The Importance of Individual Unit Entrances

A small apartment building just opened on my street, and I’m proud to say it has the stamp of Joe Urban on it. Station 38 Apartments opened in early April, right around the corner from the 38th Street light rail station. It has 64 market rate apartments leasing for around $1.45 per square foot, is four stories in height and I’m happy to say it has ground floor units with individual walk-out entrances.

Close to two years ago the developer, Klodt (pronounced “kloot”), presented their nearly final plans for the building to SENA, my neighborhood group. Citing the fact that many tenants will indeed walk to the nearby light rail station, I asked if they could simply add a door and front sidewalk for those units that were on the ground floor facing 29th Avenue. They said sure. It was, and always will be, the easiest neighborhood approval battle I’ll ever win. The important thing is we all win. Having separate front entrances lining the street enhances the public realm, and makes the street more neighborly and inviting. Apartment dwellers can walk right out the door, and neighbors get to look at a more appealine building.

That place where the public and private realm meet – that is the starting point for good urbanism. The planning process should begin with a discussion of what the public realm looks like and how the private realm addresses it. A quiet, tree-lined residential street with a public sidewalk and on-street parking should naturally have buildings with doors facing it. Why this isn’t an automatic in planning and zoning I don’t know, but it should be. What happens above the ground floor is less important than how that ground level facade interacts with the street. Station 38 Apartments is but one small example of how it should be done.

Well, a picture can say a thousand words, so decide for yourself. Which of these two pictures do you like better?



Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is