** News Flash **

The top story is in today's PiPress -- where's theres a long story about rising real estate values along University Avenue, in anticipation of the LRT line there.

The price of real estate on University Avenue is going up fast, the result of new attention that will only grow as plans for a Central Corridor light-rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul unfold. To get in on University Avenue these days, you need more than a dream — you need cash.

"There's an increasing interest and demand to be on the avenue," said developer Bob Long, vice president of the commercial real estate broker NAI Welsh. "Once people see that other people are willing to invest large sums of money on University, they see it as a great investment."

This is kinda good news, and needs to be put in the proper context. But the big problem is the mixed implications for the communities along the street now.

Elsewhere, the Strib has a good Op-ed talking about the economic need for riverfront development in terms of the Saint Paul floodwall battle.

Ugliness is not the biggest problem with the floodwall proposed for St. Paul's downtown airport, although Mayor Chris Coleman's likening of the design to a "sheet-metal pig" seems a fair commentary. This project represents a major alteration of a Mississippi River floodplain, and of a river corridor whose nonindustrial values are belatedly getting the emphasis they deserve.

But it reminds me of local rag, The Bridge, and their similar Op-Ed about how the new CEO McGuire noblesse oblige park also prevents use of the riverfront in the Strib's backyard.

And as good as a big park sounds, it would close off yet another stretch of riverbank from the city’s street grid. The Minneapolis Plan says the city grid should meet the river, and that policy was supposed to guide prospective developers of this site. But only one of the proposals addresses the city’s astonishing failure to join its street system to the Mississippi—and it’s not McGuire’s proposal. Whenever the chance for reuniting its streets with its river has arisen in recent years, it’s as if years of separation have made Minneapolis unsure how to greet the body of water that gave it birth.

And then I got to thinking about the river in general in Minneapolis, and how little people get to enjoy it.

So here's an old MPR article about restoring the Mississippi river to its pre-HHH Lock and Dam habitat . . .

Davis and a group of other state and federal officials recently proposed the idea of restoring the rapids as part of long-range environmental goals for the Mississippi River, called pool plans. The gorge is in the area known as Pool one. But the plan is stalled.

"It's in direct conflict with the nine-foot channel navigation mission. At least that's what the Corp determined and probably it's true," said Davis. "So even though it's included in there, it was not officially endorsed as something to pursue at this time. I think the language says something about if the opportunity presents itself in the future, which to me says if there's no longer a Congressional mandate for a nine-foot channel here, then it would become feasible to consider it. So, there's some roadblocks."

. . . and an update on the proposed downtown whitewater park .

"Look what a beautiful river we have here right in downtown Minneapolis," Dunn said, his body straightening. "It grates on you. Why are we missing this opportunity?"

He has volunteered with the Mississippi Whitewater Park Development Corp., a nonprofit organization set up to promote the rafting, kayaking and canoeing channel. A few years ago it was moving so quickly toward reality that he could almost feel mist from rapids in his face.

But now, in the words of one legislator, the proposed project, which would cost anywhere from $26 million to $30 million, seems to be treading water. The course is being redesigned because the original plan called for filling in too much of the river. And before the project can move forward, officials need to figure out who will own and run it, according to a report by the state Department of Natural Resources to the Legislature last month.

[From the March 23 2006 Strib]


A lucky strike extra, an article on Ralph Rapson!

Over the course of nearly seven decades, Rapson built an international reputation as an influential member of the Modernist movement; an acquaintance of, and collaborator with, many of the era’s foremost architects and designers; and one of the nation’s most respected educators as dean of the University of Minnesota architecture school (from 1954 to 1984). He has lived and worked in Boston, Chicago, and several of the great cities of Europe—yet he is rooted in the Twin Cities, or, more precisely, here in Cedar-Riverside, where he has plied his trade for the past forty years and has no plans to quit now.


Andrew said...

Great article about property values along the University Avenue Corridor and I agree that local mom-and pop, ethnic buisness must remain open and be preserved. However, how are we as the city of St. Paul and some degree Minneapolis or the state of Minnesota going to make it so these buisnesses are not displaced? Are there any laws or ordinances that can be legislated to prevent these smaller shops (which people in St. Paul want) and keep national chains out?

Andy said...

I had not known about the increased property investment along University Ave, but it certainly makes sense, not only in the context of LRT planning, but also in the context of rising oil prices that raise fears among the educated and affluent that we may soon be entering the post-suburban era. For that reason, I think that the "saturation" of the downtown condo market will not be so for long, as continued energy price increases lead to rapidly increasing demand for downtown real estate. I hope that this does not lead to even worsening racial and class divisions through increasing segregation of city neighborhoods. There was an article in the NY Times today about how the pre-Katrina income of a given neighborhood in New Orleans not only determined which neighborhoods this classist storm demolished, but will determine which neighborhoods are reborn. Eastover, a wealthy neighborhood that was affected by the hurricane, has already contacted all of its former residents and begun reconstruction work with architects and urban planners, while residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, a working-class neighborhood, cannot even afford to travel to a common location for an initial planning meeting.

Luke Francl said...

I think the LRT-inspired boom is a good example of how transit could be partially funded through a special property tax district, where some of the increased revenue due to transit would be allocated to pay for the transit.

The land along the Hiawatha line is more valuable now than before the LRT was built. The land along University is going up simply because an LRT line is proposed! Metro Transit should get some of that money to use as a dedicated source of transit funding, and build more lines.

Wm said...

I agree with Mr. Francl, that the idea of "givings" (as opposed to "takings") is a good one. It seems like a great way to help fund transit investment, though it might be a bit more politically difficult to explain to people than broad taxes. People along transit corridors are difficult enough to woo at present, and such a tax would only make it more so.

That said, I think metro gov'ts (or the Met Council) should look at ways to combine broad county/state taxes with TOD "givings" as they fund a few more LRT lines in the next few years.