The podcast this week is a conversation with James Warden, who as well as writing many fine columns for this site, is running for City Council in Hopkins Minnesota. Warden is a former journalist and media analyst, a zoning and planning commissioner, and a big fan of good urban design. We sat down at the Depot coffee shop the other day to talk about Hopkins, the campaign, urban planning in Iraq, how Hopkins can capitalize on the Southwest Light Rail, and many other things. I hope you enjoy this important conversation.
The link to the audio is here.
Here are a few highlights from our talk:
James Warden on urban planning in Iraq: I like to think of it as what would happen if you took away all the representative government in Minneapolis, and had all the neighborhood associations running things without any support given to the Public Works department, and that’s about what you have in Baghdad.
On Hopkins’ industrial past: It was actually called west Minneapolis at one point. People worked at heavy industrial plants here, and it grew up around the plants. You still see the marks on the landscape, including right where we’re sitting here.
On improving civic engagement: The biggest thing is to be proactive in reaching out to people. You can’t expect people to come to automatically.Frankly, the person who’s a lifer doesn’t know to do that, and expecting someone who’s new – maybe a second-language speaker – they’re definitely not going to do that. It’s a really intimidating process to go to the city to stand in front of city hall. Even just thinking about public speaking, the way the hall is arranged, you feel like all eyes are on you.
On revitalizing Mainstreet: Hopkins had some tough times a couple years ago and it was pretty vacant, but its coming back strong now. We’ve got a couple of renovations, a brewpub, a restaurant. The big thing that’s going to help is getting some population in our downtown a little bit closer. All this is creating a critical mass for when people are doing neighborhood shopping and don’t want to go to Target.
Check out the rest for yourself.