If you're after a lesson in street-scape management, drive down Franklin Avenue from Hiawatha to 35W. You'll see how much difference traffic calming can make to a dense urban street.
A few years ago, the city removed a lane of traffic, expanded the sidewalks, and threw in some flowerpots and streetlamps. This, plus the some TIF developement boosting $ at the corner of 11th Avenue S (the Franklin Bakery) and the Maria's Cafe building, have turned what used to be a drug mecca into a walkable (relatively safe) street.
Then, just after you hit Chicago Avenue, everything disappears. The street reverts back into a two-lane with narrow sidewalks, and the drivers immediately start behaving badly. For a good time, just sit there and experience the like tranformation from passive to aggressive, as the Minnesota nice become big-city assholes.
Does street calming help? Can it change a neighborhood, or does it merely follow in the wake of healthy businesses like the tail of a comet that goes past the Earth every 47 years?
The same thing is true in Saint Paul on Selby Ave. b/w the cathedral and Victoria Ave. The cathedral hill stretch is calmed, with bumpouts and newly paved walks. The rest of Selby, while still only one lane, has the wide feel of 60's street design. What do you think... does it make a difference?
Yes, it's true that the Franklin Bakery busted their worker's union. Should that be allowed for a business getting city money? Well, any regulations ought to be uniformly applied. That business, unlike the Northside Cub Foods, the Nicollet Mall Target, or the downtown St Paul Marshall Fields, features street-level windows and urban design.
Even so, the city councils of both towns should establish a liveable wage ordinance for TIF recepients, pronto. What is urban revitalization for if it doesn't help the middle class?