***Newsflash Friday *** #21

Sidewalk Rating: Dynamic

Falltime is the right time to walk on sidewalks, ladies and gentlemen. There is a lot going on. Sunsets and sunrises fall at convenient times, hydrology creates beauty like the morning mist on Como Lake, and you finally get to wear that great not-summer, not-winder jacket you bought just for temperatures like this. As the weather changes, so do our hearts and minds. You'll find joy and melancholy on the sidewalks of Minneapolis this week.

*** [WSP: The Musical] ***

This is the greatest song about where I grew up that I've ever heard ...

... I esp. like the shout-out to the remnants of the Signal Hills Mall.

*** [Shelbyville] ***

This piece on downtown Saint Paul's interminable woes came out during all the RNC hullabaloo. Their take is to outline a debate over how residential the downtown area should be, and what the role of minority-owned businesses should be in any retail revitalization. They have this quote from Mayor Coleman:

Unsurprisingly, Coleman feels that things are only going to get better, what with the coming of light rail and potential mixed-use developments such as a project on the riverfront property where the former West Publishing complex and vacant county jail currently sit (this project was stalled at press time). But what about slumping downtown retail?

“Downtowns are different than they used to be,” says Coleman. “That trend started in the ’50s when Southdale opened and started the out-migration of retail [from downtown]. Can retail come back? Absolutely. But it took 60 years to go in one direction. The question is what do you lead with? I think you lead with jobs, you lead with housing, you lead with entertainment, and those traditional shopping things will come.”

I think this is pretty much right on. You cannot try to create retail in an area with no pedestrians, shoppers, or residents. There is a lot of unused space in downtown Saint Paul right now, and you're not going to fill that space with new office workers or shopping. Finding new ways to make downtown residential living appealing is the way to go. and for that, Saint Paul has a lot of sidewalk assets that could be developed. It'd be nice to see self-sustaining streetlife in downtown Saint Paul again someday.

*** [The Mayor formerly known as Mayor Mayor] ***

Speaking of which, I just rec'd this email from Mayor Colemans' office in Saint Paul. Apparently, I signed some sort of petition or statement about the RNC protest situation downtown. I don't rembmer.

But he's gotten back to me with the strangest email.

Firstly, it's from someone named "Mayor Mayor":

Secondly, it's signed with this cryptic Artist-formerly-known-as-like symbol:

I don't know what to say. I guess the StP has a way to go before they master the art of the electronic mail.

*** [Real Life Sim City] ***

This is a cool little program that's kind like SimCity for real life, a 3-d visual simulation of entire cities complete with surface textured modeling of buildings. It's certainly pretty, and they have a swatch of lower Manhattan modeled.

I am not so convinced, though, that it very accurately reflects what these streets are really like on the ground level. For example, this is one of my favorite corners in New York's Chinatown, and it doesn't really look like this at all. I get no sense at all of claustrophobia, density, and vitality that really exists on this corner, next to the Chinese coffee shops and groceries, where there's barely room for a single lane of traffic and the sidewalks are filled with fish vendors and fruitsellers.

Sidewalk imulations have a long way to go before they mean anything. Meanwhile, this just creates a too-abstract auto-oriented image... which problably won't help anything.

[Elizabeth and Hester Streets in Chinatown -- fm. GoogleStreetView.]

*** [Sidewalk Photo Rights] ***

This story of a guy getting harassed for taking pictures on the sidewalk abugs me. OF course this is something I do all the time.

I was out taking some photos for a personal project in downtown today, handheld with no tripod, at 100 South 5th Street(also known as the Fifth Street Towers), taking pictures of the "Jersey barriers" outside the building. About 6 minutes after I got there, the private security guard for the Fifth Street Towers approached me and said that Carter Management, the owner of the building, also owns 20 ft of the surrounding sidewalk space and that there was a rule that no pictures could be taken anywhere near the premises. I stepped about 20 feet back to the edge of the road, but the guard insisted that I leave immediately.

I am going to make a point of conspiculously taking photos of this building every time I walk past it. Maybe you should too?

*** [Mystery Bike Mob] ***

Check out this cool bike ride at the new Gold Medal Park.

*** [Social congestion] ***

[An illustrated page from Johnson's Emergence, showing a human brain and the city of Manchester, England.]

One of my favorite writers is Steven Johnson, author of Emergence, Interface Culture, and The Ghost Map (among others: terrific books, all). He's also the former CEO of the neat outside.in spatial web aggregation project, which is a great idea. His blog is also interesting, for example this description of the "social traffic jams" that happen on sidewalks and in cities, where you constantly run into people you know:

Yesterday morning, coming back from the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket with breakfast (green tomatoes!), I ran into one of my best friends from college out walking his dog. This morning, picking up pastries for the family at Colson Patisserie, I saw my college girlfriend with her two kids sitting outside in front of the bakery. So both days, I showed up fifteen minutes late with breakfast to a household of ravenous boys.

I've started thinking of these little incidents as social traffic jams -- you're trying to get from point x to point y, but your social network gets in the way. I think they're probably pretty rare, at least in most environments that Americans now call home. They don't happen in car-centric cities and suburbs, for obvious reasons; you need public space and pedestrian speed of sidewalks to stop and have a chat with your neighbor.

This kind of encounter is so important to me, and happens all the time in the Twin Cities. t's the kind of thing that guarantees a large network of 'weak ties', allows you to find out important nonmedia information, and creates the spatial idea of neighborhood in a very concrete way for people. It's precisely this kind of thing (Putnam's "social capital") that is lost in so many US landscapes today.

*** [A tryptich] ***

Three photos:

  • (What I initially thought was a dead bird but is actually) a Jack Russel Terrier on a sidewalk somewhere in the T.C. -- fm. phantom readings


Tyboty said...

That dead bird sure looks like a Jack Russel Terrier.

Bill Lindeke said...

I am consulting my Peterson's guide to the Birds Minnesota, and will get back to you.

Kristin said...

The West St. Paul song almost made me fall out of my chair! Amazing!!

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Steven Johnson is the most incredible author of our community, there's no doubt about it, Whats your favorite book from this guy?