Time for Downtown Minneapolis to Turn Over a New Leaf

I perked up this morning at the Star Tribune headline, “Growing a Greener Downtown Minneapolis,” written by the newspaper’s editorial council. While I applaud plans for more trees and greenery downtown, I must question whether Minneapolis has indeed “turned over a new leaf,” so to speak. While the Pathways to Places remains a plan, the evidence speaks to business as usual. Now comes the hard part of re-allocating resources to pay for, plant and maintain a greener downtown.

Those Aren't Street Trees!

Those Aren’t Street Trees!

The editorial contained two glaring problems. The first is the self admission that a greener downtown “will require money that the city doesn’t yet have.” Yes. I’d love to travel the world and purchase a large portfolio of real estate, but that requires money I don’t yet have. So we all have problems.

For the sake of argument, if we are to believe the final term sheet for the agreement between the city, MSFA and Ryan Companies, $59.27 million went towards the construction of a parking ramp for and skyway connections to the new Vikings stadium. That sum could buy 8,467 trees, based on a price of $7,000 per tree (why a single tree costs so much has more to do with adding the proper subsoil and replacing concrete; trees themselves are much cheaper). 8,467 trees! So you get the point: the city has the money (or had the money) to plant trees. For those of you who love skyways and parking ramps, greening money could come from other places, as the mayor’s new budget demonstrates. It’s worth mentioning that private property owners can benefit immensely from greenery, and should certainly foot some of this bill.

The second exception I took to the editorial was the conclusion, which reads, “the old model, based on cars, parking ramps and skyways is giving way to new preferences for walking, biking and transit-riding.” This is a rather fatuous statement. While I, too, would argue there is proof out there that more and more people are walking, biking and taking transit, I have to question how the recent proliferation of parking ramps and skyways downtown is really evidence that we’ve let go of our “old model.” If this is a generational thing, as the Strib presumes, then it seems as though the old generation still holds the purse strings. The conclusion that the old model is dead is particularly egregious considering it came from a newspaper that likely profited considerably from the sale of land where skyways and parking ramps are now being constructed, while the promised green space is not yet funded.

Blaming cyclists for lobbying for curbside space that would have otherwise gone for plantings…we’ll save that for another day.

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Planting Street Trees Downtown is Like Riding a Bike

Before signing off as host of The Daily Show last week, Jon Stewart left us with some advice; “if you smell something, say something.” Well, I smell something.

To the Star Tribune’s credit, their editorial council indicated that “it will be better news when the plants are in the ground.” I couldn’t agree more.

This was crossposted at Joe Urban.

Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is www.joe-urban.com.