mpls: Strib lashes out at Downtown boom

Great article today about downtown liveability. The Strib appears to be accusing the Minne-apple of being Minne-Detroit. Check it out:

Minneapolis looks more like Detroit than success, researcher says

According to [city planning academic guru Eugenie] Birch's text, Minneapolis seems more like a St. Louis or Detroit than a real success story. She classes the city's downtown residential trend at the bottom of five categories -- three notches below "emerging," and two below "on the edge of takeoff." That's a sharp blow, considering the readership she will have among opinion shapers across the nation.

She agrees, however, that things are changing fast, with new developments supplanting data used in her report.

But she still scoffs at local boosters' claims that the City of Lakes is now a national model for downtown revivals.

Not so, says the pres of the Downtown Council:

[Sam] Grabarski added that the statistics come from a consultant he trusts, and that downtown is on a roll. "On almost all fronts we have kept pace with or exceeded almost all the statistics of the 100 largest cities. In 2004, downtown completed, started, or announced the construction of 6,000 housing units. You can't find five cities in the U.S. that in the last 10 years have built more than one office tower of more than 1 million square feet, and we've built five. Not more than ten cities in the U.S. have daytime workforces of 160,000, as we have, even though Minneapolis barely makes the top 50 in overall population.

The Strib tried to make some waves with a eye-grabbing headline, but even they admit in their own population graph that Minneapolis ranks really high on the list of downtown populations. They're near #10, while having the #44 total city population. Of course, if you take the metro area as a whole, the TC is about #15.

The facts are clear: more people live downtown than in the past. In fact, we have almost as many people downtown as Detroit. And what's more, our downtown residents are mostly wealthy white people -- a choice demographic that, in Minnesota, lives in gated downtown condos downtown, rather than gated suburban community.

Indeed Minneapolis turns up as one of the nation's leaders when it comes to a highly educated downtown population, with nearly half of all downtown dwellers holding college or graduate degrees. Downtown also continues to house the poor, however; parts of downtown Minneapolis are several times richer than other areas of downtown just a few blocks away.

If history is any guide, having a commercial-only downtown is a sure way to have your city suck. Your downtown zone will rot every evening and weekend, like downtown Saint Paul in a desert, tumbleweeds of newspaper blowing in the wind down empty streets while concrete parking lots reproduce like feral rabbits.

More people downtown, on the other hand, ensures all-hour vibrance. It ensures a host of restaurants, and truly public gathering spaces that can be used for any manner of PR stunt. I'm sure that by this time in 2008, we'll have passed Detroit on the downtown population list.

No comments: