Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


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…

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…

Joe Urban at 10 Years – Grocery Stores, the Election and Good Urbanism

Dateline: 6:48 pm January 6, 2017 Filed under:

I write about cities. I’ve done so for 20 years, having gotten my start by writing a series of articles about urban planning in Madison for the Badger Herald while attending the University of Wisconsin. 2016 marked 10 years since I began writing for this website and working for myself. I’ve written about a wide range of topics in that time. They can all be found here. I’ve also assisted in the task of bringing two children in to the world, bought a boat. But it all comes back to the topic of my first post on this site describing…

Drinking My Way Around England

Dateline: 4:26 pm December 2, 2016 Filed under:

English pubs are among the premier “third places” in the world. Despite rumors of their death, they remain vital to the community, and I’m impressed by how well they fit in to the urban (and rural) fabric. The English pub is a great place to gather with friends or strangers. They are also quite amenable to the solo traveler. There is no waitstaff to bother you, and it’s possible to linger at a table with a book and a pint. But lest you think Merry Olde England is a nonstop flow of pints of warm beers like Old Toejam, Cheeky…

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…

The Well-Tempered City – A Review

Dateline: 8:27 pm October 7, 2016 Filed under:

Most books written by urbanists have limited readership for two reasons: one, they lack flow and a certain literary quality; and two, they are really intended for other urbanist geeks and/or are reference books for those in the profession. Walkable City and Happy City break this mold somewhat by being both highly readable and good urban reference books. The Well-Tempered City, by Jonathan F. P. Rose, goes deeper and cuts across urban history and a wide range of topics to consider how we may live in cities in the future. It is also pretty readable if you are smart enough…

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…