Great cities…

Save Dinkytown’s Pedestrian Realm

Dateline: 6:12 pm January 27, 2014 Filed under:

Dinkytown has been in the news again recently about a large-scale redevelopment proposal on one of the core blocks. There is much controversy over density, lost parking (perceived or real), and preservation. Those are all relevant issues with no absolute right or wrong answer but some very good possible solutions. But let’s not forget the pedestrian realm and the building facades that face it. By that measure, we need to send the Doran Companies proposal back to the drawing board, since adding a new curb cut and a large garage door, plus a transformer, facing 4th Street, is unacceptable. Much has…

Remember When Block E Was a Success?

Dateline: 6:23 pm November 27, 2013 Filed under:

There has been a lot of coverage of Block E lately, given the recent announcement of renovations and new tenants. It is way too early to really comment, but I hope the current owners add some doors and windows to better engage the street. In the meantime, in case you missed it, Bill Lindeke wrote yesterday an excellent piece about four things we should know about Block E. Here is a fifth; Block E was once successful. Remember that? The fact that for a period of time it was successful and then emptied out so fast begs some questions about big projects and the city’s vision…

Surely There’s Room For Trees on South Robert Street

Dateline: 7:46 pm November 13, 2013 Filed under:

Today’s Star Tribune article about the reconstruction of South Robert Street moved me to respond (it also moved me to depression and rage). The $20+ million project is controversial, and among other things (including walkability and the future of humankind) three simple things from the article jumped out at me: 1) traffic counts of 16,000 to 26,000 vehicles per day 2) a crash rate that is 89% higher than comparable four-lane roads 3) there’s not enough room for trees, according to the traffic engineer Take a look at the accompanying image from the article (photo courtesy of Jeff Wheeler of…

ULI Fall Meeting 2013 Dispatch II – The Changing World, Transportation and Gabe Klein

Dateline: 10:46 pm November 8, 2013 Filed under:

“You just gotta make s#!t happen,” says Gabe Klein, outgoing Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation, speaking at the ULI Fall Meeting here in Chicago. He was discussing how the owner of his office building didn’t allow employees to bring their bikes in the elevator. He understood it is corporate policy but that doesn’t make it right. He got the building owner to make some changes, but the larger lesson is developers and owners need to be proactive and work to provide facilities to make their buildings more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. This can include bike parking, showers, even a…

ULI Fall Meeting 2013 Dispatch I – Good Urbanism and Healthier Communities

Dateline: 8:02 pm November 7, 2013 Filed under:

What is the link between health and development? Here at the 2013 ULI Fall Meeting in Chicago several sessions are trying to address it. Marilyn Taylor moderated a panel that included Ron Terwilliger, Peter Calthorpe and Bart Harvey, and she indicated that we can all identify the answers, but how do we develop our cities differently to be healthier and how do we institutionalize and monetize it? Perhaps the first place to look is the affordable senior housing market. I attended a conference two weeks ago hosted by NCHMA  where an affordable housing developer locates a medical office on-site as…

A Brand New Minneapolis

Dateline: 10:45 pm November 6, 2013 Filed under:

All right, Minneapolis. As I write this, the day after Election Day, it appears Betsy Hodges could well be the next mayor of Minneapolis. With Lisa Bender, Abdi Warsame and Jacob Frey knocking off incumbents, the City Council will have seven new members in addition to the mayor. As the final votes are counted and winners declared, like The Hold Steady sing, it’s “a brand new Minneapolis.” So let me be very clear, now is the time to make some very real and meaningful changes to the development of our city. Generally speaking, planning and development efforts in Minneapolis are well…

Step 1 in Downtown Revitalization – Allow On-Street Parking

Dateline: 2:00 pm October 23, 2013 Filed under:

Take one look at this photo and tell me why the businesses along this roadway struggle. This is Wautoma, Wisconsin, a town of just over 2,000 in east Central Wisconsin, deep in the heart of Packer-land. Wautoma is nice, with some lakes and recreation nearby, and the Moose Inn (Friday fish fry!) located just east of town. However, like many small towns near resorts and cabins, I never actually see the downtown area because groceries and gas are located out on the stroad at the edge of town. I was looking forward to seeing Main Street, and I immediately identified the…