2013 Best Neighborhood Business Node in Minneapolis: 48th Street and Chicago

The votes are in! South Minneapolis’s 48th and Chicago edged out Southeast Minneapolis’s Dinkytown by two votes as the city’s Best Neighborhood Business Node. The final tally was 19 votes to 17. The next runners up were 38th and Nicollet in South Minneapolis (12 votes) and Central and Lowry in Northeast (11 votes). No other contender topped 6 votes.

Forty-eighth and Chicago stands above its competition because it jams such a wide variety of establishments into a single intersection. Locals can grab a savory bite at Turtlebread or Pizza Biga, sweets at the Pumphouse Creamery, or a drink at Adrian’s Tavern, to name just a few options. Neighborhood denizens can then follow their meals or treats with a movie or local music show at the Parkway Theater. Not in the mood for food and a concert? Visit local shops, including the popular and friendly sewing store Sewtropolis, a tennis store, bike shop/art gallery, or flower shop.

But the node offers more than a variety of businesses. The intersection features attractive and effective lighting at night, and many of the local establishments put out outdoor chairs and tables or benches for customers or passersby. In addition, the business node is just one block from McRae Park. Finally, Chicago Avenue is host to the #5 bus. Although the #5 may not be as handy as the streetcar it replaced, it arrives frequently and takes riders to regional centers like downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America.

The Southside Spring (image from http://www.southsidesprint.com/images/)

The Southside Sprint (image from http://www.southsidesprint.com/images/)

On top of all the permanent fixtures listed above, the 48th and Chicago community makes a concerted effort to show off its neighborhood node (the local business association likely helps organize area-wide promotion). For example, this past summer I had the opportunity to watch friends race in the Southside Sprint, a series of bike races with a start and finish line in the middle of the business node. The organizers held family-friendly races and hosted music in addition to more competitive races. It was an effective neighborhood draw for people unfamiliar with the area.

It appears as though people have been voting for 48th and Chicago with their feet as well as on Streets.mn. The City of Minneapolis pedestrian counts show almost doubled foot traffic on 48th (from 370 to 680 EDT) and on Chicago (from 650 to 1100 EDT) between 2008 and 2012 (I do not know, however, if there were outside factors, such as construction or weather, that influenced the low 2008 counts).

Forty-eighth and Chicago is sitting at the top of the heap in 2013, but stiff competition is coming down the pike. Each of the three top runners-up will experience significant changes in the next few years that could bolster their competitiveness in future best-of competitions. Part of Dinkytown, a thriving U of M hub, was just rezoned by the Minneapolis City Council to allow for mixed-use developments in current surface parking lots. Nicollet Ave, in the 38th and Nicollet node, was just reconstructed to become significantly more pedestrian friendly. Additionally, Nicollet will (hopefully) be the site of the second phase of the city’s first streetcar line. Finally, Central Ave, at the Central and Lowry node, will be the northern extension of the Nicollet streetcar line.

All in all, I appreciated the polling results for Minneapolis’s best business node because the top nodes were spread across the city. However, North Minneapolis was conspicuously absent in the poll results — the fact that many streetscape improvements are paid through assessments unfairly disadvantages lower-income parts of the city like the Northside.

I hope that the Streets.mn best-of contest infuses Minneapolis’s neighborhoods with a healthy competitive streak. If our nodes continuously strive to top one another, we could end up with a truly livable city in short order.

Sam Rockwell

About Sam Rockwell

Sam works on transportation and land use issues in Minnesota.