5.5.06

*** News Flash ***

At the top of the headline list is all the stadium-related transit funding talk. Sen. Steve Kelley, who is not coincidentally trying to get the DFL gubernatorial endorsement, released a probably symbolic plan to fund a great deal of Twin Cities transit investments by also funding Twins and Vikings stadiums (with robo-roofs).

While it won't actually happen, such a plan is welcome news for transit supporters. It's very much like what has happened in other cities, like Denver, that have funded a bunch of LRT lines using a regional sales tax.

Here's a Strib article about the lackluster state of Minnesota transit funding . . .


Regional transit operations are currently subsidized by $70 million a year in state funds. Capital investments are covered piecemeal by a combination of federal grants, state bonding and local taxes. Some say, however, that the Met Council underestimates the future costs of its own plan. The advocacy group Transit for Livable Communities says the real price is $4.4 billion by 2020, or nearly $300 million a year. A metro sales tax is the best way to raise it, the group says. According to the group, most other metropolitan areas similar in population to the Twin Cities finance transit with sales taxes. Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston and San Francisco levy at least 1 percent for transit. Phoenix, St. Louis, San Diego, San Jose and Seattle have transit sales taxes ranging from 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent.

[Strib]



. . . and an opinion piece by aforementioned campaigning senator, Steve Kelley, in which he talks about the brilliant governmental investing confluence of stadiums and Light Rail transit.


With these additional dollars, the Twin Cities metro area could quickly move forward on a comprehensive transit system, including the Central Corridor, Red Rock Corridor in the East metro, the Rush Line to the north, potential light rail in the western suburbs and expanded metro busways. As high gasoline prices put the squeeze on family budgets, transit options are essential for our future. It is time to see these investments to our regional infrastructure together, because they will help maintain our ability to compete with other regions. If you look at other cities that have recently built new ballparks and expanded their transit systems, you see a regional commitment to public investment, using sales taxes as the facilitator. In Denver, the original quarter-cent sales tax in a newly created stadium district was directed to extend LRT to connect existing lines with all three downtown stadiums. The result has been a metrowide system that has benefited not only sports fans, but the entire Denver metro area. Because of the success of the initial investment tied to the stadium, Colorado voters recently approved an increase to 1 cent for an expanded and comprehensive LRT system. LRT is successful in Denver, and ridership has met all projections.

[Strib]


***

Speaking of stadiums, supporters of the Twins ballpark (e.g. the editorial board of the Star Tribune) are using urbanism as a hook to lure in stadium opponents. There was an opinion piece featuring the real-estate P. R. drawings the other day. The argument that a stadium at the juncture of the LRT and Northstar lines would boost transit ridership seems convincing, but that's a lot of money for Mr. Pohlad bank account.



The $850 million project would bring 2,250 new homes, 300,000 square feet of retail and office space, a hotel and big stretches of greenspace to what's now a concrete gulch alongside Interstate Hwy. 394 in downtown Minneapolis. The
ballpark and its adjacent train station would form the centerpiece of an important new crossroads for Minnesota -- the juncture of light-rail routes to St. Paul, the airport, Bloomington and the southwestern suburbs; the Northstar commuter line toward St. Cloud, and the Cedar Lake bicycle trail.

[Strib]




***

The paper of record, the New York Times, had an article on suburban downtowns which featured the TC burbs, St. Louis Park and Burnsville. It's a good read -- and while I often laugh at suburban downtowns, they're the crucial piece of the new urbanism puzzle.




PAT AND JEFF JERDE raised their two sons in a 6,000-square-foot home in this booming suburb about 20 miles south of downtown Minneapolis. After the boys moved out, the Jerdes were ready for the big move downtown.

Downtown Burnsville, that is.

The latest thing in suburban development is something very old: city living. For a variety of reasons, a handful of suburban areas around Minneapolis-St. Paul have begun ambitious plans to create town centers, with pedestrian friendly sidewalks, condos, restaurants and shops. If it looks like a city, well, it is supposed to.

[NY Times]

At least they're not talking about Maple Grove.

***

And Saint Paul's paper has a story on how their libraries are using something called "foreign languages" to reach out to "immigrants." Whatever that means . . .

But, on the other hand, at least the Saint Paul libraries have learned that they need to be "open" in order for people to come to them. Write that down, Minneapolis!



These events are part of a broader effort, which geared up in February, to help immigrants see the library as a welcoming, vital resource for finding work, gaining citizenship, learning to use computers, reading books and magazines in their home languages, and strengthening their English. It's also helping longtime library staffers adjust to and accommodate the unique needs of people who have come from other countries.

"We learned that one of the first messages we need to get out is this is free," said Alice Neve, a supervisor with the Lexington branch and one of the program's directors. "People don't get that — it takes awhile."

Without hard numbers, Neve and other insiders noticed a gap between the number of nonwhites living in the neighborhood and the relatively small number of them using the library. Those who did venture in often seemed frustrated and confused, Neve said, and few staffers possessed the language skills to help.

[PiPress]

***

But, on the other hand, Minneapolis is the industry standard in neighborhood involvement in development projects. It seems these days, you can't build anything without NRP approval. And that's almost always a good thing, right?

Here's an article in The Bridge about the old Riverside Market spot on East Franklin Avenue.

"I'm glad that the neighborhood's going to have a say in what happens there," said David Mann, a block club leader who lives across the street, when told of the deal.

Neighbors wanted pedestrian-friendly shops and services as has sprung up at Seward's other end of Franklin Avenue, Miller said. One possibility is to try to accommodate Seward Co-op's expansion plans on the ground floor of a new mixed-use building, he said, with co-op or condo housing on floors above.

[The Bridge]

Update:

City Pages Blotter has a revealing expose of the Strib's stadium boostage . . .

And what solid evidence did Berg have that losing the stadium would likewise torpedo North Loop Village? One quote: "The timing of all this is really important," says Robert Pfefferle, the project manager for the developer, Hines Interests.

Sure it is--but only because Hines has to figure out whether to build North Loop Village with or without a ballpark. Perhaps Berg should read his own newspaper, because that's where Hines VP Bill Chopp is quoted last summer as saying, "The site's primary focus is as a transit oriented destination. The stadium is number two." And as I wrote in a story for this paper last September that, "Even absent the ballpark, Hines claimed it will build up to 3000 housing units worth $800 million at and around the site." Oh, and exactly seven days ago a story in the Strib's business section read, "Twin Cities officials of Houston-based Hines Interests said the work they have done for the past several months on the Minneapolis mixed-use development they now call North Loop Village hasn't hinged on getting a stadium built in the area...

From the start, Hines has said the main attraction of the site is its future as a transportation hub through the planned convergence of the Northstar commuter rail and the Hiawatha light rail lines." Pfefferle is one of the Hines officials interviewed for the story by reporter Susan Feyder.

2 comments:

Driver2165 said...

i have to argue with that last blurb. how many of the cities (other than new york and chicago) have actual neighborhoods around their transportation hubs? I've only looked at San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, and they're all located in a desolate area on the fringe of a warehouse district, hidden amongst highways and parking ramps. if transit hub is the main part of the planned neighborhood, people will walk from 2nd avenue towards downtown. the way you get them to walk towards the neighborhood is to build an attraction, something like a ballpark (hopefully with no roof. if they build a roof, i'm cutting my losses and moving to des moines)

Wm said...

I agree with you on the roof. I hate those transformer stadiums. And I hear Iowa is nice.