The New Minneapolis Plan

 

Crossposted at streets.mn and transportationist.org

The Minneapolis Downtown Council recently released "Intersections" a plan for Downtown Minneapolis. I had nothing to do with this plan, and so am free to comment. The plan is organized according to 10 major initiatives for 2025, I will list and comment on them, occasionally with snark, in order [my comments in brackets]:

 

  1. "Double Downtown’s residential population. Expand the residential population to 70,000 as a catalyst for driving Downtown’s next wave of business vitality, social improvement and cultural renewal."

     

    [This seems like a good idea, the demand has been burgeoning for a couple of decades now, and with the Metrodome site coming available for productive uses again, there is an entire eastern side of downtown which could stand new housing. Demographics seem to be favorable for at least a modest return to downtown, and capturing another 1 percent of the region's total population (or about 7% of its growth over the next 15 years) should be feasible.]

  2.  

     

  3. "Transform Nicollet into a “Must-see” Destination. Extend and invigorate the original mall segment; establish “must-see” destinations along its route. Redesignate the Nicollet corridor as running from the Walker Art Center, through Loring Park to the Mississippi River, and ending at the foot of the Father Hennepin Bridge."

     

    [Calling this the "Nicollet" corridor is just confusing, since the real Nicollet Ave does something different than passing the Walker. Perhaps the plan wants to change Nicollet to "Eat Street" officially. The residents may have a different view. In short, there must be a better name. As a physical entity, re-establishing the mall, and keeping private cars off of it, are both good things. I am not sure how many "Must-see" destinations need to be along it, since so many of the region's best things are not. And really, "Must-see"? Is this Thursday Night 1990s NBC? The rest of the concept seems good, if a bit over-wrought, "iconic identity", I would have gone with "main street", though that I am sure is not sufficiently high-tech and resembles Sinclair Lewisa bit too much.]

  4.  

     

  5. "Build Gateway park. A new linear park, stretching from the light rail station on 5th Street to the river, will constitute the new Nicollet’s north end."

     

    [Good, and converting these parcels into parks drives up the value of the remaining developed blocks (a) by adding amenity and (b) by eliminating competition, good for existing building owners]

  6.  

     

  7. "Create a consistently compelling Downtown experience. Deliver a consistently excellent pedestrian experience that inspires people to explore Downtown block after block, no matter the season or time of day—24/7/365."

     

    [24/7, really? 4 am, you have 35,000 more residents, and you want street life? I don't want people exploring my neighborhood at 4 am. Stuff closes. Stuff should close. Even transit doesn't run 24/7 in some of the world's biggest cities, or if it does, it is very scaled back. This may be aimed to contrast with St. Paul "The city that sleeps".]

  8.  

     

  9. "Establish a downtown sports district that includes a new Vikings stadium. The district, centered around Target Field, will also include a renovated Target Center and the region’s busiest transit hub (the Transportation Interchange), all designed to maximize Downtown’s long-term entertainment value."

     

    [This is the first really terrible idea in the plan. First why should a Vikings stadium exist. Second, why should it exist in Minnesota, since most people watch football on TV anyway, really they ought to play in a TV studio. Third, why don't they use an existing brand new stadium, and enhance it if need be? It has to be cheaper to just give Zygi Wilf the money in foregone profits than subsidize a new stadium (The Cardinals play at University of Phoenix stadium [this is a joke]). Fourth, why should it exist downtown, when it is only used 8 games a year, and downtown real estate is apparently valuable (so the plan tells us), and everyone drives in and out without actually experiencing much of the city (The term "helicopter fans" might be appropriate). I realize there can be some cost savings with a few more hours of use for existing parking ramps and bars, but that is trivial compared to the wasted real estate (and subsidies, and opportunity costs). (I suspect this is about voicing support for the Vikings downtown rather than a real effort, but downtown Boosters cannot admit indifference.) Do stadiums really interact synergistically?]

  10.  

     

  11. "Lead the nation in transportation options. Maintain and improve high capacity for commuters on our streets. Increase transit’s mode share for daytime commuters from 40 percent to 60 percent. Increase circulation within Downtown by installing a Downtown Circulator (whether streetcars or zero- emission buses) while intensifying regular transit service in close-in neighborhoods. Emphasize accessible, forward-leaning transportation technology. Improve pedestrian and bicycle mobility. Build the Transportation Interchange as the metro area’s primary transit hub. Secure stable, reliable transit funding for expanding and maintaining the system."

     

    [The heart of downtown peak hour mode share for transit is about 40% for commute trips. This is the easiest to expand, and given the billions of dollars the region is spending on downtown-oriented rail transit, one would hope the share goes up, especially given there is no employment growth downtown. One can see why the downtown businesses interests advocate this spending, what is harder to see is why the rest of the region does. However, if transit is going to work anywhere in the region, it will be the downtowns and the University of Minnesota. This does fall short of the "doubling" of regional mode share the Metropolitan Council advocates though. Given the reduction in drivers to downtown due to increased transit, and due to the large number of nearby residents who can now walk or bike, what will we do with all the empty parking ramps. Maybe the Vikings can play Indoor Football on them.]

  12.  

     

  13. "Create and sustain a green infrastructure—and showcase the riverfront. Establish and intensify the tree canopy throughout Downtown. Create green corridors that connect downtown districts and close-in neighborhoods. Enhance and emphasize the Riverfront as a world-class destination and Downtown’s green focal point. Beautify Downtown’s entry points, including freeway embankments, ramps and medians. Launch a Greening and Public Realm Conservancy to perpetuate the greening program."

     

    [I like trees.]

  14.  

     

  15. "Forge connections to the University of Minnesota. Leverage the Central Corridor’s light rail service to create a stronger link between campus and Downtown. Extend green corridors over the freeway trench that separates the CBD from the West Bank campus and establish a major new residential district on and around the Metrodome site. Generate business synergies that benefit both the U’s mission and Downtown’s prosperity."

     

    [I like Air Rights too.]

  16.  

     

  17. End street homelessness. Extend housing and outreach efforts so that the 300–500 people who sleep outside or in inhumane places have shelter, treatment and job training that keep them off the streets.

     

    ["We don't want homeless people in Minneapolis" "We don't want people to be homeless in Minneapolis". Ok, call me unfeeling, but somehow I don't think it is the lack of public services that leads the remaining 300-500 homeless to be homeless. From the point of view of Minneapolis as a whole, housing 300-500 people is approximately trivial if the issue is giving shelter. I am fairly confident there are that many vacant hotel units city wide on a random night. More to the point, We could build a shelter for that many people for something in the $10 million range (about $25 per person). Yet if we did that, we would still find 300-500 homeless people. Clearly that is not the real issue. Of course there should be some form of assistance for those who are simply down on their luck, I just think that this ignores the "choice" aspect of homelessness if we are not going to round them up and drug them like we once did(which I do not advocate). And perhaps they are just exploring the city 24/7.]

  18.  

     

  19. Launch a Festival of Ideas and Civic Engagement. An annual festival will bring visitors, innovative thinking and civic energy to a city already noted for its citizen involvement. The festival will focus on creating a better future for all—locally, nationally and globally.

     

    [What a great original idea]

 

[Comment: The 345 MB version I have have 10377_PlanBook_forWeb.pdf has some production problems, duplicated pages, and pages out of place, but I did read all 111 pages of it (most were pictures). Otherwise, it is very attractive and fairly well written as planning documents go].

 

Comments

(commenting here since I

(commenting here since I don't have a umn account)
Right on.

6. Maybe the solution to increasing transit mode share is taking away the subsidy for moving thousands of jobs from downtown to Brooklyn Park farm fields.

8. David I can't pay $25 to indulge my curiosity and read that linked report. But over on Minnescraper I've often been promoting this air rights plan which I years ago saw a rendering of on a blog somewhere. It included un-trenching the trench, still using it for LRT and for autos to get across to the East Bank, but covered by air rights development. David was this your plan? (if so, awesome!) Are there any visuals without paying $25?

Thanks!

Air Rights paper (for free)

Our paper was a summary of using Air Rights in the classroom, here: http://nexus.umn.edu/Papers/AirRights.pdf

Students came up with all sorts of cool plans, see here:

http://nexus.umn.edu/Courses/Cases/PA8202/S2002/lbpresentations.htm

As well as http://nexus.umn.edu/Courses/Cases/ in Spring 2004. Spring 2003 is somewhere, I am not sure where at the moment.

 

Dang you beat me to it

I had similar thoughts about most of this plan - just a couple that I'll comment on (I'm not going to touch #5 except to say that a Farmer's Market site would be on much less valuable land than most of Downtown, so it may not contradict their opinion of the value of Downtown land).

#4:  One of the weaknesses I've noticed in the plan is a disconnect between summaries and details - I don't think they really meant 24/7, they just used it as a buzzy (although also dated) phrase that is somewhat related to their concept of more consistent development.  Most of the detail in that section is about how some parts of downtown have lots of shops and restaurants and others are deserted; just a short paragraph is dedicated to a complaint about how no one goes downtown during the day on weekends.

#9:  While "choice" homelessness exists, there certainly aren't 300-500 people who are choosing to be homeless every night.  Many of the people who remain homeless are the ones who have difficulty with shelters, so the idea of a "shelter of last resort" may actually be the best solution.  You're right that there will still be people who "choose" to be homeless (mostly due to untreated mental illness), but not anywhere near 300 of them.

 

 

Stadium

I am not in favor of public money for a stadium, but...

You only need to look at Seattle and see how Qwest Field (or whatever the new name is), has become a major part of the social fabric of the lower downtown area. If the 'Z' gets his way he may even bring in an MLS team (soccer fans can only hope), which then bumps the nights of use towards 40 times a year rather than your low-ball of 8weeks (with pre-season it would be about 11weeks).

Again, I am not in favor of public money, but having a stadium district is not too bad of an idea especially if it is designed correctly, as has been done in seattle.