Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

The Need for Small Blocks – 38th Street Station

Dateline: 4:37 pm November 1, 2016 Filed under:

The Need for Small Blocks is the title of Chapter 9 in Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” The chapter begins with the introduction: “Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.” Jacobs goes on to eloquently lay out how short blocks have a multiplier effect in terms of pedestrian choices. If you live on a long block, you are left with essentially one path to reach a major cross street. Jacobs calls these streets both socially and economically constricting. If blocks are bisected by more frequent streets…

Let’s Get to Work, Minneapolis

Dateline: 4:49 pm October 27, 2016 Filed under:

Cycling home from Merlin’s Rest the other evening started out lovely. I passed by the Eero Saarinen-designed Christ Church Lutheran, and found its tower so nicely uplit in the night sky that I circled back, stopped, and stood in the courtyard for some time, listening to the fountain and watching clouds scuttle past the moon. I continued my ride down to 38th Street and Hiawatha, where my reverie was disrupted by a coincidental chain of events reminded me that, despite progress, our city is still fundamentally built for the movement of cars. It’s time to get to work. The short…

Proving “A Sense of Place”

Dateline: 3:41 pm October 19, 2016 Filed under:

It is fair to say defining a “sense of place” is a tricky proposition at best. Wikipedia’s definition is a good starting point, but remains incomplete. I’ve been struggling for almost two decades to define it, but it still eludes me. I just know it when I see it. Somewhat similar is this year’s presidential election campaign, as John Oliver points out, that includes the argument that the country “feels” headed in the wrong direction or the economy “feels” stuck. I don’t doubt a great number of Americans feel this way, but it is also possible to prove this argument wrong by a…

Great Urban Boulevards

Dateline: 7:22 pm October 4, 2016 Filed under:

With so much attention paid to buildings and streets and how they relate to each other, we must remember the boulevard is a very important piece of public infrastructure, requiring careful consideration and planning. I’ve observed some very good examples of boulevards that are appropriate for their urban context, and others that need some work. Let’s explore. The first example (shown below) is a boulevard along Cleveland Avenue near Ford Parkway in Saint Paul. Here, the sidewalk width is plentiful for people to pass, including strollers and wheelchairs, while still leaving space for outdoor seating. The parking lane provides shelter…