Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Downtown Dwellers Angry About — Wait For It — Lights From Nearby Buildings

From the World's Tiniest Violin Department, the Strib has a story on downtown St. Paulites annoyed by nearby building lights and signs. One quote from interviewee Heather Cole pretty much sums up the complaints:
"Lawson put up a sign and it's just escalated from that," Cole said. "People say: 'Isn't that just part of urban living?' I put up with a lot for urban living, but I shouldn't have to put up with this."

Incidentally, the story has a picture of her standing next to a huge, undraped wall of windows on the side of her loft. Uh, Ms. Cole? You know, you could obviously afford to buy one of those huge fancy schmancy lofts in downtown St. Paul. Don't you think you could shell out a few bucks for, you know, curtains?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Living Large — And Paying Big

The StarTribune has a somewhat sad, somewhat funny piece on the family-level costs of living in supersized homes out in the sprawl. A few excerpts:
"[The houses are] all getting bigger by the day," Odette said. "I guess one has to impress the other. I don't know how they do it. They don't dare get sick, and the wife better not get pregnant, because the home costs are atrocious. I'd be scared."
Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big House, chimed in as well:
A hundred years ago... Americans were focused on meeting their survival needs, from food to shelter. "Once they're met, we don't have another model, so we keep doing the same thing," said Susanka. For many, that means continuing to make more money to buy more. From restaurant servings that are far too much to eat to taller ceilings, Americans have overridden the natural mechanism that tells us when we're satiated[.]
But, of course, any story like this has to end with a ray of hope. Regarding the example family featured in the story:
Husband Mark still drives his Ford F-150 pickup truck each day 60 miles to and from his job in Chanhassen, where he buys and sells used cash register equipment. But when gas was nearing $3 a gallon, he was reconsidering his habit of driving to Caribou for a $3 cup of coffee.
Sorry Caribou.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Downtown Renewal in New Mexico

It has nothing to do with the Twin Cities, but The New York Times has an interesting article on the pending downtown redevelopment of Las Cruces, New Mexico, that's worth passing along.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Grand Avenue Development Moratorium

In a pleasantly surprising move, the St. Paul City Council has passed a measure that will prevent new development on a stretch of Grand Avenue for a year, allowing neighborhood groups and residents to identify how they want their wonderful little neighborhood to be shaped. Three artciles on the subject worthy of note:

StarTribune: Debating what's good for St. Paul's Grand
StarTribune: Some St. Paul residents back ban on Grand Avenue chains
PioneerPress: St. Paul plan bans big projects

Let's hope the outcome of this moratorium is a zoning and development plan that preserves the area's character without being regressive and obstructionary. While a neighbhood's residents should have a primary say about how their community is shaped, that doesn't always mean they'll be right. (Look at Nicolet Mall in downtown Minneapolis: While many downtown supported the new Target and other developments on the mall, the end result has been a stretch that once housed a large number of local shops and businesses now lacks character and feels like a regular, boring business-district street, only without traffic.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Uptown: Vitality only allowed during evening hours

In an incredibly disappointing move, the Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee, when given a choice between a huge surface parking lot or an unsubsidized, high-density, mixed-use development, decided to go with the parking lot. Two quotes from the StarTribune article on the decision attempted to explain the committee's logic behind the rejection. The first came from Council Member Gary Schiff, who said he liked most of the proposal, but:
"We're willing to change the character to support taller buildings, but not this tall. We were willing to do 10 stories."
And the second:
"Uptown is not downtown," [Minneapolis Mayor] Rybak said. "Right now the expectation is Uptown is not a high-rise district."
Right. Because God forbid we allow the site--right next to the Uptown Transit Station, the Midtown Greenway, the proposed crosstown light rail line and numerous shops and business that are underutilized during the day--turn into anything other than the nightime entertainment district it serves as today.

On the bright side, if there is one, a few words of wisdom came from outgoing council member Dan Niziolek. "Jobs do belong in our neighborhoods so people can walk to work," he said, in response to Schiff's position that the placement of hundreds of jobs in Uptown would bring more cars, congestion and air pollution.

So now, as it stands, the huge parking lot remains. I'm sure The Ackerberg Group and the folks at Financial Freedom realty are gong to come back with a new proposal, but when they do, it's probably going to be wider and decidedly less sexy.

Or maybe they'll just lop off three stories and ask for public subsidies.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wayzata Bay Center to make way for condos, pedestrian-friendly shopping

The StarTribune is reporting that the Wayzata Bay Shopping Center is going to fall in stages to make way for mixed residential and retail use. The paper reports that staged demolition will allow the current businesses to continue to operate during construction, although it wasn't clear if all of them would be welcome (or financially able) to stick around for the new development.

United Properties also has a press release outlining the project, which it says is in the early stages of planning.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Rosedale: Mervyn's gone, soon to be forgotten

The Pioneer Press is reporting that Rosedale Center is going to take out the old Mervyn's wing and replace it with a 14-screen movie theatre and "lifestyle shopping," i.e., stores and restaurants that face the outside of the building. (If that kind of sounds like a trendy version of Har Mar, well, it does, but the nearby competitor isn't mentioned in the story.) Steve Scott of the Pioneer Press passes along the following without a hint of irony:
John Schupp, senior vice president of mall manager Jones Lang LaSalle, said the concept is growing nationwide. Rosedale, built in 1969 and renovated in 1992, faces competition from similar centers in Woodbury, Maple Grove and St. Paul's Grand Avenue, he said.
I never thought I'd hear Grand Avenue compared to places in Woodbury or Maple Grove, but there it is.

For what it's worth,
Jones Lang LaSalle doesn't mention the plan on their website.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Endangered Twin Cities:

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota has released its 10 Most Endangered 2005, a list of the ten historically important properties the Alliance fears may soon be little more than a memory. Included in the list are a number of Twin Cities sites, including the Jacob Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul, the Fort Snelling Upper Bluffs, and the Saint Anthony Falls district in Minneapolis.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Even the horses want to get out of Eagan

From today's Pioneer Press:

Despite a year-long outcry from dozens of local residents, new houses and town homes will supplant the stables and pastures at the former Diamond T horse ranch in Eagan.

The City Council unanimously gave its preliminary approval to the controversial housing development late Tuesday night, in a decision that left some local homeowners in tears and others vowing to appeal the decision over environmental concerns.

Of course, the full story can be found at twincities.com.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A grand new building for University and Snelling

The Pioneer Press is reporting that a long-delayed CVS drugstore may soon rise at the corner of University and Snelling. Unlike the plain suburban box first proposed by CVS, the new plan includes "a small tower, windows and other architectural features." No news, however, on where (or if) they're going to try to hide the parking lot.