Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Minneapolis Super Bowl: Urban Revitalization and Transformational Projects Action Planning

A bunch of stories in the media seem to imply that Minneapolis owes much of its Downtown revitalization to the new football stadium, at which the Super Bowl will be played this Sunday.

-- "Super Bowl's Minneapolis Stadium Brings a Surge in Development," New York Times
-- "Stadium Hosting Super Bowl Helped Kick Off Urban Renewal in Minneapolis," Urban Land Institute
 -- "New Development Spikes Around Super Bowl Host City's Stadium, Bisnow

Dezeen has an article about the stadium's architecture, "Angular stadium for Minnesota Vikings will host the 52nd Super Bowl."

As usual with media coverage of the association of sports facilities to revitalization, there is some truth to it, but the bigger point is missed, that when such stadiums and arenas push revitalization forward, it is usually as part of a much larger program and plan, what I now call a "Transformational Projects Action Plan" ("Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning").

And without such a plan, it is almost guaranteed that spillover revitalization doesn't happen.  Well, it happens or can happen, but in a trickle down rather than concerted way.  Without being part of a broader plan, it can take decades before significant results become visible.

The way that views from the interior of the stadium show off Downtown Minneapolis is spectacular.

The Downtown East program ("In Minneapolis a Blueprint for a Bustling Downtown," NYT; "Downtown East project revitalizing Downtown Minneapolis," Global Grid), in which the US Bank Stadium is a key anchor, builds on and extends a broader program.

Minneapolis is buoyed more generally by a rise in demand for center city living and office location, and Minneapolis is home to five  Fortune 500 companies, as well as large divisions of other major US and foreign companies, plus 12 more major corporations are still based in the metropolitan area, if not the city, such as 3M, one of the nation's largest manufacturers, General Mills and Cargill.

Stadiums and arenas as projects tend to be pretty transactional, but they can be better integrated into the urban fabric and depending on the sport--generally the payoff for football isn't that great compared to other sports which have more games--they can be leveraged to achieve a greater array of positive impacts ("More need for economic revitalization planning/linkage with sports stadiums: Las Vegas (+ Houston and the Super Bowl)").

Sports mega events as an opportunity to drive urban design improvements.  Regardless, I am always interested in how cities may or may not take advantage of events like the Super Bowl or baseball's All Star Game as a way to move urban design and placemaking improvements forward ("Urban design considerations for the area around Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium in advance of the 2018 All-Star Game"), even if the expected economic impact benefits from holding the events don't fully materialize ("Windfall for Super Bowl Hosts? Economists Say It's Overstated," NYT).

I am not sure how much of that was done in Minneapolis and St. Paul ("Improvements slated for St. Paul skyways but there's a long way to go," Minneapolis Star-Tribune) in advance of the game, because of the game.  One project was an upgrade of Wi-Fi and other telecommunications systems ("Minneapolis improves connectivity to prepare for Super Bowl," AP). 

The Nicollet (Transit) Mall was rehabilitated ("Nicollet Mall expected to reopen this fall," MST; "How much longer Nicollet Mall: Improvements won't solve challenges ," MPLS-St. Paul Magazine), which was a major project.

Hennepin County and City of Minneapolis revitalization programs. However, the revitalization agenda in Minneapolis is more subtle and spans about three decades, starting with Hennepin County's realization in the late 1980s that if they didn't help to backstop Minneapolis, property tax assessments would continue to drop putting the County budget at risk. 

Through study of areas that maintained or lost property value, they realized that the parts of Minneapolis that maintained their value--remember this was during the long post war period when real estate development and locational choice favored the suburbs--were by parks, rivers, and lakes.

-- "A County and Its Cities: the Impact of Hennepin Community Works," Journal of Urban Affairs 30:3, 2008).

So the County started investing in expanding such assets through the Community Works initiative. Later they added rail transit--the light rail program--to the investment and renewal program.  The first line only served Hennepin County, connecting the airport to the Downtown, while the second line connects to St. Paul, in adjoining Ramsey County ("The Train Line That Brought the Twin Cities Back Together," POLITICO).

The City of Minneapolis complemented the County initiative with a Neighborhood Reinvestment Program of their own, funded by tax increment bond financing program.  The program ran for about 25 years, and projects were determined at the neighborhood scale, working with local agencies (Parks Board, City, School System).  A technical assistance and capacity development program was developed to support the initiative.

St. Paul/Ramsey County.  Separately Ramsey County and St. Paul have been influenced by revitalization ventures in Hennepin and have taken up their own initiatives, such as the St. Paul Vibrant Places and Spaces program, downtown reinvestment, rehabilitation of the St. Paul train station, the Green Line light rail ("Did the Green Line spur $4.2B in Minneapolis-St. Paul?," St. Paul Pioneer Press), and plans for streetcars in St. Paul.

Metropolitan tax base sharing. To counter income tax-spurred outmigration and intra-metropolitan competition for businesses generating high tax revenues, at the instigation of the State, in Metropolitan Minneapolis, local governments agreed to create a pool of a portion of tax revenue derived from new growth, and to share the revenue with communities not experiencing growth.

It is intended to minimize the negative impact of large employers/tax generators moving from one jurisdiction to another. From the book Regional Planning from a Sustainable America:
... the Twin Cities Fiscal Disparities program ... places 40 percent of the growth in commercial-industrial tax base in each municipality in each year into a seven-county, regional pool and then distributes the tax base back to participating municipalities and school districts based on tax base and population. The re-distributed tax-base is then taxed by each location at its own tax rate.
Although more recently, such cooperation is fraying ("Despite Minneapolis mutiny, St. Paul sticks with Greater MSP as economic development engine," St. Paul Pioneer Press) although the tax sharing program continues.

Other community development initiatives.  The region has a variety of community development organizations and programs. 

For example, it has the largest complement of successful food cooperatives in the US. 

Mike Temali, the author of Community Economic Development Handbook, a handbook on community revitalization of neighborhoods and commercial districts, runs the Neighborhood Development Center, a community development corporation, in St. Paul, taking on a variety of interesting projects, such as participating in the creation of the Midtown Global Exchange, a mixed use project adaptively reusing a Sears store-catalog distribution center.  NDC helped to create a ground floor public market.

And a set of strong foundations which continue to provide funds to local programs.

Immigrants as an element of center city revitalization.  Interestingly in this time of immigrant excoriation and President Trump's lament that the good white people of Norway don't seem to be interested in migrating to the US, it must be recognized that a goodly amount of the revitalization energy and success in the Twin Cities and more broadly throughout Minnesota has to do with immigration, and specifically people of color in a state that is quite Caucasian--85% white as of the 2010 Census.

-- "How immigrants in the Twin Cities build the economy — and revitalize neighborhoods," MinnPost
-- "Pittsburgh's New Immigrants: The Twin Cities diversified with an influx of Hmong and Somali refugees," Pittsburg Post-Gazette
-- "Report highlights refugees economic impact on Twin Cities," St. Paul Pioneer Press

Transit, sustainable mobility, and access. The metropolitan area transit system is run by the MPO, the organization tasked for transportation planning, so this puts transportation planning and operations into one organization, which is rare, especially for a large metropolitan area.

They offer bus transit, BRT, a high frequency bus network, have added two light rail lines over the past decade, and a commuter rail line, and plans are underway to expand the rail transit system.

One reasonably unique feature in Minneapolis-St. Paul are upper story "skyways," which connect buildings and provide an in-the-air pedestrian walkway system ("25 reasons why you should eat in the Minneapolis skyway," MST).  (Cities like Toronto, Chicago, and Montreal have similar pedway systems, but are underground-at grade.)

One of the pre-Super Bowl activities was a tribute concert to Prince, held on Nicollet Mall, which was closed to bus traffic for the occasion.  MST photo by Carlos Gonzalez. 

Plus, the Nicollet Transit Mall is one of the nation's more successful transitways ("$50 million Nicollet Mall rehab would boost downtown, study says," MST).

-- Great five part series on the history of Nicollet Mall by Marisa Koivisto drawn from her undergraduate thesis

The University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies is a great resource for the region and state and nationally through its research and practice programs--one of which was the pioneering "Access to Destinations" study, and there are a variety of sustainable mobility initiatives, from one of the nation's first widespread bike share programs to various advocacy initiatives, such as the group Twin Cities Streets for People.  (The UMN was supportive of the Green Line, unlike some other universities facing similar projects elsewhere.)

Under former Congressman Oberstar, the region received a large pilot grant to develop Nonmotorized Transportation Initiatives ("A Vision for Nonmotorized Transportation," speech, Congressman Oberstar).

"Minneapolis' Midtown Greenway," Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Not related to the Super Bowl in all likelihood, Minneapolis is one of the nation's highest bike commuting cities, with an extensive network of trails called greenways--expanded by the Community Works initiative, and many using old railway rights of way providing for separated trails ("#1 Bike City: Minneapolis," Bicycling Magazine; "Why Minneapolis bike freeways are totally the best," Grist Magazine).

The Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan is one of my favorites, with a separate element for maintenance and defines equity as the "sixth E" in bike and pedestrian planning, as is their city-wide Safe Routes to School plan.

In the 1970s, a section of street--Milwaukee Avenue--serving a recently designated historic district was converted into a street that didn't serve cars ("Neighborhood saved from demo is quaint with zero traffic," MST), which may have helped to set the stage for later sustainable mobility efforts.

Super Bowl transportation demand managementLeading up to the Super Bowl and day of game, the transit system has added service.  They also introduced a special transit pass costing $40 providing for unlimited rides on bus and rail, including commuter rail, for an 11-day period.

Interestingly, on the day of the game, access to the light rail system is limited to people with tickets to the game ("Super Bowl will limit light-rail use to ticket holders on game day," MST; "On Super Bowl Sunday, Minneapolis light rail lines off-limits to non-ticket holders," CityPages).

Elsewhere, a special short line light rail line was created in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics ("Vancouver's free streetcar makes first run to Granville Island," CBC; "Vancouver says goodbye to Olympic streetcar," Toronto Globe and Mail), and in advance of the New Orleans Super Bowl in 2010, the streetcar system was extended to serve the football stadium, but the stadium was built proximate to rail transit access in Minneapolis.

Tesla rental car showroom at the Mall of America. Tesla opened a showroom/test center at the Mall of America in advance of the game ("Tesla rental outpost opens at Mall of America, just in time for Super Bowl," Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal). People can rent the cars.

I think that's a great way to promote awareness of electric cars.  While I think pushing e-bikes in city isn't the right sweet spot for that technology ("(Still) tired of mis-understanding of the potential for e-bikes"), I would like to see more promotion of e-car sales within cities in showrooms and such.  Tesla does it, but the other car makers should think of hiving off smaller operations to stoke e-car promotion.

Bartender Nick Kosevich manned the ice bar on Hewing Hotel's rooftop. Photo: Anthony Souffle.

Local attractions. Ice bars are getting renewed attention ("Enjoy a real cold one at these 12 Twin Cities ice bars," MST). The Walker Art Center is a great museum, there are great historic preservation resources and museums...

Super Bowl Legacy funding program for nonprofits. Landing the Super Bowl requires the host city to provide millions of dollars in free services and other inducements.

For example, one item of the package is Minneapolis giving the control of multiple parking structures to the NFL for the game, and the NFL will jack up the cost of parking and reap all the revenues from it.

But interestingly, the Host Committee, with a $1 million seed grant from the NFL, has a donation program which is providing as much as $100,000 as a grant, with a grant made each week in 2017, to deserving nonprofits. Fortunately for St. Paul, the donation program covers the metropolitan area, not just Minneapolis ("St. Paul nonprofit receives Super Bowl funds for expansion project" and "St. Paul community center gym's $50,000 makeover, part of Super Bowl group's year of giving," St. Paul Pioneer-Press).

-- Learn more about the Legacy Fund

More communities should work into their contracts with sports teams generally, as well as for these kinds of special events, such programs.

Special bonus: Aldi Supermarkets in mixed use buildings.  Aldi is a discount supermarket that usually owns its own real estate, and builds parking fronted single story facilities that don't work too well in traditional urban fabric.

But in Minneapolis, at 2100 E. Lake Avenue, they've gone in on the ground floor of a small, multistory apartment building and they've committed to a similar placement at another site called the Rex 26, at 26th Street and Lyndale Avenue("Uptown apartment complex to get Aldi," MST); "Updated 26th & Lyndale project clears planning commission, Southwest Journal). The company's two other stores within the city are traditional one story buildings.

These examples can be used by other cities to encourage the company to do a more appropriate urban siting for one of their supermarkets.

It probably depends on a lot on the developer and their plan.  For example, at a site in a nearby suburb ("Council splits on Aldi development grant," Chanhassen Villager), the company intends to build a traditional one floor building, but adjacent to the multistory apartment building--this is called "horizontal" mixed use on a site as opposed to "vertical" mixed use within a building.

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At 3:35 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Not relevant to the topic, but interesting nonetheless:

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Super Bowl LII aims for low waste generation:

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


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