Posts Tagged ‘Plan-It Hennepin’



August 9, 2013


Good discussion in STRIB this morning on urban density…

We need infrastructure investment in our core cities…sadly lacking through the last half of 20th century as the expansion to the ‘burbs became an excessive experience, and now is finally realized to be unsustainable by the desired limited population base and the great infrastructure demands they have in order to move people back and forth to benefit from the economic and cultural amenities of the core cities.

We spent money on highways and roads to accommodate that; and left the urban center in ill-repair.

That does not mean we are saying NO to  those who want blue sky, green grass , and no neighbors within talking distance….but that all comes with a price.  After 50 years of accommodating the outlanders, the realization has come that there is a price to pay in order to support that.

And yes, although I am absolutely a proponent of this move towards re-urbanization and away from the ‘burbs with big box retail as the “scenery” –all needing massive infrastructure investments in order to support our country’s mass consumption culture, I do hear the issues and agree with some of the complaints of early re-urbanization – which is often lacking in “great” design aesthetics.

But the question I pose is this:  Have any of you commuters looked around at the first and second ring ‘burbs you drive through?

Does anyone remember the song “Little Boxes”…the so “on target” lament of the ‘60s?  Richfield and Bloomington ain’t pretty and inspiring; but they started the movement away from the city.

I may not want to accept that this is inevitable, but I surely hold to the hope that “its people on the streets that set the stage for more demand in the future, and with more demand will come better design.”  


Good  for Reverend Paul Slack , a pastor in Minneapolis and president of Isaiah, a coalition of 100 congregations in the metro area, for his thoughtful  response to Katherine Kersten’s total off-kilter rage and rant against the Met Council.

He did a great job in outlining the need for a Met Council, the discussions and sharing of issues, ideas and potential solutions all the way to Governor’s office. 

Some excellent food for thought from that rebuttal follows:

“To create a future of prosperity, we must come together as a region…the Metropolitan Council has a crucial role to play in providing that leadership.”

“All of us, whether we live in core city neighborhoods or outer suburbs, desire to see a strong region with access to opportunity for all residents.  The Met Council should serve all people of the region, not just municipal agencies, developers or the privileged few.  The council can and should provide strong leadership, in coordination with state agencies, to create a more prosperous racially equitable future.”


Yesterday, coming home from Mill City Museum after a project meeting, I was passing the drycleaners adjacent to the Churchill as a young man was exiting.  He gave me a big smile – said “I know you – I am Luke, from Plan-It Hennepin.” WOW!  Not only was I envious of his memory and recall, I was just plain impressed.  Luke was one of the team that gave such insight and perspective from the “next generation”  perspective on a project you have heard me speak about often- a project that opened my eyes to better ways of doing things and accomplishing dreams in the world of revitalization.

As I headed home, I had a smile on my face because of Luke, his recognition of me, his enthusiasm, and what that group taught me. 

Just last week, I had a similar experience with U of MN students from an urban design class doing a visioning project at the Public Housing block on 4th and Hennepin.  I came home from that so energized and inspired-and envious of the things they are going to get accomplished in the upcoming years.

What a different perspective from another project I have found myself in the midst of – one that I almost passed on because I KNEW BETTER-all instincts told me not to go there, but my passion for revitalization clouded my good judgment.   And despite the presence of one recent U of MN grad student in the mix – far too many of the voices are a bit too invested in another time.  So, as usual, that over-responsible part of me is obsessing about it…what am I doing wrong; what can I do differently; how can we get this to work so the group can succeed and meet their goals in spite of themselves?  So instead of fun,  this has become a chore – one that I will do the best I can on; but one that little voice inside keeps whispering “I told you so-you are not going to win on this”. 

A couple days ago, another “next generation” person was my teller at the bank – he asked a question after the transaction was complete, that I think was an informal survey of some sort…he asked me what I would like to do if I had all the money in the world, and all the time and resources; I responded I would do exactly what I was doing now – helping people achieve their dreams through event design.  I absolutely surprised him, and a second teller joined the conversation as I explained that after a successful career in the business world, I exited it, started my own one-person business with no responsibility to any employees ever again and have spent the last 20 years doing something I love that helps others do what they love.

Walking home from the bank, it occurred to me that sometimes what I love and what the client loves do not mesh, and that may, indeed, be the scenario I am facing now.

That does not quiet the “Doubting Thomas” buried within, on this latest “another fine mess I have gotten myself into” but it does point out, if I am not perceived as a help, then there may be no “win” for me this time around because it is their vision and their responsibility whether the latest plan for revitalization is implemented or not.  Time will tell; this is a tough one.   I just have to remind myself- it is THEIR choice.  They will get a traditional 10% success rate without me; if they do not have the understanding , resources,  time or will to do more to improve that to 65-90%, it’s okay. 

Now to see what wins…my brain or  that always questioning voice within!  Either way, truth be told; I am fine with it – as I have once again, already given the total hours   upon which the fee was based to the effort; if I am saved 200-250 more hours of FREE time, that might be a good thing.






May 31, 2012

Yesterday, as I walked the three blocks toward the Hennepin County Library to a seminar by MPRB, DID and the Downtown Council entitled “What’s Up with the Downtown Parks”, I realized I LIVE in a downtown park.  Fortunately, I had planned some extra time at the library to check out a couple books, because I started taking pictures-40 of them before I returned home!

Just outside my door, I enter the pedestrian /bike only portion of 2nd Street and walk under a canopy of trees that stretches from Marquette to Hennepin Avenue.  On either side, I am surrounded by well-kept wrought iron fences – which reveal the grand “backyard” of the Towers Condominium on one side, and their tennis courts on the other.   

At the other end, I emerge from the trees into the small Gateway Park –it’s dancing fountain  awakened from its winter sleep, and ready for its light show when the sun goes down.  Across the street, is a little-known and well-hidden great park at the Federal Reserve that connects to the Central Riverfront, but no time for that today. To the left, I pass the Nice Ride Station and head up the steps that lead me through the ING portico and down again to Nicollet Avenue. 

Across the street, is the Cancer Survivor Park. Of course, I pass it often, but have never explored it, so with time to spare, I walked through the grounds.  WOW!  I sat a few minutes on a bench tucked among the dense white birch trees, and watched the guys tossing footballs on the groomed lawn, then returned to the sidewalk along Nicollet to travel between the waterfall and the MPRB boulevard parks filled with poetry that reflected Nicollet Ave memories and dreams for the future-written by poets 3  to over 65 years old.  Yes, I have often walked by; but no, I have never taken the time to read the inspiring messages before yesterday. 

I was so engrossed, I almost missed the eyesore parking lot /bus terminal just north of the library building.  Perhaps because I know it is being considered as a site for the new expanded GATEWAY, and is part of my own Plan-it Hennepin vision, it no longer bothers me quite so much….instead when I look at it, I see my dream of an inter-cultural green gathering place that welcomes  residents, business, visitors and new immigrant populations. 

So with that, I walked into the Library, dropped off a couple books I just finished and then headed upstairs to hear about the greening of downtown Minneapolis and the planned updates and enhancements to Nicollet Mall, Loring Park, and other downtown parks along the way, as well as the status of the WaterWorks Park that will close the West River Road gap on the Central River Front.

Yes, as citizens of Mpls, we should be ashamed of the brown donut hole of downtown that is seen in aerial views of the city-surrounded by the green of a world-class park system focused on the lakes.  And for me personally, after rediscovering the Central River Front 25 years ago, it was encouraging to hear that the city has grown to understand that indeed, “ a RIVER runs through us”.

Returning home after the meeting, I came down Marquette between the towering skyscrapers, but even then, I detoured through the well-kept  grounds of 100 Washington Avenue that borders on my own “yard” at the Churchill. 

As I walked, I realized I had a pretty impressive FRONT YARD, but goodness, think of my BACKYARD!  I border on a 72-mile long National Park – the Mississippi River!

The river has been throwing a delayed “spring tantrum” this week.  The locks have even been closed to all traffic because of the turbulence. With little snow melt in April, we didn’t get quite the show we usually do, but this week, with all the May rain, it has been spectacular! Instead of budding trees and brown grass of past April shows, this year, the scene of the rough, constantly rolling river carpeted with whitecaps is framed by fully-leafed trees and a blanket of green on the ground.   No April walkers wrapped in coats and scarves shiver on the Stone Arch Bridge; instead smiling folks- occasionally feeling the cloud of spray hovering over the raging waters below-are enjoying the Power of the Falls! 

And the best-kept secret of the Central Riverfront and its Heritage Trail –the falls on the East Channel, peaking out among the greenery at the down river side of the Power Plant- is just amazing! In fact, I think it warrants my occasional use of the lower trail through Pillsbury Park to get a closer view– maybe an early morning walk tomorrow.

How fortunate I am to live where I do!

(The picture below is the “gentle” spillway, north of the Third Avenue Bridge-incredible!)