Gateways For Districts and Neighborhoods: Where Are They?

Minneapolis has several destination filled neighborhoods and districts, but for newbies or locals who haven’t done a lot of exploring outside of their corner of the city there really isn’t much to persuade them when passing by. In some cases like 13th Ave NE if you’re busing or driving along University or 2nd you’ll pass by with only a hint of what’s there at the intersection. Seward welcomes its eastbound visitors with a Taco Bell, because nothing says, “Welcome to Seward!” like a Taco Bell.

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Central Ave welcomes you with a plain railroad bridge.

ImageMeanwhile here’s what The Grove district in St Louis has done:

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Now imagine if that sign wasn’t there: that gas station would be a much more glaring eyesore.

In my hometown of Columbus they have made some progress in bringing back “The Arch City” nickname by re-building arches at the entrances of districts or neighborhoods with names prominently displayed.

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Many people used to refer to the area north of OSU as “North Campus” instead of the actual neighborhood name of “Old North Columbus” or “Old North”, but with these arches overlooking High St where tens of thousands of vehicles pass under them it’s now impossible not to know the name of the neighborhood since you can’t help but notice.

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Now in some instances this is a tricky affair. Take “Uptown” for example. It technically only goes on a few blocks or so from Lake & Hennepin, but some people refer to spots as far north as Franklin Ave as being “Uptown” or even include Whittier in its definition, not to mention that establishments associated with Uptown currently, like expensive.restaurants/bars, have started to pop up well outside of current boundaries (think Burch and Eat Street Social) which could result in official Uptown boundaries going well outside of where any gateway would make sense for the time being.

Hell, even Nicollet Mall, which the city claims is so important it needs $50 million to spruce it up, doesn’t have a gateway treatment to tell the casual visitor where it begins or ends. Well, that is unless they’re driving and reach the little “Buses & Taxis Only” sign letting them know they can’t drive on the “Mall”. Of course, everyone ends up Downtown, so this kind of treatment isn’t so necessary here: the skyscrapers pretty much tell you where you are. Neighborhoods further removed from the core of the city, however, would be markedly improved as seen in the contrast between Seward and The Grove if they were to receive some major gateway treatments. I’m sure if neighborhood groups, businesses, and residents worked with the city they could come up with some eye-catching and unique gateways for a number of neighborhoods. Minneapolis easily has the highest number of destination packed neighborhoods out of any Midwestern city save Chicago. Why not show off our best assets to everyone?

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