Sunday Summary – March 1, 2015

sunday-summary-logoIt’s March, that month when the snowplows are still working, but construction season is on the horizon. Here’s all the news from with posts which plow deep into issues, clear up confusion, and try to build better conversations on the way to better cities. Think about adding your voice to this effort by writing for this Spring.

Current events

Two posts this week review the Downtown East Commons public meeting at the Mill City Museum with particular attention to Portland Avenue as it cuts through the park. Downtown East Commons is a Blank Slate, Except for the Vikings. And the Traffic is a more comprehensive report on the community meeting with links to meeting video and other materials.  Free Idea: Let’s Close Portland Avenue for a Few Weeks and See How It Plays Out goes straight to the issue of the street through the park.  The latter post generated most of the comments which consider variations on the theme of closing the street, how to influence Hennepin County (the chief opposition to closure), and related questions.

Downtown Commons Site sketch

Downtown Commons Site sketch (Source: City of Minneapolis)


Transit department

Map of the Day: Real Time Bus Information links to a University of Minnesota researcher’s live map of Metro Transit bus information.  The Quarterly Transit Report – February 2015 looks back at transit news; comments consider details of bike racks and Nice Ride bikes at transit stops, as well as the automated announcements on buses.

Buildings and spaces department 

The Midtown Exchange: Almost Ten Years Later summarized itself by saying ” 10 years is a pretty good timeframe to break a building in, see how it ages, what sticks and what goes away, and how it settles in to the urban context… So look at this as less of an architecture review and more of an urban design, public space and people review of the Midtown Exchange nearly a decade on.” Commenters consider repurposing other buildings, bike access, transit connections and need for a proper bar.

Before the Midtown Exhange: Sears store 1928

Before the Midtown Exchange: Sears store 1928

The Mall of America: A Case Study in Public Space Ideological Differences looks at two debates about the use of the Mall of America’s quasi-public space: the December 2014 Black Lives Matter demonstration and the February 2015 terrorism threat which spawned criticism of the mall’s policy banning guns.  The post observes how proponents of public assembly and gun rights state strong positions, but do not engage in a common discussion; the urban form of malls compared to more historic places to assemble is also considered briefly.  Comments take up the urban design questions, how public the mall is because of its tax subsidies, how public spaces are not uncontrolled and similarities between the comment section on and public spaces.

Getting down to the details, How the City of Minneapolis Actually Influences Building Design is a response by Minneapolis’ Manager of Land Use, Design and Preservation to a Star Tribune article Streetscapes: Enough Visual Interest Already by the Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Commenters suggest a meet-up to view and review issues on the street along with discussions of codes (form-based and otherwise) and some particular buildings.

Data and policy department

The Difference Between the Tax Levy and Taxes Levied, and Why Wellstone Was Right when he said “We all do better when we all do better” gives a simple explanation of the city tax process and why increasing the tax base helps us all pay less.  On the road, Comparing Crash Rates of Roadway Configurations presents data from MnDOT’s 2013 Section Green Sheet and highlights the higher crash rates for four lane undivided roads (here’s another post about this configuration labelling them “death roads“). In the comments, specific roads are considered along with considering impacts of restriping.

46th Street, Minneapolis

46th Street, Minneapolis

Simple messages department

Gil Penalosa: Pedestrians First is a short video from the Knight Foundation and 8-80 Cities about Copenhagen’s reinvention of itself.  The simple message: “Every city should have a law of two words. Pedestrians First.”

Enjoy the start of March which is coming in like a relatively well-behaved lion and have a great week!

Betsey Buckheit

About Betsey Buckheit

Betsey rides her pretty blue city bike, walks her energetic black dogs, and agitates for more thoughtful, long-range decision-making in Northfield, MN. You can follow her blog at