West Calhoun has a huge missed opportunity near the lakefront of Lake Calhoun where there could be a great little downtown area taking advantage of the lakefront location. Instead, ugly strip-mall development, ironically named Calhoun Village, is the dominant commercial feature which looks like Anywhere, USA rather than a unique, charming village of any sort. In addition to that, patrons of businesses along Lake St have to cross both that and Excelsior Blvd which are heavy traffic streets that cut off easy pedestrian access to the shore.
One good thing is that the dirt lot in the map above is now an urban residential building that rests up against the sidewalk.
To find a nice urban setting you have to skip by this Minneapolis neighborhood on Excelsior and find it just down the road in the suburb of St Louis Park of all places.
In Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood, another urban neighborhood located on the periphery of a lake, the commercial buildings form a half moon shape thanks to the main road curving away from the lakefront, with a park across a much less daunting two-lane street.
Notice below that the big parking lot for the community center is hidden away from the dense urban commercial street so that you don’t have a big eyesore and an empty gap when you’re walking by the shops, cafes, and restaurants in a pedestrian-friendly environment. There is also landscaping to help hide the community center’s parking lot from those walking by it on the pedestrian-cyclist path fronting the lake.
Hopefully, the new residential development mentioned earlier is a sign of things to come to make this area a worthy Minneapolis destination that locals and out-of-towners can enjoy. On the bright side, West Calhoun residents made it clear that they want pedestrians and cyclists to be prioritized in their response to the proposed light rail station to be built nearby, which may put enough pressure to raze and rebuild the ugly, car-oriented development. I also agree with them that “West Lake Station” moniker is way too vague of a name and in any case that would just lead to people assuming it’s located in Uptown, so why not just name it after the very neighborhood it’s squarely located in: West Calhoun? And just look at the picture they’re using to portray the neighborhood: it looks like a somewhat dense urban neighborhood from that perspective until you head in and just find strip-mall hell next to those dense buildings. Now that the Southwest LRT station (page 100 of a 17MB pdf) has a finalized location that is far enough away from the existing strip-mall, hopefully we don’t have to wait til the station is actually built for redevelopment to occur that is more respectful and befitting of the choice location next to a lake.