News and media articles

The 1.2 mile blue line of cultural and financial destruction

The 1.2 mile blue line of cultural and financial destruction

One bad decision can haunt a municipality for decades.

This 1.2 mile blue line represents one of the biggest urban planning blunders in Mankato history. In fact, it probably represents upwards of a $1 billion in extra cost to the City of Mankato and taxpayers over its short 20 year existence. The line is the shortest route that connects Mankato’s Madison East Mall (built late 1960s) to the newer River Hills Mall (built early 1990s).

Instead of expanding the existing mall and using existing infrastructure in the (still) vacant land surrounding the Madison East Mall, the decision was made to sprawl out the town an extra 1.2 miles. How much financially better off would the town be if it didn’t build the additional roadways, exit ramps, water and sewerage pipes and electric lines?
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2011 Bicycling and Walking Counts

A random pedestrian on the Lake / Marshall Bridge

From Amber Collett at Bike Walk Twin Cities

More Twin Cities residents than ever are getting around by bike or on foot. Bicycling in the Twin Cities has increased by 52 percent since 2007, and walking by 18 percent. Twin Cities bicycling, in particular, experienced a sharp year-over-year increase - up 22 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The new data comes from an official count of bicyclists and pedestrians passing 42 designated locations in Minneapolis and Saint Paul on weekdays in September 2011, and comparing this data with identical counts conducted each September since 2007. The counts were conducted by volunteers, who were trained based on a federal protocol.
Thank you, volunteers! We could not do this you without you.   Read more >

The New Minneapolis Plan

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 Read more >

What is the Constituency of a Local Land-Use Decision?

In the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, a local entrepreneur put together a proposal to develop a surface parking lot into a 5-story condo building with retail space on the ground floor. The location is a commercial node in an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood that was first developed along a streetcar line in the early 20th century.

But some residents of the neighborhood aren't taking too kindly to the prospect of change to their beloved neighborhood retail corner... Read more > Podcast #4: Talking about The Starling Project with Ben Shardlow

The entrance to the Ashton Building near University and Snelling. Podcast #4 is up and running over at Check it out.

It's a conversation with Ben Shardlow, who is involved with the recently launched Starling Project, an effort to incubate "pop up urbanism" along vacant spaces on University Avenue. We talked about the origins of the project, some of the challenges and opportunities presented by working as a catalyst with artists and landlords, and the future of the University Avenue LRT corridor. Read more >

Off Target: The Twin Cities’ cannibalistic economic development practices

[Target's Brooklyn Park suburban corporate campus mirrors a city streetscape]

Target Corp. confirmed this week that they will be moving 2,400 employees and 1,500 contractors from downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park within the next two years into a new suburban office.

 Target will be moving a good portion of its workforce out to Brooklyn Park (with the help of a large subsidy). This move, tax subsidies and all, is yet another example of regressive local cannibalistic ”economic development” policies. This situation is the worst of both worlds – it spends taxpayer money to shift jobs (not create them) AND its shifting them to a less efficient, less centralized and less environmentally-friendly suburban office park.

Read more > Podcast #3: Campuses, subsidies, W 7th Street with Nate Hood & Alex Bauman

State Street in downtown Madison. Img via Flickr.

Podcast #3 is complete. Access it here!

Nate Hood, Alex Bauman and I sat down yesterday evening at the Aster Café, a lovely place along the Mississippi River just across from Downtown Minneapolis. You can find Nate’s writing on his blog, Thoughts on the Urban Environment, and Alex’s writing is at Getting Around Minneapolis.

Nate, Alex, and I had three things on our agenda this week, and tried not to stray around too much. We chatted about campus design comparing the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Second, we discussed the role of government subsidies in cities, looking at a recent public private development in Mankato, and finally, we talked about the pros and cons of “greenway” style pedestrianized residential streets, thinking about the current greenway project in North Minneapolis. The conversation went a little bit long, so feel free to turn it off at any time by using the stop button on your audio device.

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The Dangerous Game of Subsidy

Mankato's new HECO Building courtesy of local taxpayers

Our current system of attracting jobs and growth to our region is fundamentally flawed, unsustainable and damaging our urban environment. Policies at the state, regional and local levels are not creating jobs, but merely juggling them from one municipality to the next; and doing so at great expense to taxpayers [and we’re destroying our urban environments in the process].

While subsidizes can further public policy and promote efforts of downtown revitalization, they can also shift scarce tax dollars away from necessary public services [e.g. local fire stations]. In particular, Mankato has been good at providing one subsidy that has often gone unnoticed: free, convenient and abundant parking.

In the case of Mankato, government subsidies shifted jobs from point A to point B at a great cost to taxpayers while simelentously damaging the urban environment. I wish I could say this was an anomoly. I wish I could say it was the exception. It’s not. It’s the norm. Read more > Podcast #2: Bicycling and Transportation Funding with Julie Kolsab

One of the new green bike lanes on the U of MN campus.

In this episode, we're talking with Julie Kolsab, a certified bicycle instructor and blogger at Ride Boldly. We sat down about a week ago at the Swede Hollow Café to discuss the state of transportation funding, bicycling, and how cities are coping with limited budgets.

Enjoy! We're going to have these podcasts up on iTunes soon, but in the meantime you can download them from the archive website.

Thanks. Read more >