New Ulm: The Urbanists Utopia

Streets.mn occasionally profiles small towns and cities throughout Minnesota, case studies that show that urbanism is not a war between the metro and Greater Minnesota. On the contrary, it is often from the Main Streets of small towns that urbanists gain valuable insight.

For example, streets.mn has previously profiled New Ulm because of a battle over the placement of a new school. Today I am setting aside the school issue and profiling New Ulm to provide an example of an urban small town. Using the Longitudinal Origin-Destination Employment Statistics dataset from the Census Bureau I measured the employment and housing patterns within New Ulm.

With a population of 13,522 it features an intact main street, a college (Martin Luther), a brewery (Schell’s), a river, and downtown parks. Quite a list of an urbanist’s favorite things! Another impressive aspect of New Ulm is the larger number of people who both live and work within New Ulm.

 

H2W_NewUlm

The first map shows the job locations of workers who reside within New Ulm. Some of the workers who reside in New Ulm work in one of the many other small towns surrounding it. However, 63% of the 6977 New Ulm workers work in New Ulm. For a town that is only a couple of square miles it means a large majority of residents could walk or bike to work. The southern area that is red is a more industrial area. The area in the middle of the map is downtown. Educational and medical facilities are represented by the large orange census blocks on the west side of town.

 

This second map shows the home locations of all employees of jobs located within New Ulm. This map shows a reciprocal of sorts of the first map. Instead of job locations of workers, this map shows home locations of jobs located within the boundary of the town. W2H_NewUlmAs expected the areas outside of downtown are the major residential areas. 45% of the 8,184 jobs located within New Ulm are filled by residents of New Ulm. Most of the census blocks are relatively dense. These are the traditional city blocks that make up almost all of the city. The large yellow blocks on the western side of the city are newer developments that are the only traces of “suburbia”. They are also less dense likely because those blocks are also where the hospital and college grounds are located.

What becomes clear in this analysis is that the ideas of urbanism is not metro vs greater MN. Instead it is about a land use that works better for people and communities.

Elliot Altbaum

About Elliot Altbaum

Elliot Altbaum is a graduate student in Geographic Information Science at Clark University. He grew up in Minneapolis and is excitedly watching it become a better version of itself.