Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

The Minneapolis Planning Director – Lessons from Vancouver

Dateline: 11:26 am February 9, 2012 Filed under:

Minneapolis is seeking a new planning director, which is interesting in light of the recent “ousting” of Brent Toderian as planning director for the visionary city of Vancouver. New Urban News/Better Cities & Towns provides insightful coverage here. Does the experience in Vancouver bring lessons for the city of Minneapolis as they search for a new planning director. I think so.

On the one hand, we can play it safe and bring in someone who works well with the mayor, city council and neighborhoods. The lessons of Vancouver point that way, right? Not so fast. Someone has to push the envelope a little and work to get a little more inspiration and vision in our built environment. That’s not to say the mayor, city council and neighborhoods don’t want good urbanism, it’s just that the planning director should be leading the charge.

The following is the letter sent by the Twin Cities committee of the Congress for the New Urbanism to the mayor of Minneapolis, imploring him to search far and wide for a visionary planning director (so, if you know anybody)….

“Dear Mayor Rybak,

With the departure of Barb Sporlein, Minneapolis is at a crossroads. We know your passion for quality urban planning, and it is particularly important at this time to elevate urban design and placemaking as fundamental City goals, and to foster economic development that best exemplifies these goals. Minneapolis must hire a visionary planning director who will focus on urban design that will create a high-quality public realm as a catalyst for high-quality private development.

The Congress for the New Urbanism’s (CNU) Minnesota Chapter Organizing Committee, which consists of urban designers, planners, real estate consultants, and developers, believes the challenges the City has seen to high-quality urban design can be addressed by hiring a visionary planning director who is able to articulate the benefits of good urbanism to the Planning Commission, City Council, residents and business owners. We believe the right candidate will promote LEED-ND and transit-oriented development, utilizing tools such as charrettes, form based zoning, and the ITE manual. The results will be evident not just in high-profile projects, but more importantly in the everyday placemaking decisions in our neighborhoods.

We consulted John Norquist, former mayor Milwaukee and current President/CEO of CNU, and with his help have already identified potential candidates from a nationwide network of new urbanists. We are willing to help you in whatever way possible to ensure the best candidate is selected.

Continued “good” urban planning is not good enough. Minneapolis must raise its game to “great.” In a globalized world where the most talented residents and workers can choose a more attractive city in which to settle and invest, urban design matters. Minneapolis can do better.

The world is paying attention, and this is the opportunity for Minneapolis to shine. Please don’t let this moment pass.


The Congress for the New Urbanism’s Minnesota Chapter Organizing Committee

Faith Cable
Ryan Kelley
Bob Kost
Michael Lander
Peter Musty
Sam Newberg
Lucy Thompson”

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