The Full Force of Urban Renewal

Morning all and happy voting,

I’m working on a project that shows Mankato throughout the years. In this project I thought that I would try and show a more interactive version of what Urban Renewal did to Mankato.

A little backstory. During Urban Renewal Mankato ripped out five city blocks of historical commercial development in their downtown. They covered what was remaining with a “downtown mall” which did well until we built a new mall on the edge of town… and then we built another one…

Mankato received a good deal of money for Urban Renewal. Story has it that there was a politician when to downtown mall opened who said “This is an all-American mall because all of America helped pay for it.”

Anyway, I have a friend who is a good deal older than I am. In 1969 he went around and took pictures of Mankato side by side with pictures from 1905. He captured the change of those buildings in 60 years. I then took pictures of the same spots this fall. The results, shocking to say the least. Here’s an example:


pg 6b

South Front Street c.1905

South Front Street 1969

South Front Street 1969

Front Street today, a civic center.

Front Street today, a civic center.


I’ve also created a piece from Juxtapose JS which allows you to compare old Mankato, to essentially what Mankato looks like today via Google Earth. Unfortunately, isn’t letting it publish for some reason, if you’d like to see it you can click here.

As a consolation here’s a .GIF I made of the same three time periods.


Business & Apartments, Business & Apartments, Parking lots.

Mankato had a very sad history. Some people have argued that we used to have a downtown more beautiful than Galena, IL, but we threw it all away in the name of progress.

You can see in the image below how far it stretched.


This post is simply a reminder that wealth doesn’t spring up over night. It’s worked at for decades and then it is carried into the future. Same with sense of place. It’s hard to force a sense of place. It’s a culmination of different aspects that shape a city and a place, but buildings, undoubtedly, have a lot to do with it.

Something to think about going forward. I’ll never get to experience the old Mankato, I can just try and get a little of it back…with more parking I’m sure.

Matthias Leyrer

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going Follow him @mjleyrer