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Mostly Sane
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I know this might be a controversial thread. But perhaps it is time to post photos of the worst of the Twin Cities. Specific areas of our home that are truly in need of repair. Ofttimes this forum is just a cheerleading echo chamber of how great this place is. But every self-described "paradise" here on Skyscrapercity needs a course-correcting examination of what truly needs to change to make things better for all of us.

No home is perfect. So what's in your sights that needs work? And who is responsible for making a change?

Can we use this thread to call attention to the basic livability issues that seem to be glossed over by the "powers-that-be?"

For example. I've said it before and I will reiterate it here. This is the one of the most dreadful pedestrian experiences I have ever endured. In any city I've ever lived in! Right in the damn heart of Minneapolis. This is what downtown looks like just one block from our much-vaunted Nicollet Mall.

And here I blame the Downtown Council.

What are some of your "shameful" examples?

What would you suggest to improve it?
 

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Paradise Island
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The giant blocks in the Warehouse District between 5th and 8th are horrible for the pedestrian experience. On the north side of Washington there are no cross streets between 5th and 10th. If you are on foot it cuts the entire neighborhood in two.
 

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– The way the interstate system sliced up the city into a disconnected archipelago of walkability. Navigating Lyndale/Hennepin intersection while walking to/from Uptown is a terrible experience, and so is trying to get from West Bank to Downtown.
– Strip malls in the city
– NIMBYs living in the city but looking to preserve low density
– Lake Street
– Lack of mass transit options on Hennepin Ave
– "A" Ramp
– Cookie-cutter, stick-build apartment blocks that litter Uptown
– North Minneapolis
– The removal of mature trees (this one perplexes me)
 

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I know this might be a controversial thread. But perhaps it is time to post photos of the worst of the Twin Cities. Specific areas of our home that are truly in need of repair. Ofttimes this forum is just a cheerleading echo chamber of how great this place is. But every self-described "paradise" here on Skyscrapercity needs a course-correcting examination of what truly needs to change to make things better for all of us.

No home is perfect. So what's in your sights that needs work? And who is responsible for making a change?

Can we use this thread to call attention to the basic livability issues that seem to be glossed over by the "powers-that-be?"

For example. I've said it before and I will reiterate it here. This is the one of the most dreadful pedestrian experiences I have ever endured. In any city I've ever lived in! Right in the damn heart of Minneapolis. This is what downtown looks like just one block from our much-vaunted Nicollet Mall.

And here I blame the Downtown Council.

What are some of your "shameful" examples?

What would you suggest to improve it?

Great example to kick this thread off. That is absolutely brutal. Not only from a pedestrian experience as you point out, but driving a car as well can be confusing, and possibly terrifying. With all that is spent on Nicollet Mall, a small piece of $$ to spruce this up would go a long way.
 

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The giant blocks in the Warehouse District between 5th and 8th are horrible for the pedestrian experience. On the north side of Washington there are no cross streets between 5th and 10th. If you are on foot it cuts the entire neighborhood in two.
Would this really qualify as a "shame"? The blocks weren't intended to be built for the pedestrian experience, they were built to get massive quantities of product in and out by rail and truck. It's rebranding as a residential neighborhood has always been baffling to me?
 

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Mostly Sane
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I just want to re-iterate that this should NOT become a forum of gripes about the cities. I would like to think that we all would be very interested in hearing about creative solutions to the really bad examples of urban design that exist in our fair metropolitan area. :)

With that, I'll just say that both Minneapolis and St. Paul do not seem to regard the tree cover of our major thoroughfares as important. If we - as a progressive society - want to contribute our 2 cents to a sustainable future, it would seem that public displays of greenery would be at least be a major a factor in how we design our streets.
 

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Mostly Sane
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
^That's just a single project. It has little to do with the larger issues of urban planning,though yes, it is a piece of the puzzle.

Doesn't anyone here lament the seemingly lack of concern about the lack of maintenance of street trees in this city? Remember that these very trees have been paid for by our collective tax dollars?
 

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fifth street light rail corridor downtown was originally supposed to have trees, greenery, sidewalk amenities. the money was cut to use elsewhere. so we have this moonscape of concrete and it's just awful to the eye I agree.
 

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^That's just a single project. It has little to do with the larger issues of urban planning,though yes, it is a piece of the puzzle.

Doesn't anyone here lament the seemingly lack of concern about the lack of maintenance of street trees in this city? Remember that these very trees have been paid for by our collective tax dollars?
Young trees have to be watered and pruned consistently or they are at much higher risk for not surviving. It amuses me how environmentally "green" this city touts itself to be, yet they frequently ignore and neglect the actual care that needs to occur to maintain and improve our tree canopy. :nuts:
 

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When I read this I thought you were going to post pics of the dreadful pedestrian experience of drugs and homeless on Henn...which really shows symptoms of issues that the city should be ashamed of. But nope, just a blank sidewalk on 5th. lol
 

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Mostly Sane
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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
When I read this I thought you were going to post pics of the dreadful pedestrian experience of drugs and homeless on Henn...which really shows symptoms of issues that the city should be ashamed of. But nope, just a blank sidewalk on 5th. lol
Well, given this is a forum dedicated to the built environment, that was the intent. There is a lot of money being thrown around these cities that result in poorly-designed and poorly implemented spaces.

That said, you certainly have a point regarding the terrible social issues we still face as a city (and as all American cities do).

So howzabout this? Are there ways that these two central cities can mitigate some of these social issues? That is, I argue that the built environment both reflects our society and is a result of our society. Some of the "shameful" parts of our otherwise pretty decent cities are due to financial constraints and unimaginative solutions, no doubt. But others are a result of our societal "norms" (whatever those are).

Your example of the dreadful pedestrian experience along Hennepin (which some people do not agree with, though personally I can see your point) is a good example of The Question: What can we do to build out our city that mitigates these issues? Do we fund more homeless shelters? And where should they be built? And how should they be designed?

I realize that literally dozens, if not hundreds, of books have been written about this very issue. But are there some obvious ways we can address these issues in downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul?

There are some very thoughtful people on this forum. I'm just interested in some thoughtful examples of shameful design (or neglect) and thoughtful potential solutions.

Here are some categories:

Missed Opportunity Here?
What Were They Thinking???
Why Is This The Way That It Is?
Is This Really Working?
Who Is Maintaining This?
OMG This Is So Stupid
Why Don't We Have This Here?
Was The Designer Inept?
Was The Developer Inept?
Why Isn't This Being Kept Up?
What The Hell Is The Historic Preservation Commission Thinking?
What The Hell Is MNDOT Thinking?
Is The City Council Blind?


It's not meant to be a bitch-fest. :) But recognizing the problems is the first step toward solving them.
 

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Mostly Sane
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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
In the "Who Is Maintaining This?" category, let me add another shameful part of the 5th Street experience. Many of you are perhaps old enough to remember that the Fifth Street Towers, when they were new, boasted an elaborate fountain system at the base. This is why the facade is sculpted the way that it is. These were wonderfull waterwalls that even featured fog generators. The whole thing was engineered by Disney no less. Now they are just dead stone.

So what happened?

Neglect.

So? Restore them! Sure, they cost money to maintain. But they also add inestimable cache' to a Class A office tower.
 

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Well, given this is a forum dedicated to the built environment, that was the intent. There is a lot of money being thrown around these cities that result in poorly-designed and poorly implemented spaces.

That said, you certainly have a point regarding the terrible social issues we still face as a city (and as all American cities do).

So howzabout this? Are there ways that these two central cities can mitigate some of these social issues? That is, I argue that the built environment both reflects our society and is a result of our society. Some of the "shameful" parts of our otherwise pretty decent cities are due to financial constraints and unimaginative solutions, no doubt. But others are a result of our societal "norms" (whatever those are).

Your example of the dreadful pedestrian experience along Hennepin (which some people do not agree with, though personally I can see your point) is a good example of The Question: What can we do to build out our city that mitigates these issues? Do we fund more homeless shelters? And where should they be built? And how should they be designed?

I realize that literally dozens, if not hundreds, of books have been written about this very issue. But are there some obvious ways we can address these issues in downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul?

There are some very thoughtful people on this forum. I'm just interested in some thoughtful examples of shameful design (or neglect) and thoughtful potential solutions.

Here are some categories:

Missed Opportunity Here?
What Were They Thinking???
Why Is This The Way That It Is?
Is This Really Working?
Who Is Maintaining This?
OMG This Is So Stupid
Why Don't We Have This Here?
Was The Designer Inept?
Was The Developer Inept?
Why Isn't This Being Kept Up?
What The Hell Is The Historic Preservation Commission Thinking?
What The Hell Is MNDOT Thinking?
Is The City Council Blind?


It's not meant to be a bitch-fest. :) But recognizing the problems is the first step toward solving them.
I think my comment sounded more snarky than I intended, happens to me often:) This is all very well put though! I wasn't trying to suggest you were purposely glancing over something...and yeah, this place is about buildings. But like you say in your last line there, recognizing these things is the first step to solving them. I don't want to start any fights here...but I do think that all too often these symptoms of bigger social issues we see downtown are just shrugged off by a lot of us on here as a kind of "if you are seeing that as a problem, then you have a problem, it seems fine to me". Personally I think the social/economic issues the city faces are very visible in what goes on down Henn and other parts of downtown. Didn't intend to hijack your thread either!

PS, blank walls and vast concrete also suck! I agree there too.

PPS, maintenance is a huge issue in this city! The city/county/state love to landscape things, and then just leave them. Like on Washington, or along 94 near the Basilica. Why put in decorative medians or landscaping, if you are only going to let it die, go to weed, and look awful 99% of the year. Maybe instead just use big boulders, or something that doesn't need much work! HUGE pet peeve of mine, you see it all over the city.
 

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Interesting how this thread has trended towards beautification. In my opinion, the city's #1 priority in improving public spaces should be ensuring that the most basic pedestrian infrastructure is provided universally throughout the city. This means:
1. Sidewalks with 48" clear provided on both sides of every street with no gaps. No exceptions (Yes, even if if this means narrowing or losing travel lanes. Especially if this means narrowing or losing travel lanes.)
2. Curb ramps provided at every intersection.
3. Painted crosswalks provided at every crosswalk of high-traffic intersections.

I personally think it is ridiculous to throw millions away on expensive beautification efforts while examples like those that I've screencapped below still exist in our city.







 

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I wonder if the city is violation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). People in wheelchairs would have a great problem navigating those sidewalks.
 

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Couple thoughts. Yes, the tree cover. As a city we need to plant, water, and commit to letting these things actually grow up. StarTribune recently had an article on the tree (non)survival on the new Nicollet Mall, but it's not just there. Outside the building next to mine (in the North Loop), they planted 4 trees last year. Two are dead, one has definitely survived the winter, and the fourth is sort of hanging on. The city did come by to water last year (which surprised me!), but we did the bulk of it, hauling buckets of water from the building. A few of the new trees outside the 801 Washington Lofts died over the winter too, and several trees outside ElseWarehouse are marked for removal (these are a few years old but dying).

At least one solution I can think of is education/communication - it seems like the city plants these trees and walks away hoping and expecting the landowners to care for them. Yes, that is what we expect of landowners, but obviously many of them don't fully comprehend how to take care of a tree. Also, especially in the more dense areas (i.e., downtown), there needs to be some assignment of who will maintain them. Office buildings, apartments, condos - these each have management and maintenance staff, but they just don't seem focused on what's going on on the sidewalks. For the trees outside our building I believe our building management had little communication with the city regarding the trees, and basically encouraged us to adopt them (which we failed at I guess :/ ). The city could better communicate with the buildings, and ask that they care for the trees.

Which brings me to garbage. This is a big one for me. I walk to work past the Sunrise Bank, Smack Shack, Black Sheep Pizza... that route. There's garbage everywhere. I'd like to see the city encourage and maybe incentivize businesses to clean up their exterior spaces! I remember walking in European cities, and it seemed every business owner would be outside at some point sweeping up their front entrance. It just makes sense! There should be a sense of pride that the space outside your business isn’t gross. There's been a cloth napkin from Smack Shack across the street in the hostas at Sunrise Bank for at least a week! (yeah I know, I could be a good citizen and pick it up...) But Sunrise especially always shocks me for the amount of trash in the plantings around their parking lot.

...and now I guess I should actually relay these concerns to the city, and not just post them on a forum. :lol:
 

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I don't think landowners should be responsible for the upkeep of street trees that belong to the city at all. The city needs to find the resources to care for their trees appropriately. This is exactly the type of thing that residents are paying taxes for.
 
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