Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


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…

Nicollet Mall Can Live Up to its Potential

Dateline: 3:33 pm January 29, 2014 Filed under:

If we really are sincere about making Nicollet Mall a premier must-see destination, and one of the most vibrant public spaces in America, a few things must happen. Whether or not we spend $40-plus million to rebuild the street and then more to route a streetcar down the middle, we should completely overhaul the zoning code for buildings fronting Nicollet – we need a form-based code for the buildings and the street. And we should consider tearing down the four skyways that cross Nicollet between 5th Street and 10th Street. Before you shoot a million holes in this idea, hear me…

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…

The Great Streetcar Debate (Car Wheels on a Gravel Road or Your Father’s Magic Carpet Made of Steel)

Dateline: 4:08 pm January 20, 2014 Filed under:

Reading Saturday’s op-ed in the Star Tribune written by Senator David Osmek and Representative Linda Runbeck, I resisted the temptation to read this as a partisan anti-transit rant by suburban republican legislators (and this is not the first time I’ve responded to an editorial by Senator Osmek). I daresay that my urban colleagues who write for and read Streets.mn are as concerned about the cost-effectiveness of transportation improvements (although even we don’t agree). Transportation is expensive no matter how you look at it, and as Osmek and Runbeck say, “we need to assess our real transportation and transit needs, while remaining accountable to the taxpayers…

The Yard: Part 5 (Big Unanswered Questions)

Dateline: 3:33 pm January 15, 2014 Filed under:

Some huge questions about The Yard remain unanswered (the latest stadium legal challenge notwithstanding). The Park Committee met on January 9 to begin fleshing out a vision for The Yard. The committee has made a good start by identifying prioritization of year-round activities (note, activities year round is different than year-round activities – a skating rink, for example is seasonal), the idea that active uses attract passive, and balancing daily uses with major events. This is all well and good, but I can’t help but think that now more than ever is the time to engage more professional assistance in thinking about…

There is Hope for City Center

Dateline: 5:14 pm January 10, 2014 Filed under:

“She said City Center used to be the center of our scene. Now City Center’s over.” – The Hold Steady, Your Little Hoodrat Friend Could City Center have turned out differently? The answer is absolutely it could have. Reading Nick Magrino’s post on the four corners of City Center in Minneapolis, I recalled there is a nearly identical office tower in Denver. It is called Republic Plaza. It is also designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and it opened two years after (1984) City Center in Minneapolis (1982). It appears both projects were developed by Brookfield Properties. (Incidentally, both also have…

The Yard Part 4 – A Vision for an Active Urban Park

Dateline: 7:01 pm December 17, 2013 Filed under:

The Yard must be an active urban space, regardless of design. During the Park Committee meeting last week, co-chairs David Wilson and Tom Fisher went around the room asking people about their favorite park. Examples given included Hyde Park in London, the High Line in New York and Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. The most common attribute given, and a common denominator, was because these parks were “active.” That said, as the Park Committee moves at lightning speed to come up with a vision and begin fundraising for The Yard, it seems reasonable that the vision be more rooted in how…

Time to Raise Expectations for The Yard – A World Class Downtown Park

Dateline: 7:52 pm December 4, 2013 Filed under:

The Yard is the name of the 3.4-acre open space proposed as part of the redevelopment of five blocks of Star Tribune land adjacent to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis. With all the attention being given to the stadium and secondarily to attracting Wells Fargo as a major office tenant in the project, it is easy to forget the park itself, by far the most important piece of this project. Let’s not lull ourselves in to thinking that a place called “The Yard” can be just a casual place to gather with grass and trees. It 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…

Complete the Cincinnati Streetcar

Dateline: 7:29 pm November 20, 2013 Filed under:

If the streetcar project in Cincinnati is indeed cancelled, as newly-elected mayor John Cranley promises, it won’t be the first time that city has cancelled a transit project already under construction. A subway under construction in the 1920s was halted, and the website dedicated to that history is well worth checking out. It should also give pause, considering the notable redevelopment efforts in the area in recent years, and the way in which a permanent, quality transit service could complement the improved urban fabric in Cincinnati. The proposed streetcar route would link Fountain Square in the downtown core, through the Over-the-Rhine district…