Dinkytown: Successional Urbanism

Great places evolve over time. This is a healthy and historic form of urban growth.

Among the constituent elements are a very light hand of government and, often, management genius—as well as normative patterns like the continental survey, the town grid, etc. But the key element is successional urbanism. Start small at the inauguration, and later build well, culminating in the climax condition of the magnificent cities of the 1920s. By contrast, for the past 15 years or so, planners have been going straight to the climax condition, bypassing the inaugural condition and successional stages of urban molting. We need to develop protocols for every level—financial, administrative, and cultural—that will allow successional planning to occur again. Those are the big things. – Andres Duany, Interview with Terrain.org

Dinkytown’s newest addition is exactly how a city ought to grow; at least, based upon historical precedence. What started as a humble corner store on 5th St and 14th Ave. in 1932 will eventually transition into a six story brick building. It’s textbook successional urbanism; the idea that you start nimble and incrementally grow.

house0

[Original House of Hanson, Sketch, Cultural Construct blog]

house1

[Original House of Hanson & Flooded street, Star Tribune]

The first House of Hanson corner market wasn’t designed to be a permanent fixture. It was lean urbanism. Made of wood, it was built to be cheap, efficient and to delivery food at the lowest possible cost. After about 40 years in business, it turned itself into a more permanent brick building.

house2

[House of Hanson, as seen today, Star Tribune]

The next step in the House of Hanson story is demolition. It’s being replaced by a mixed-use, six story building.

house3

Great places evolve over time. It’s a building pattern that is resilient: you begin with modest single-story buildings made of cheap materials, you improve upon that design, and when permitted by market forces, you develop upwards.

This single-story, bricked building maintained itself well over the following decades to become a memorable fixture of the Dinkytown scene. What many view as a run-of-the-mill corner store, others saw as something more;

“I come in here twice, three times a week,” said Connor Evarts, a U student from Eagan. “I like to support the Dinkytown that’s been here forever. House of Hanson was here when my parents were students, and my grandparents. None of them are happy to see it go, especially my grandfather. I’ll miss it a lot.” [Star Tribune]

The House of Hanson is not what the Evarts family care about. They are attaching a physical place to memories they had as young people. The discovery, excitement, adventure and the friendships; this is what happens during our formative years and we desire to hold onto these memories. We do so by placing them against the backdrop of place. House of Hanson is that place. It embodied the Dinkytown experience just as the new building will embody the college experience for students in the upcoming decades.

It all means that people care about this place – this dinky town – and it is this exact reason why it needs to expand.


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3 Responses to Dinkytown: Successional Urbanism

  1. Nick Magrino
    Nick Magrino August 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Exaaaaaaaactly.

  2. Nathaniel M Hood
    Nathaniel August 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Yeah. Preaching to the choir. So, Streets.MN readers are pro-good urbanism? Interesting.

  3. Cameron Conway
    Cameron August 13, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Well, if we are the irony-loving hipster capitol that the internet says we should be, Dinkytown has a clear imperative to become absolutely enormous in every way :P