Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist


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…

Minnehaha Avenue Will Test the City of Minneapolis Climate Action Plan

Dateline: 3:47 pm October 9, 2013 Filed under:

Hennepin County has decided to proceed with rebuilding Minnehaha Avenue in 2015 and 2016. A good plan, but not great. The much-discussed cycletrack is off the table, and the street will be rebuilt with bike lanes similar to today but with some improvements for pedestrians and cyclists alike. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s announcement shows that organization’s disappointment with the County’s unwillingness to both listen to significant public input favoring a cycletrack or to provide a meaningful cycletrack design for the public to respond. As this video on Upworthy by a mystery Dutchman shows, the county’s proposal doesn’t ensure much of an improvement for cyclists (the county will…

How to Make Nicollet Mall More Friendly

Dateline: 6:58 pm October 8, 2013 Filed under:

I’m encouraged that the City of Minneapolis largely stood up to CenterPoint Energy on their request for a variance to reduce retail frontage facing Nicollet Mall from 60% to 20% of the building face. As reported in today’s Star Tribune, Minneapolis pushed back, and CenterPoint (and developer United Properties) have withdrawn their application for the variance on the 501 Nicollet Mall building (former Neiman Marcus store), and although retail will only occupy 20% of total floor area, at least the frontage of Nicollet Mall will include 60% retail space. Still, I can’t help but think this sets a precedent that leaves…

Creating Authenticity – Can it be Done?

Dateline: 8:08 pm September 18, 2013 Filed under:

How do developers create authenticity and community? It is a big question, and increasingly important, since apartment vacancy won’t remain below 3% forever and apartment developer/owners will have to find ways to set their buildings apart from the competition and keep occupancy healthy in the long run. Authenticity is one of many words used to describe great cities, including community, gritty, lively, and serendipity. In a January Financial Times essay, Edwin Heathcote says, “There is the thrill of serendipity, to wander from a tight, dark alley into a small square with a fountain.” This begs the question, can every developer create…

The Midtown Farmers Market – Can a TOD Happen? (Take 2)

Dateline: 2:49 pm September 11, 2013 Filed under:

A potentially spectacular and game-changing transit-oriented development may be revived in Minneapolis. And man do I mean “may be.” Hennepin County may get involved with the development of 6.5 acres of property adjacent the Lake Street Station of the Blue Line. The county  maybe relocating offices and services to the site, which is owned by the Minneapolis Public Schools, and may be helping set the process in motion to allow development of more than 500 housing units and a permanent home for the Midtown Farmers Market. Maybe. If the school board is actually willing to move forward. I’ve been involved on a pro bono professional basis on this…

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Dateline: 12:40 pm August 28, 2013 Filed under:

In honor of the Minnesota State Fair as a bookmark at the end of summer, I’m here to tell a tale of what I did on my summer vacation. I drove west, naturally. My family piled in to the car and drove to Colorado. The great American road trip, we put 2,300 miles on our faithful Mazda 5. Along the way we saw the Mitchell Corn Palace, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, the Rocky Mountains (purple mountain majesties) and the western prairie (amber waves of grain…actually, just corn, oh God, so much corn!) And, of course, some good urbanism.…

Dear Hennepin County

Dateline: 2:59 pm August 14, 2013 Filed under:

Thank you for your response. I’m sure citizens and voters will take these in to consideration and get back to you with additional questions regarding the reconstruction of Minnehaha Avenue. And I see we have our first questions now. You cite five pedestrian crashes from 2010 to 2012 and two pedestrian fatalities in 2009 (Question 26, Page 4 of the response). How many vehicle crashes have occurred in that time and how many fatalities? What is the primary culprit of these accidents (speed, inattentiveness, etc.)? With regard to trees, why do you continue to provide a false choice between cycletracks and…

Don’t Overthink Good Urbanism on Nicollet Mall

Dateline: 4:10 pm July 31, 2013 Filed under:

The City of Minneapolis is promising to spend a lot of money on some critical pieces of downtown infrastructure. The new Vikings Stadium and Downtown East area, Peavey Plaza, Nicollet Mall all are being considered for major capital investments. With Nicollet Mall, take one look at the people using the street and you can see that maybe the answer doesn’t lie in fancy infrastructure and world-class designers, perhaps the key is the social realm. What’s more is it’s already happening. We need look no further than food trucks, the farmers market and the Piazza on the Mall for proof. Earlier this week…

Accidental Traffic Calming in the Neighborhood

Dateline: 4:18 pm July 26, 2013 Filed under:

Here’s a riddle. How do you calm traffic legally but without having to go through city hall? You have two options: have a road reconstruction project; or a major storm that knocks trees down and blocks streets. Standish-Ericsson got both this summer at the same time, causing undue stress and disruption. But alas, there is a silver lining and maybe some instructive ideas about better urbanism. While it is true that the summer-long closure of 28th Avenue near my home has caused me and my neighbors some inconvenience, and certainly the storm ravaged yards and homes, I suspect I will…