Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


Civic Pride and Outdoor Football!

Dateline: 5:35 pm January 14, 2016 Filed under:

“Outdoor football!” was my exclamation upon exiting the Metro Transit Green Line train last Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. When I saw the forecast last week for the possibility of subzero temperatures on Sunday, I knew I had to attend what appeared to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was two years old the last time the Minnesota Vikings played an outdoor playoff football game, and even though I’m no longer a fan of the team, how could I not go!? The pregame hype was a mix of reminiscing about the good old days for those older than me and curiosity among those who are younger. Regardless of the…

Walking in Hackney

Dateline: 3:15 pm December 3, 2015 Filed under:

Every once in a while I discover a truly wonderful, utterly walkable neighborhood. Sometimes it requires traveling 4,000 miles to find it. On my recent trip to London I stayed in a neighborhood in the borough of Hackney, just north and east of the City. I checked in to my Air B&B and set off on foot to explore. I was immediately captivated and happy. Don’t get me wrong, you could set me down on any street there, and I’d take one look at the color of the bricks and the distinct chimneys and I’d exclaim “I’m in London, and…

Great Streets and Human Enjoyment

Dateline: 1:51 pm November 19, 2015 Filed under:

My goodness but people certainly drive fast in the United States; it sure makes streets unpleasant. That was my first impression upon returning home from a recent trip to Paris and London, and I was only crossing 38th Street, hardly the biggest or fastest street around! Then, just this past week, two non-urbanists in my life had negative comments about street speed in Minneapolis. My mother indicated how she’s uncomfortable sitting at a sidewalk table along Lake Street in Uptown because of the proximity to and speed of passing traffic. A friend of mine who lives downtown is happy about all the development but really…

Geeking Out on London Infrastructure

Dateline: 2:50 pm November 5, 2015 Filed under:

One of the best ways to see London is from the front row of the upper level of a bus. It is quite exhilarating to feel like you are floating above the street, above the chaos and congestion, and you are better able to get your bearings as you travel through the city. You start to understand what it’s like for a pilot to taxi a 747, so high above the pavement that you lose sight of what is immediately in front of you, only in a much closer-knit, nail-biting urban environment. Nonetheless I love the London bus, and I’m pretty sure I…

Awesome Urbanism 101 – Place de la Contrescarpe, Paris

Dateline: 12:32 pm October 22, 2015 Filed under:

I found a pretty damn fine public square on my recent visit to Paris. By stroke of luck, my Latin Quarter AirBnB was just around the corner, so it didn’t take me long to stumble upon Place de la Contrescarpe. Those of you who have been there know it is beautiful, walkable, well-scaled, and has some nice cafes, allowing one to sit and people watch. I did so on my first evening there, and made sure to return each morning and evening thereafter. I felt as though I’d found a little slice of urban perfection. The question is, are places like this simple or…

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…

Denver Union Station and the Value of Great Public Realm

Dateline: 2:39 pm June 19, 2015 Filed under:

Denver Union Station is up and running, and quite beautiful. I had the opportunity to stroll through on a visit to Denver last week, and it is a wonderful thing to know that thousands of people per day pass through this intermodal hub using transit and their own two feet. Most impressive is how well-designed and functional the public realm is at and around Union Station. The project is a seamless addition to the existing downtown, and a lovely place to walk. A recent Wall Street Journal article caught my eye, as it cites Union Station as a driver for a new speculative office…

Street Level Design and Beautiful Cities

Dateline: 11:11 am June 4, 2015 Filed under:

It was exciting and an honor to be featured in Eric Roper’s recent Star Tribune story about the ground floor design of recent developments in Minneapolis. Roper did a good job of explaining the concepts that those of us in the real estate industry take for granted; we speak in tongues and he translated it well. I hope this piece is a valuable addition to the ever important conversation about how we design and develop real estate in Minneapolis and elsewhere. I hope it helps developers, architects, CPED, elected officials and neighborhood groups to help express the kind of development we…

Urban Boating (Excelsior and Lake Minnetonka)

Dateline: 12:46 pm May 7, 2015 Filed under:

Lake Minnetonka is one of a few places that combines two of my favorite things: boating and urbanism. Last Saturday my father, my two kids and I took our boat out for a voyage to explore the lake and have lunch in excelsior. While our Lund “Mr. Pike” boat (and Mercury “Classic Fifty” motor) is more than thirty years old, it is new to us, having bought it last fall, so every excursion is a chance to explore a new body of water. Lake Minnetonka is definitely worth exploring, and stopping for lunch and strolling the sidewalks of a traditional small town…

Better Urban Design From the Ground Up

Dateline: 1:49 pm April 23, 2015 Filed under:

The past couple months has seen a robust conversation about development in Minneapolis, starting with Tom Fisher’s Star Tribune piece and followed by Jason Wittenberg’s streets.mn rebuttal. But taste is subjective, so rather than talk about what makes a building “ugly,” let’s instead discuss the ground floor and how it relates to the public realm around it. Building frontages are at eye-level, and together with the streets themselves, this is by far the most important element to get right for a vibrant, livable city. In his post, Wittenberg cited the City of Minneapolis one-pager guide called Exterior Building Walls and Materials. But here is another one-pager dealing with building footprint and massing, context,…