Archive for the ‘City Making’ Category



May 20, 2012

A year ago, a tornado caused havoc across North Minneapolis.  More than 50% of the area’s 7000 properties were damaged but at the time, we gave thanks for the minimal lives lost – one in the storm and one during cleanup. 

This weekend, the press revisited the sites to reflect on the recovery progress. 

KARE 11 featured the uplifting story of the REBUILDING – only 250 damaged homes remain unresolved.  So we learned about TREECOVERY with the MPRB/community replanting plans for over 3000 trees-to be nurtured by local residents, and the Habitat for Humanity block party to celebrate the good progress made.  We learned that Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity- after finishing phase one of repair to 30 homes- are now poised for phase two- the building of new homes to replace those that were lost.  We heard briefly about what was left to be done…but that unfinished business was expressed- in the views of one resident who was still waiting for assistance – in terms of being hopeful homes will get fixed, new homes will be built and his community will continue to heal.

As I read that, I was reminded of my evening there at the Capri just a couple weeks ago, and the good works being done by the community as they organize their emotions and efforts towards a better future in their process of rebuilding and city-making.

And I was reminded of conversations last month with Candy Chang, whose hometown of New Orleans is still in the process of recovery from Hurricane Katrina. But out of that came Chang’s inspiration for Creative Urban Interventions. With the Before I Die project, she transformed an abandoned house in her neighborhood into an interactive wall where residents could share their dreams.  Today we have a Before I Die board in Whittier; does there need to be one on West Broadway? 

Chang also created fill-in-the-blank I Wish This Was stickers for people to express what they want to see in then-vacant storefronts.  Today we have three interactive billboards on Hennepin, and a growing website collecting citizen input regarding what they would like to see in Minneapolis.  Perhaps we should add a sticker board on West Broadway to help capture the hopes and dreams of resilient residents as they struggle to rebuild.

This morning, however, I was struck by the contrast of the Star Tribune Exclusive EMPTY HOMES, EMPTY HOPES. Above the fold, front page/and all of A12, the news section screamed a story of physical and emotional barriers to recovery of the North Side. The article was so negative, I could hardly get through it, and as I read it, I could not help but think that were I a resident of the area, it would want to make me give up my dreams and hope, and try to leave.  

Perhaps the approach was chosen only to get attention and I should give the STRIP the benefit of the doubt…but the final sentence…  Coming Monday:  A year later, the tornado’s cost exceeds $80 million, a Star Tribune analysis has found.” …raises suspicion in my mind.  We shall have to see what the morning brings.   I can only hope we hear more on the story of West Broadway/Penn and the city and business leaders view of the corner’s revival as a catalyst for redevelopment!



May 14, 2012

Little did I know when-as part of my commitment to Plan It Hennepin-I confirmed my participation in half of the available opportunities to interact with Charles Landry, that I’d be sitting here this morning wishing I would have done MORE!

To prepare, I ordered “The Art of City-Making” and immediately found myself immersed in a whole new “Landry” world…a 21st century viewpoint of cities that melds my UM days of history and city planning – not only with my passion for the river, but also with idea after idea for my world of event-making in terms of collaborative thinking AND wonderful fun ways of creative engagement and interaction that balance the hard edges of social media and the narrower window of just interactive media applications to achieve those goals, create community, and facilitate adult learning and change.  YES!!!

So excited to learn more, off I went last Monday to the Cowles for “Connecting Cities, Connecting Cultures”; Tuesday we were at the Capri for “North Minneapolis: Arts, Culture and Community Development:, missed an important “Intercultureal City-Making Workshop” on Thursday; but rejoined the group on Friday for the Close on Harriet Island where Landry shared his observations, made recommendations and call to action for our own MSP city-making.

WIth my head full of ideas and action steps, I was charged up when I went to FAIR School on Saturday for the Talk-It Hennepin workshop “Coming, Going, and Staying on Hennepin” – a three hour exercise that took us to the streets.

Broken into five groups, each group set out for their assigned area, and using Landry’s system of YES and NO, we acknowledged the Yes things; and  took pictures of the five “nos” that need to be altered.

Our group, led by Harry Waters and supported by some great FAIR students were assigned the stretch from Hennepin Avenue Bridge to Washington Avenue. We quickly rallied, hopped on a bus and we were off!

Our first NO was the non-pedestrian/bike friendly bridge itself; then on to the Post Office or at least its “weedy knoll” leading down to the river walk, a third NO at the sad little Gateway Park of concrete and a dead fountain, and finally to the four corners of Hennepin and Washington…with a thought or two to the side streetscapes intersecting Hennepin and to the Public Housing High Rise seen a block away.

Along the way, we staged a mini-“Occupy” event as we reminisced about a once-welcoming NWNL campus that now under the ING regime was posted “No Trespassing”.  So of course, the rebel in us called for a picture of the team relaxing on the grass – “OCCUPY-ING”. The police that drove by during our “sit-in” did not move to arrest us, so I would like to think perhaps they agreed with our statement.

Then back on the bus and back to FAIR School where with the help of our talented students, we developed our PPT of significant Nos and wonderful images of what some of those Nos could become in the future.

This morning, thinking about that day, I am still charged up and looking forward to June workshops at the New Century Theatre in City Center.

This is just an AMAZING process!  And once again, I say Thank You to Hennepin Theatre Trust, Walker Art Center, Artspace, and the City of Minneapolis funded by the National Endowment of the Arts for inviting me to be a part of it!



May 9, 2012

Nothing less can describe my thoughts this morning when I read in the STRIB that “Big Chages” for the MOA/South Loop are based, one more time, on Bloomington’s philosophy that “if we put in the infastructure, they will come.”  Larry Lee, Bloomington’s community development director continued with “we’ve had success with that in the past.”.  I could only think to myself, compared to what?

Perhaps Larry should have been invited to participate in the Charles Landry Residency this week before he allowed the STRIB to publicize his out-dated and oft-proven-wrong approach.

In fact, just last night, many of us were gathered at the Capri in North Minneapolis to hear how routing the infastructure through the metropolitan area impacted north Minneapolis (and Rondo, and other areas we struggle with) and what we can do now to try to compensate.

Unfortunately, while the rest of the metro is engaged in a collaborative effort to rethink and reassess how best to make the Twin Cities world-class with a focus on Civic Urbanity (cultural literacy, healthy urban planning, eco-consciousness, and creative city-making), Bloomington apparently has chosen more of the same old, same old that helped us create the problems we have today.

Perhaps I am being too harsh; perhaps the STRIB article presented an incorrect picture of what is taking place; perhaps the question “what is the cost of not valuing clulture and creativity has been assessed, or perhaps the “infastructure changes” are not BIG as the STRIB communicated, but simply minor adjustments.

Nevertheless, it is worth the caution to point out an Einstein quote Landry has used both Monday and Tuesday (which I admit in advance, may be a bit paraphrased due to my notetaking):

Thinking that got you where you are is not the thinking that will get you to where you want to be