Then to Now: How to Destroy a City
Fri, 09/02/2011 - 4:48pm | by nmhood
The Nokohaha Blog occasionally runs a feature called “Then and Now". It takes a photograph of a building in the Twin Cities from sometime in the past 100 years, and compares it to how it looks today. The most noticeable feature of the “Now” is how we’ve so aggressively degraded our urban environment to accommodate the automobile.
The most recent “Then and Now” is the intersection of Franklin and Lyndale Avenues:
This is 1920.
This is 2011.
This is an example of how the streetscapes of Minneapolis have devolved. But, let’s use this historic photograph as a quick learning tool and analyze what exactly went wrong here.
For starters, the building is the most noticeably uglier. A majority of the large windows facing the street have been covered; and sometime in the last 90 years, someone thought it was a good idea to put some wood paneling over the original brick facade. This building no longer accommodates the street. Instead, it tries to pretend it isn’t there.
To accommodate the automobile, the sidewalks were downgraded from pleasant to unsightly. The road got wider and the sidewalks got smaller. The green buffer of grass and trees that once lined street were replaced with pavement that serves on-street parking. And, as the road widened to accommodate the need for more traffic, the once-bricked street got covered in blacktop and the streetcar tracks were removed.
One might think that car-oriented urban transformations, like Franklin and Lyndale Avenues, would halt most pedestrian activity. This hasn’t been the case. In fact, this might be one of the busiest intersections in all of Minneapolis – and that is why it’s so hard to believe this corner looks like this.
The surrounding neighborhood is dense and walkable (walk score: 82) and countless small businesses, such as cafes, pubs and retail shops, line the streets. So, it’s surprising more care hasn’t gone into transforming this intersection into something other than a means of moving automobiles as quickly and conveniently as possible.