September 19th: Urbanist News


There is a lot going on around the Twin Cities. Here’s the round-up:

  • NYC Firm selected to redesign Nicollet Mall [MPR]

Summary: The City of Minneapolis has chosen the firm they’d like to redesign the Nicollet Mall’s streetscape. The presentations included lot of people walking, trees and permeable surfaces that are likely sustainable. If you don’t like reading, here’s a news clip about it.

My Take: I have questioned whether this is a good use of resources and if those resources could better be allocated elsewhere. That’s not going to happen. As it stands, the proposal from the selected firm looks impressive. The design will certainly be an improvement over what exists. One recommendation is for the City and the designers to take ideas out of the Joe Urban/PPS Playbook. Read his suggestions here.

Projected Outcome: Could be good.

  • St. Paul Macy’s might be a makeover as ownership changes [Star Tribune]

Summary: Firm from San Francisco is buying the downtown St. Paul Macy’s store. Their plans for the building are not known.

My Take: Macy’s is a problematic structure. It doesn’t integrate well with the urban environment and lacks windows and entrances. What is the future? The Mayor wants an office tower with some retail, food and bar options on the lower levels. This sounds reasonable, but I am hesitant to say there is a need for more ‘Class A’ office space in downtown St. Paul. At the same time, I agree that a “Burlington Coat Factory” type use isn’t great. Unfortunately, without tearing the structure down, it might be the most reasonable re-purposed use. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

Projected Outcome: Has lots of potential to be good.

  • Edina uses eminent domain to expand parking at the expense of a traditional neighborhood building [Star Tribune]

Summary: Edina is looking to use eminent domain (a very unpopular urban redevelopment tool) to expand parking in the 50th & France business district.

My Take: This is bad on just about every level. It is adding more parking where parking is clearly not needed. Edina needs to explore paid parking in and around 50th & France. Using eminent domain to tear down a single-story, traditional neighborhood building to expand parking is a good way to destroy what made the district successful in the first place (read: Pensacola Parking Syndrome).

The Pensacola Parking Syndrome is a term of the trade used to describe a city that tears down its old buildings to create parking spaces to entice more people downtown, until people no longer want to go there because it has become an empty lot. – New York Times

The use of eminent domain in this particular case is questionably legal and will likely set the City up for a lawsuit. In 2006, the laws changed that prohibited the taking of property for a public purpose, such as economic development. Read about it here. The question for Edina: Is the taking of property for parking a public use or public purpose? The City will argue it’s a public use. I don’t buy it. In their minds, it’s an “economic development” strategy to appease businesses who appear to think that there isn’t enough parking?

Projected Outcome: Very bad.


Other News: