The Streets.MN Rundown

I’m going to steal a little something out of the Strong Towns Playbook (e.g.: Friday News Digest). Sorry Chuck, I’m stealing your idea! How does the saying go? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery?

Here we go …

Minneapolis is looking to change an ordinance to allow merchants to display and sell goods on the sidewalk outside stores. Here’s a bit from the Star Tribune article;

“Urged by business owners … from across Minneapolis, city officials are now considering changing the ordinance to allow businesses to display and sell goods outside of their stores …

The proposal is being pushed by City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who said she’d like Minneapolis to become as enjoyable to walk in as New York City.

“We’re really trying to encourage walkable neighborhoods and walkable business districts,” she said. “I think this fits right into the sensibility of those goals and I’m really excited about the opportunity.”

This is a good idea. Support it!

  • Sidewalk Cafe Seating vs. Metered Parking, on

“It seems remarkable that business owners not only want less parking, but are willing to pay $300,000 to do it.”

Lowertown St. Paul is debating expanding sidewalks along Mears Park, but it would remove on-street parking. This has made some people not-so-happy. My thought has always been this; why not expand the sidewalk, keep on-street parking and just remove thru traffic to one-lane? In my mind, it’s hard to justify two through lanes of traffic in such an urbanized and walkable neighborhood. Also, The Grid is a new blog worth checking out.

  • Detroit City Is The Place To Be, by Mark Binelli [on Amazon]

I just started reading this book over the weekend – and it’s excellent. It tells a great narrative of the urban history of Detroit; it’s rise, it’s fall and it’s … whatever is next. Detroit is a fascinating, historic place and the new Wild West for urbanism and creativity. I’m cheering for Detroit because, in my lifetime, it’s always been the underdog. I love an underdog. This sounds totally stupid; but if a Minnesota team isn’t playing, I’m always cheering for the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, and umm, not so much the Pistons, but still, you get my point. Go Detroit!

Next on the reading list: The Genesis of Car Culture, by Christopher Wells.

  • What would it cost to cross the new St. Croix River Valley Bridge? from the Star Tribune

Here’s a bit from the article;

“Charging drivers as much as $3 to cross the bridge could raise enough money to pay for roughly half the construction cost.”

That means, if we wanted drivers to pay the full cost of just construction (not debt service or maintenance), everyone crossing the road would need to pay $6 per one way trip. That’s a hefty for a toll, especially since one can drive 5.5 miles south to the I-94 Bridge or 1.5 miles north to the old bridge and pay nothing (or, approximately $0 + mileage + time).

  • Quick & Dirty Urbanism

I took these images last summer in Iowa. It’s old news, but these images are so amazing that I feel like I need to share them again. In more compact urban spaces, it’s essential to use space creatively. This goes for big and small towns alike. I stumbled across a great example of this in downtown Clear Lake, Iowa. The Starboard Market is a deli / coffee shop in downtown that abuts a mid-block alleyway. During nice summer days, the place gets packed and they needed some extra seating. This is what they did …

The Starboard Market took over half the alley with two small wooden patios. One vehicle can still pass by, it aids the urban environment while inconveniencing few and allowing the shop to attract a few extra patrons … and when the shop closes, they remove the seating, fold up the decks and move the umbrellas inside.

It’s quick and dirty added urbanism. It’s a creative solution to the space problem some businesses may have in downtown locations. It’s simple, easy, cheap and successful.

  • The Lost Demographic?

Where are teens and young adults? That’s a good question. Here’s a quote Aascot Holt at Global Site Plans:

“Most of the time the only places that allow minors under twenty-one on their premises after 10pm are movie theaters, gas stations, and the occasional fro-yo hut. If there aren’t any other options, most teens choose public places where nobody is admitted past dark, like sport courts, skateboard parks, and playgrounds. Downtown is where the majority of nightlife lies for those over twenty-one, and it needs to be a place where minors can enjoy themselves too.”

Firms cluster. It’s one of the first things I learned in urban economics. Firms cluster. That means, in the long-run, you can get somewhat homogenous areas that, while not the same type of business, aim at the same clientele. This, of course, is generally true. Our downtown spaces – our few good urban places in American – are turning into places to go drink (this is one of my objections to “entertainment districts” in urban areas). It’s impossible, legally at least, to impose forced diversity. However, it would be a great if we could find some way to actually make this happen. Thoughts? Here’s  more on the topic: The Real Problem with Gentrification.

The Star Tribune reports that “Minnesotans have spent about $6.6 million on the new electronic pulltabs since they were launched in September. By comparison, they forked over nearly $500 million during the same period for little cardboard games”. WOW! Apparently the electronic pulltabs aren’t “fun” – who would have thunk’ it?

That, and $500 million is a lot of money. I’ve spent exactly $0 on old-fashion and electronic pulltabs during the same period.

  • Now …

Here’s an amazing video about space travel. It’s kind of long, but well worth watching. Summary: Space travel is awesome and the Earth is awesome.

Foxes are, like, my favorite animals … Enjoy.

  • Lying down in the snow [pic]
  • Curious fox on a cliff [pic]
  • Fox pushing a goose in a baby carriage [pic]
  • Fox close-up, business casual [pic]
  • Two foxes jumping on a trampoline [YouTube]