Sunday Summary – May 1, 2016

Image of Sunday Summary logoHappy May Day! Today you can celebrate Spring with maypole dancing for a traditional (European) celebration, or you could observe (simultaneously, perhaps) International Workers’ Day commemorating the Haymarket uprising in Chicago in 1886 (and struggles to establish an 8-hour workday) before becoming an international holiday.  Minneapolis area folks reading this early enough can hit the streets for the Heart of the Beast May Day parade at noon for a celebration of Spring with a social conscience and giant puppets.  Here’s the week on to get you thinking about what you see on your streets:

Particular places and projects

Two Saint Paul projects receive some criticism this week. First, in St Paul’s Priorities: Short Sighted and All Out Of SortsWalker Angell evaluates Saint Paul and Highland District Council plans to add left turn lanes and a median to Snelling Avenue and concludes the “project will make this neighborhood less pleasant, with increased and faster traffic, and will make life more dangerous for people walking or with disabilities.  And while it is proposed to use 8-80 Vitality funds, it will do nothing to improve the human-scale vitality of this neighborhood, only make it feel more like a multi-lane freeway through the middle of a neighborhood and dividing it even more than it does today.” The post provides some alternative street layouts intended to slow traffic, add facilities for bikes, and do more to make Snelling safer and more welcoming to all modes of transportation, especially the most vulnerable. Commenters include the Highland District Council chair defending the proposed plan.

In downtown Saint Paul, new writer (and architect)  asks Can We Hit the Pause Button on the Macy’s Site? This redevelopment project got his attention by including a whopping 180,000 square feet of parking suggesting “the Macy’s building is just too large for a traditional redevelopment effort in a market like downtown St. Paul. I imagine the Port Authority looking in vain for anything to fill the space besides parking, and coming up empty.” Nathan asks “what if we looked at the Macy’s building a little differently, less as an economic conundrum, more as an opportunity for civic infrastructure?” The post goes on to provide some sketches of what this could look like.

In the larger picture, Mike Hicks pulls back further from his two posts last week on getting around the block in Minneapolis and Saint Paul (downtowns and citywide) to look at Getting Around the Block: City vs. Suburb in Eden Prairie, Woodbury and Bloomington.  Mike finds few blocks to try to get around and his mapping “highlights how suburbs’ heavy reliance on cul-de-sacs, pod-style development, and hierarchical road systems is bad for walkability and bikeability, and it isn’t good for car traffic either.”  With so few blocks and interconnections,”it becomes nearly impossible to meet or even set meaningful goals for increasing mode share for walking, biking, or taking transit, and it makes it extremely challenging to serve populations like children, the elderly, or those with disabilities who can’t move themselves around by car.” There’s some lively commenting with some defense of suburban layouts, comparing city to suburban driving perceptions, and ideas for how things could change.

When Single-Family Housing Becomes Luxury Housing is ‘s response to the opposition to a small apartment building just approved by the Minneapolis Planning Commission at 2008 Bryant Street in the Wedge neighborhood. Seeing this project as creating “much-needed “missing middle” housing and a fine opportunity to allow more people to live near transit in a desirable neighborhood, the opposition by a few home owners wanting to keep densities low and neighbors few (and non-renters) is both vicious and startling (watch the video in the post for a taste of the comments from the public meeting). Commenters discuss the meeting in question, missing middle housing, what counts as luxury housing and more.

Comparing an aerial view of Eden Prairie to a map only showing city blocks.

Getting around (very few) blocks: Comparing an aerial view of Eden Prairie to a map only showing city blocks.

Other great stuff

The Dirty Words of Urban Design is another post from our new Rochester writer , this time about those nasty “d” words – density and diversity – which are often misunderstood (and made frightening). Adam advocates for more of both these things for a truly urbane Rochester as the Desintation Medical Center takes shape; the conversation should be “about making a public place out of empty space.  It is about overcoming fear of the word density because it evokes images of slums and high-rises and understanding the word diversity without picturing scary people lurking in the shadows.”

As Easy as Riding a Bike is Dana DeMaster’s wonderful story of two people learning to ride bikes – her seven-year old son and an adult friend – and how riding a bike teaches more than just balance on two wheels, but also a new perspective on navigating streets and personal sense of power. 

Dana DeMaster on her first bike

Learning to ride that first bike

Quick looks

Chart / Map of the Day: US Cities Ranked by Storefront Index: From City Observatory (a source of many interesting urban ideas) is a chart showing the number of “customer-facing businesses” along city streets. This is not a new idea for readers; see Sam Newberg’s post on street-level design and its importance, for example.

National Links: MTA Leaving APTA, Riding the Pyongyang Metro, and More!: More great links from The Direct Transfer to more information about transit, urbanism, and some fun.

Caption Contest: What are These Things at Washington and Portland?  Are these badly designed bike racks, benches or tables? Or are they a well-designed something else?

Your caption here __________

Your caption here _____________________________

And that’s the week on Have a wonderful first week of May on whatever streets you call home.



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