Downtown housing? “People increasingly want to live by such amenities” as Specked-out complete streets.


Roger, when are you going to write about something other than transportation infrastructure?

I do, and I will, but what should be evident after all this time is that when it comes to the way a city is run on a daily basis, it’s all about infrastructure. After all a mayor is not the CEO of a company producing flanges, nor an event planner, and definitely not a rock star.

Rather, he or she is charged with using the city’s resources to best set the table and to lay a foundation for enhanced economic development and a bettering of our quality of life as residents. Connectivity, transparency and multimodality are fine themes to begin the coordination of infrastructure by design, as opposed to political party monetization imperatives.

When infrastructure management directly impacts economic development and quality of life, we see the scenario below, in Minneapolis, where a greenway is in part responsible for new housing, and subsequently, desired urban density — growth where it make sense to grow.

New Albany has just such a project, designed to work in precisely the same fashion. It’s called Jeff Speck’s Downtown Street Network Proposals. The sooner we implement them, the faster their planned socioeconomic outcomes begin to transform downtown New Albany, with ripple effects that eventually can and will extend to the city limits.

But until we’ve done something, there has been nothing. Eighteen months are too long to wait to start thinking about beginning. If the incumbent mayor Jeff Gahan can’t bring himself to acknowledge openly what he insists are his privately held beliefs, then he must be replaced by someone who will.

I have a person in mind, too.

Streetscapes: Midtown Greenway spurs urban development, especially in Uptown, by Thomas Fisher (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Few places in the Twin Cities have changed as dramatically as the northern edge of Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway, where during the past decade, developers have invested more than $200 million and constructed more than 1,200 apartment units in mostly six-story buildings that extend from Hennepin to Lyndale avenues.

Whatever you might think about the design of individual structures or the rental rates of many units, the sheer size, scale and speed of the development remains impressive, with buildings sometimes as colorful as some of the cyclists on the adjacent bike path.

That bike path, stretching 5½ miles along a former below-grade rail line, helped attract these apartment buildings, as well as others farther to the west and a few to the east. The corridor amply deserves its recent receipt of a 2014 “Great Places Award” from the Sensible Land Use Coalition, which recognized the years of work by the Midtown Greenway Coalition to make this one of the nation’s best urban bike trails. People increasingly want to live by such amenities, and the transformation of the former industrial area into one of the city’s hottest housing locations, in such a short time, testifies to the power of a place like this.

For all the appeal of what the development community has created, however, the Midtown Greenway still needs improvement …

… Over the past 70 years, American cities have faced pressures to suburbanize, replacing the higher-density land uses before the Great Depression with lower-density, large-lot development, which led to lower tax revenues, even as aging urban infrastructure required higher maintenance and repair costs. Although caught between that rock and a hard place, cities have often continued to pursue suburban projects, however self-defeating the result. The development along the Greenway shows another way.