Saint Anthony Village – Jekyll and Hyde Design

St. Anthony Village is an interesting suburban town. It has an excellent school district. It has pretty good “bones” – a solid grid system which has worked for centuries. Not much of the twisting, un-navigable dead-ends found in a traditional post WWII suburb:

St. Anthony Map Black & White

St. Anthony Village has sidewalks(!). And the intersections even have stuff like bump-outs that us urban design wonks love:

St. Anthony Bump-Outs

But something isn’t right in Stepford Village. The town itself lies in two counties: Hennepin and Ramsey, which may contribute to the Jekyll and Hyde qualities of the city…

Silver Lake Road is effectively St. Anthony’s “Main Street.” On the south end of town (Hennepin County Rd. 136) they’ve somehow managed to keep it two lanes and 30MPH. Then as the road crosses the county line and becomes Ramsey County 44, it transforms into a 4-lane, no-shoulder, auto-oriented, and decidedly bike and pedestrian unfriendly behemoth. The city has managed to keep the Ramsey County road’s speed to 35MPH, but it’s really a 40MPH design speed road where everyone goes 40MPH (or faster) anyway.

St. Anthony Stroad

But enough about stroads that every suburb has, let’s take a closer look at the good stuff like those bump-outs:

St. Anthony Side Street

They serve the purpose of calming traffic, because cars turning right must slow in the middle rather than using shoulder. But one of the biggest benefits of bump-outs is to provide a pedestrian a shorter (and faster) walk across a street. While the walk is shorter, they clearly don’t want you to cross Silver Lake Road as there are no curb-cuts or crosswalks leading across the street. So go ahead and walk, but stay on your side!

Also, what happens when we leave Silver Lake Road to head into the neighborhood? I guess it’s back to walking in the street 🙁

They gave it a good college try. But when we look at the full picture of the zoning map, you can see that much of the city is suburban business as usual:

Zoned and Codified Sterilization

Zoned and Codified Sterilization

All of the retail is in one area (on the stroad part of Silver Lake Road). The city hall, fire station, police station, community center, schools, and city park are all located in middle of town in one square block. So you can walk to church or school, but if you want to buy something or go out to eat, it’s time to fire up the Family Truckster.

No corner stores. No mixed use. It’s nothing but homogeneous single family residences.

My wife still likes to point out that St. Anthony Village still has sidewalks. But it really doesn’t. They only have them where it’s convenient. It’s almost insulting to see where the city abuts Minneapolis:

Mpls St. Anthony Border

Minneapolis has sidewalks and a sidewalk assessment fee to prove it (at the displeasure of the anti-sidewalk lobby). And you can see above that St. Anthony Village does not have sidewalks where it borders Minneapolis. But hey, they at least installed that little sidewalk section on the corner by the cemetery. You can either stand there for the bus, or wait for traffic to clear so you can cross over to a city that respects pedestrians.

Justin Foell

About Justin Foell

Justin is an aspiring urbanist stuck in suburbia. He enjoys cycling, beer, yo-yos, computers, and other geekery. Closet railfan.

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