Welcome back to Round 2 of streets.m(ad)n(ess), brought to you by Microsoft Paint–that’s Microsoft Paint: You’ve Probably Got It.
Thanks, Jim. And thanks everyone for tuning back into our coverage of streets.m(ad)n(ess), where you, the streets.mn reader, get to vote on your favorite recent news in the world of Twin Cities urbanism. Jim, can you tell us a little bit about our last set of games, the first half of Round 2?
Yeah Nick–this was big. Two of our eight games featured upsets, with 5 seeds Surly Brewery and Car2Go Expansion to St. Paul both besting 4 seeds Downtown St. Paul Lund’s and Apparent Salvage of SWLRT. And talk about a nail biter in the Transportation category–3 seed Hennepin/Lyndale Bottleneck Reconstruction barely squeaked by 6 seed Nice Ride Expansion, we had to break out the decimals!
- (1) U of M Density (79%) over (8) Block E (21%)
- (5) Surly Brewery (52%) over (4) Downtown St. Paul Lund’s (48%)
- (3) Midtown Greenway Transformation (73%) over (6) Nicollet Hotel Block (27%)
- (2) Downtown East Redevelopment (62%) over (7) Pillsbury A-Mill Reuse (38%)
- (1) Green Line (88%) over (9) Union Depot Rehabilitation (12%)
- (5) Car2Go Expansion to St. Paul (56%) over (4) Apparent Salvage of SWLRT (44%)
- (3) Hennepin/Lyndale Bottleneck Rebuild (50.3%) over (6) Nice Ride Expansion (49.7%)
- (2) Nextrip at LRT Stations (69%) over (7) TCUP Bus Stop Stickers (31%)
And those decimals aren’t cheap Jim.
That’s true, so I’d like to casually remind our readers to consider becoming a member of streets.mn. Our servers aren’t free! If you enjoy our high-quality, hard-hitting coverage of topics ranging from transportation funding to street frontage, sign up today. Though we won’t let you vote extra!
And our stickers for members are on the way.
That they are, Nick. So is there anything you want to cover before getting into the second half of Round 2 of streets.m(ad)n(ess) – Policy & Potpourri?
There are a couple good things to point out, Jim. First of all: Potpourri–what’s going on there, right? Well, potpourri is that stuff your grandma has in a glass bowl in her foyer, but it’s also “a collection of various things,” so we’ve placed things like the Holidazzle Market into that category. Second, in the Policy category, any entry that isn’t labeled is a City of Minneapolis policy.
Boy howdy, how do you suppose the St. Paul people feel about that?
Couldn’t tell you Jim–I’ve been effectively banned from entering Ramsey County since Bush 41. But you know another thing is, looking at the overall bracket we started out with, you can’t help but notice how many of these policy entries were coming from one politician in particular.
I did see that–what does it mean?
Hard to tell, but I think we’ll find out in a couple years.
ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, were a hot topic in 2014, and for good reason–Bloomington beat us to the punch. Accessory dwelling units come in a few shapes and sizes and layouts, but in a nutshell, they’re a way to add an additional, separate residential unit to a homesteaded, single-family dwelling. Often referred to as granny flats, one benefit is that they may allow seniors–presumably with potpourri–to age in place by either allowing them to rent out a portion of their property more easily, supplementing their income, or by downsizing and moving into the unit themselves. They’re not just for seniors though, and an ADU above a garage or in a basement is a great way to increase the supply of cheaper, smaller housing stock that you often hear isn’t getting built otherwise.
This reworking of regulations will stealthily increase density without substantially altering the built form of existing neighborhoods. Much of the enormous population loss of Minneapolis in the second half of the 20th century wasn’t from the loss of residential units or households but from the shrinking of those household sizes, and, in their own way, ADUs can help make up that difference as we march back towards 500,000 Minneapolitans.
(8) Clean Energy Partnership
Following a hypothetical push to municipalize Minneapolis’ electric grid that ultimately and thankfully died in committee back in 2013–sidebar: if we’re going to take something over Venezuela-style, it should be Comcast–the City of Minneapolis set up the Clean Energy Partnership betwixt them, Xcel Energy, and CenterPoint Energy. The City’s 2015 Budget includes new funding to work with these partners on its climate goals, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their 2006 levels 15% by 2015, 30% by 2025, and 80% by 2050, and if you’ll remember, this winter was freezing, so something must be going right there.
(4) St. Paul 8-80 Fund
Last year, the metro area was wowwed–not by a European, luckily, but by a Colombian! Gil Peñalosa, former Commissioner of Parks, Sport, and Recreation for the City of Bogota, Columbia and current international consultant, went on a tour of the Twin Cities, offering advice to Minnesotans in a way that only an international consultant can. One of his main deals is the idea of “8-80” streets, or streets and spaces that are safe for eight year old users and eighty year old users–a good idea that somehow is not immediate common sense in the world that we have built here in the U.S. of A.
The City of St. Paul went so far as to set up a whole fund espousing these principles, and it dedicates tens of millions of dollars towards pedestrian and cycling improvements around the city, many of which are noted here.
Parklets, which were piloted into three Minneapolis parking spaces last year, are now policy. These neat installations add a public space to the streetscape. They chilled outside of Spyhouse on Nicollet, Martin Patrick 3 in the North Loop, and Juxtaposition Arts on the Northside last summer, and you can expect to see more around the city as soon as it starts warming up around here. Sort of the opposite of what you hear from business owners a lot–that there’s not enough parking and that there must always be more parking and never less parking–and that’s really refreshing.
(P.S. what if we used parklets offensively rather than defensively? think about it)
(3) Open Data Portal
A cool idea! Some things have been written about it here on streets.mn. The Open Data Portal was set up by the City of Minneapolis last year and has lots of data, and is open. Citizen data miners can dig around this site for all sorts of public datasets, like, say, all the trees in the city, or the location of all the fires in a year, or a zoning map that’s not a nightmare to use. It is still a work in progress, like many things in the world, but it has real potential for use as resource and maybe some potential for abuse by mathletic vigilantes but we’ll have to see how it plays out.
(6) St. Paul Bike Plan
Luckily, the St. Paul City Council voted to approve this plan last week after it had already been selected for inclusion in streets.m(ad)n(ess)–we live fast and dangerously around here. We’re talking another 197 miles of bicycle facilities, which is a lot of miles, including a downtown loop and a “Grand Round” system around the whole city which sounds vaguely familiar. Saw a lot of people in bike helmets on Twitter smiling. Things are going well around here.
(2) Thrive MSP 2040
Last year, the Metropolitan Council adopted what they called “Thrive MSP 2040,” a comprehensive plan for comprehensive plans laying the groundwork for transportation, land use, housing, and parks policy in the seven county metropolitan area over the next 25 years. Quick, a quiz: If there was only one thing the Metropolitan Council could do, what would you pick?
…your toilet is now overflowing. Dang! Water resources are also in there.
The “collar counties” of Carver, Washington, Anoka, Dakota, and Scott and some number of municipalities in those counties and probably some municipalities in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties have expressed reservations about specific aspects of the plan, but I haven’t heard much about that in a few months, so it probably blew over. And hey, the Met Council has a new chair who takes the bus more than never, so big plus there.
(7) Curbside Organics
Composting in the city of Minneapolis will start getting easier this year as a curbside organics pick up program rolls out in select areas. You will get another bin if you request it! I unfortunately cannot participate due to my all-liquid diet (see next entry) and current living circumstances in a large apartment building. But this a great first step to make composting easier for city residents who don’t have easy heap access.
(1) Holidazzle Market
The Holidazzle Market, which reputable sources claim I “attended” “twice,” was the best. All the haters–to the left please. There were raindeer! There was gluhwein! I bet Santa was there at some point! Souvenir mugs?! Can you even spell souvenir on your first try? Exactly, so cut them some slack–it was the first year. While the stickers on the mugs were an absurd online-MBA-ish decision, the market was fun and potentially a great new tradition. For me it sort of reminded me that I live somewhere that people visit. Who visits Eagan for fun?
Think of it! There were tens of thousands of non-Minneapolitan Minnesotans walking around Nicollet Mall, checking stuff out and buying tchotchkes in the downtown taxing distict and eyeballing the new residential towers rising in the distance. Next year it will be back with some of the kinks worked out, and I will be there.
(8) Social Media Performance Art
Crazy world we live in, with the social media and everything. Speaking truth to power or talking to yourself like a madman in plain view of thousands has never been so easy. Great sandwiches, all, thanks. Keeping in mind that the world is chaotic and dehumanizing, some local intrepid citizens have taken up the cause of causes “on-line.” You’ve got your second ring built environments, your parking enthusiasts, your crotchety old drivers. Some are unintentional, and some do better journalism than the newspapers of a lot of large towns. This interview is probably the funniest thing I read all last year, and there are a lot of funny things to read in a year.
Open Streets, the popular event where automobile traffic is closed on city streets for part of one day each year, expanded in 2014 to six events, up from four in 2013 (remember this? lol) and two in 2012 and one in 2011. Open Streets is great because it really lets people engage in a thought exercise for the whole day, whether or not they realize it. Hey, what would it be like if Lyndale wasn’t oppressively bad to walk along? Maybe it could be a little better on the other 364 days of the year, too? Now that the space shuttles are decommissioned and NASA no longer needs Lyndale as a backup emergency landing site…who knows what’s possible when you get people thinking.
And because good things can’t stop happening around here, it was actually announced just this morning that 2015 will see eight Open Streets events.
(5) State Bonding Money for Nicollet Mall
As they say in Monopoly: “Take money from your parents while they’re in the bathroom to buy Boardwalk.” We got $21.5 million dollars from the state rerebuild Nicollet Mall! That’s a lot! It’s actually a $50 million dollar project. For 13 blocks! That’s a lot. About half will come from assessments to property owners near the project area, so, hey, buy-in. The real question is: what teal was in 1993…what is that now? What are we doing that’s going to shout “2015!” in 2035 and trick us into redoing the mall again? (Will it be the streetcar?)
The state of downtown retail along Nicollet Mall is kind of shaky right now, which is weird considering the thousands of new and well-heeled downtown residents, but things are looking up and lots of big leases are being signed to fill in empty spaces in the near future.
(3) The Consortium
Man, this: let me tell you. Kind of an inside joke, to be honest. There was this whole thing on the forum that sort of defies clear explanation, but, in short, there was this guy, let’s call him Rick from Wells, Minnesota, who invented this giant fantasy world where he was in charge of this far-flung and powerful development consortium, and it was sort of immediately clear that this was not in fact the case, and after having this pointed out, he took his imaginary cranes and slunked over to another forum where he invented a whole bunch of ancillary characters including literally hundreds of fake LinkedIn profiles and other such things and ginned up all kinds of angst towards UrbanMSP among the people who still believed him and then it all sort of fell apart out of the blue in January when someone pointed out how clearly fake all the LinkedIn profiles were and then there was about two weeks of intense cyber-sleuthing and hand-wringing that was insanely good television and LinkedIn and the other forum deleted all the profiles when they found out.
It actually makes less and less sense the more you explain it, so let’s leave it there. If you want to dive into the rabbit hole, start here.
(6) Food Trucks Going Brick-and-Mortar
Food trucks: They’re still hot! You’ve got to think that, with the past ten thousand or so years of human civilization, the highest possible level of food consumption is eating eleven dollars of chili off of a paper plate with a plastic fork while sitting outside on a windy day on a curb and wearing your (to be honest) only pair of khakis. Can’t get any better than that–or can it? Many local food trucks have made the jump to–you guessed it! Not trucks. You’ve got Shacks Smack and Chef in the North Loop and Seward, respectively, World Street Kitchen on Lyndale (and on SouthWest Transit buses?), Turkey-to-Go and Vallee Deli in the skyway, and others elsewhere. It’s awesome to see local entrepreneurs filling commercial space without the huge risk of starting a restaurant up out of the blue–the food trucks are a great way to test out the market and your concept before taking out a bunch of loans.
(2) 2014 MLB All-Star Game
Hey, I like baseball as much as the next guy, meaning that getting $5 Twins tickets on Stubhub and sitting in the Skyline View seats at Target Field with some friends on a July evening with a light, warm breeze drinking $8 cocktails not actually watching the game is probably one of my favorite things that is possible. The World Series…a little much. Four to seven games? Who has time for that? What you do probably have time for is the MLB All-Star Game, which is just one game and was in Minneapolis last year. It was cool! Got to see jets fly over and everything. It brought thousands of out ‘o towners to the Twin Cities and got us some good air time.
You’ve got to think that (if it were not already a foregone conclusion) it helped a bit in our bid to secure the 2018 Superbowl for our bird-killing spaceship stadium, which, as someone who had a turkey sandwich yesterday, I am also excited for.
(7) Metro Urbanists’ Discovery of New Ulm
There is something great about a Greater Minnesota town that embodies so many of the concepts that many of the metro-based writers on this site talk about all the time.
Also, former streets.mn board member Alex Bauman hails from New Ulm, and he’s a good egg.
CAST YOUR VOTES.
This poll will remain open until 8 PM CST on Friday, March 27.