The exact intersection of the Phillips, Seward, and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods is at the center of this photograph:
We all know the story. These neighborhoods were sacrificed for the convenience of newly minted suburbanites.
It’s weird how vigorously the government reshaped our patterns of living in the era of urban freeway building, and how timidly it now approaches the problematic aftermath. We used to destroy neighborhoods and dig trenches for freeways, and now we can barely get a curb to budge.
But if you think about it, the good parts of the city were mostly built in an era when the government played a more minimal role in development – recording plats, providing basic services, etc. The state and county DOT didn’t exist. Good urbanism didn’t come about through political consensus or federal matching funds, it was just a bunch of people doing what made sense at the time.
So while there are a lot of things the government does now that it didn’t do then that are great, I think it’s time we resurrect a limited amount of that frontier town laissez faire. The Cedar/Franklin/Minnehaha intersection is a poster child for the negative fallout of heavy-handed intervention, so it seems like an ideal laboratory for new (and old) redevelopment strategies.
Right now, the general area looks like this. Freeways just ruining the vibe all over the place.
This map represents one interpretation of the type of development that might happen if freeways were removed and the street grid restored similarly to the original pattern, with the land replatted and sold with limits on consolidation.
Aspects of this plan:
- Recaptures land now used for roadways.
- Zoning doesn’t apply.
- Hiawatha Ave. goes back to its original alignment, terminating near Cedar and 22nd, and is narrowed. (Land on either side formerly in the right-of-way is platted and sold)
- Cedar Ave. returns to its original alignment, reconnecting the now dead-end section between the Cabooze and Amble’s.
- 22nd st. is straightened and connected east to west
- All existing buildings can be retained, with the exception of the Vikings stadium (it would be just visible in the upper left), which is torn down and commemorated with a bronze statue of RT Rybak in stocks.
- With Hiawatha out of the way, Franklin is brought back up to grade at Cedar, and the LRT stop is moved north.
- Minnehaha Ave. stops at Franklin, instead of bisecting the current Taco Bell block and MAX IT Pawn block (essentially becoming 21st. Ave.)
- Cedar Avenue becomes a continuous corridor connecting Cedar-Riverside and Phillips, free of dead zones.
- Eliminating the Hiawatha extension to downtown prevents people from using Hiawatha and Cedar Aves to commute.
- If you want to get downtown, take the train.
- Boring Downtown East is reconnected with Cedar-Riverside, making it less boring.
- Some portions of former freeway land should serve as a local test for the idea of Zelfbouw, like the block bounded by Butler Place, 9th st. 22nd ave and 23rd ave.
- There’s no more Cedar/Franklin/Minnehaha intersection and no one ever has to say or type it again.
I think visuals like this are really important when it comes expanding the Overton window of outcomes for a place in the right direction. The next installment in this series will be Lake and Nicollet.