Branding Neighborhoods With Bike Racks

I’ve come to notice at least a couple of neighborhood/district-centric bike racks around the city.  Above is one kind found throughout Eat Street in South Minneapolis to accompany the several banners lining the lamp posts. I’ve also seen some Standish-Ericsson ones, which are useful since some neighborhood names like that one don’t exactly roll off the tongue. I’d like to see these become more common practice to help better define “place” in our many, varied neighborhoods and business districts.

Make The NE Lowry Ave Area More Fun So I Have More Places to Go. Thanks!

Northeast is a great neighborhood and I like my little corner bordering Lowry Ave. Lowry apparently had more life in it not to long ago. I had no idea the empty Little Jack’s Steakhouse had previously been bought by a Korean owner who added Korean items to the old-school steakhouse menu: except that it closed. You mean I could have had hot Korean noodle soups just a short walk away in the winter? Dammit. Unfortunately, like most of the few commercial spaces available on and near Lowry it now sits empty with no signs of a new incarnation anytime soon.

Green=Available Spaces
Yellow=Occupied Spaces
Red=Nearby Hotspots

Other streets with a commercial presence such as 13th and Marshall have pretty much been filled up with plenty of places to eat, hangout, and shop, so now that Psycho Suzi’s has moved south leaving an empty structure , Little Jack’s having closed, the furniture place closed in the 648 building, well, you get the picture: not much doin’ here. There are a couple of dive bars (Tony Jaro’s and NE Palace), a gussied-up sports bar-restaurant (Stanley’s), a couple of liquor stores, a Greek restaurant (Marina), a salon (The Hive), and a tattoo parlor (Live Fast Die Young), but it’s still pretty dead and just a handful more places to add variety (restaurants please) would make it a more lively place worth visiting. Psycho Suzi’s old location certainly proves that you could execute a unique destination concept here, a tiki bar in this case, and attract droves of customers to an area lacking much to do. Too many customers, in fact, is why they had to move to a larger location just a little ways down south.

Just putting this out there since it seems like this part of NE is forgotten and you’ll notice that I also included hotspots within the vicinity to demonstrate the fact that Lowry Ave should not be forgotten since it’s in the company of: Psycho Suzi’s, The Sample Room, Mill City Cafe, Gasthof’s, Jax Cafe and Grumpy’s Bar all just five blocks or less away. So for any entrepreneur(s) who were so moved by my post and convinced by said post that henceforth opens a new destination, say, a Korean restaurant with a liquor license to sell soju (with a sweet happy hour discount), here is a hearty thanks in advance. Thanks!

West Calhoun’s Mistake on the Lake vs. Seattle’s Green Lake

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.

Ride the Minneapolis Streetcar Today

There’s been talk about reintroducing a streetcar system with the first line running along Nicollet and Central. A lot of that talk has been conjecture about what benefits it might have over BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) or the existing bus lines on Nicollet. There’s a good article on development and the lack thereof along the Hiawatha Line from NewUrbanNetwork.com.

Also included are lots of graphics such as this one:

Image from Center for Transit-Oriented Development

So why I am bringing up an article on light-rail in a post about streetcars? Note the stops within Downtown Minneapolis; they are spaced much closer together than the sparsely distributed stations once outside of Downtown. While the Hiawatha Line is by and large a light-rail line, the downtown segment is all but in name a streetcar line. That explains why this stretch has attracted the most development by far such as those numerous blocks of dense residential development on 2nd St in the Warehouse District and Washington Ave in the Mill District. For block-by-block revitalization, streetcars are the way to go, as long as the development opportunities are at least a handful of blocks away or a quarter mile, which the Downtown Hiawatha Streetcar Line proves quite nicely.

While Central in my neck of the woods (NE) will benefit nicely it would be even more interesting to see what the next planned line on W Broadway would do to revitalize this most underutilized business district. That’ll be a long wait though, so in the meantime just hop on the train from Target Field to the Metrodome to see how you like riding the streetcar and be sure to walk around a bit from these downtown stations to check out the new developments that have popped up as a result, including the numerous restaurants and bars that are parts of these developments. Then think about all of the potential similarly being tapped into along other proposed future streetcar routes on Lake, Chicago, University, 4th St SE, Hennepin and N Washington, which certainly have their fair share of parking lots that could be put to better use.

A Collection of Minneapolis Neighborhoods and Streets

I’m new to Minneapolis, but I’ve already done a decent amount of exploring some neighborhoods. This blog’s objective is mainly to highlight the variety of neighborhoods and what they have to offer. If I have time to offer some suggestions and criticisms on some local urbanism related matters I’ll throw those in too.