Twin City Pumpkins #3

[All pumpkins from Northeast Minneapolis.]


Reading the Highland Villager #117

[A Villager embraces the sidewalk.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Headline: Council passes mayor's 8-80 Vitality Fund; Palace Theater, street repairs, bikeways to split $42.5 million
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There's a pot of money for projects in Saint Paul and the city is going to spend it on some projects. CM Bostrom voted no because he prefers paving. Projects include a park at University and Griggs, restoring an old downtown theater, and the city's first protected downtown bike lane on Jackson Street. [Though the big question is if the city will be able to link this new network plan up to the already-existing heavily-used bike lanes on Summit Avenue. Without that, the bike loop will be weak tea.]

Headline: Developer tapped for 7 Corners Gateway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A long-time vacant lot across from the hockey arena might be turned into a hotel/housing/retail thing. Opus/Greco is the developer's name. [At least it's not a practice facility or a parking lot.] Article includes [ominous] quote: "One issue that has yet to be sorted out is the possibility of skyway connections." [No, please no. A hundred reasons why...] CM Bostrom is pro-skyway. [Does he go outside? Does the light of day burn his eyes?]

Headline: Commissioners split on zoning for Sibley Plaza [Misleading headline; people merely asked questions.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Though it was a public hearing and not a vote] the Planning Commission seems split on whether or not to re-zone the strip mall to traditional neighborhood mixed-use zoning. [See both previous Villagers for for info.] Article includes highlights from the public hearing. [Note: Iw as there and we haven't voted on it yet.] Weirdest quote: "designs under TN seemed to 'turn their back on the neighborhood.'" [If by "neighborhood" you mean "parking lot."]

Headline: Salt Cellar may need more parking after all
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A restaurant that wants to open in a vacant building by Selby and Western may need to build one more parking space. [All this fuss about one parking space?] Article includes lots of detail about city parking requirements and more relaxed minimums based on "standard operating times" v. "peak times." [Basically, do you plan your parking lot for the day after Thanksgiving, or for all the other days of the year?] "Local restaurant owners and residents" complained loudly about existing parking difficulties in the area. [I hang out on this corner all the time, and sometimes you have to walk a few blocks to find a parking spot. Walking is nice and I like it. You should too.]

Headline: UST neighbors are finding students more disruptive than ever; Balmy fall has brought an increase in bad behavior
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Tommies are still drunk, getting drunker. Especially on "Tommie-Johnnie" weekend [whatever that is, I don't want to know]. Highlight of the article the quote that "serial neighbors interviewed for this story did not want their names used for fear of retaliation." [Wow. Do Tommies read the Villager?] Police are considering forming a "mobile field force." [I want to see a reality show based on this.]

Headline: Ethiopian restaurant on West 7th fined for license violations
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A restaurant [in a poor neighborhood] has to pay fines because people parked in the wrong places and their video system was not working and they didn't have a permit for plumbing and other repairs. Article includes quotes from CM Tolbert ("I wish it could be a bigger fine") and the owner of the building ("We have hundreds of supporters; the owner and management have come very very far in addressing concerns"). [This must be the place that used to be the Steelers bar.]

Headline: Insult to injury? University Ave. is assessed for street work
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property owners are being assessed for streetscape improvements and new sidewalks. [This always is the case.] Best quote is from the guy who owns Wendy's: "Construction of the Green Line and any associated improvements did not increase the value of Wendy's property." [Well, I bet it did, just not of the Wendy's itself, which is a one-story fast food bunker just like every other one.] Article also references the Russian Tea House, MPR, and a few interesting churches.

Headline: City Council clears way for Summit hotel
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The proposed B&B-style hotel in an old building was approved by the City Council. Article includes a quote from a neighbor: "A hotel would degrade the neighborhood."

Headline: BZA lands blow in Summit Hill parking fight [This headline is an  example of why I find the Villager's tone so irritating. Is parking inherently good?]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: "The illegal conversion of a parking spot into a dwelling" has caused a ruckus. [Wouldn't want to have a human living in a place where a perfectly good car could be.] It all has to do with a garage apartment and whether it was legal or not when some people bought the house on Grand Avenue. [Saint Paul needs an ADU ordinance. Summit Hill has many historic carriage house-type things.] Article ends by saying "BZA members also noted that the garage stalls must be used for vehicles, not storage." [Really? Is that a thing?]


Examples of Skyline Views vs. Axial Views

Last week, I put up a column on Minnpost about the difference between skyline views and "axial views," which are a concept out of Baroque or City Beautiful style planning. Here's how I described the difference:
Axial views occupy a special place in urban history. During the 19th century, city planners took great pains to transform European cities with long avenues terminating in public squares. Paris’s boulevards are the most urban axes, built where the powerful city planner Baron von Haussmann bulldozed boulevards through the dense confines of working class Paris. These views tied the city together along wide streets that connect landmarks like the Arch de Triomphe.

The Paris example is widely known, and you'll find these boulevards and landmarks all throughout late 19th century art and literature.
[Pissarro's painting of the axial view of L'Opera.]

[The Arche de Triomphe.]

[Haussman's axial boulevards.]

[The classic axial view. Note: all the cars.]

 This is not to say they weren't problematic. Much of the impetus behind Haussmann's creation of these boulevards came from an uprooting of the working class, the replacing of thier homes with new bourgeois housing, and the desire to accomodate more traffic through the unruly city for often military or policing reasons.

[Barricades during the 1871 Paris revolution.]

[Image taken from David Harvey's book.]

Twin Cities' Examples

The axial views in the Twin Cities fall into two categories: accidental and planned. The latter is an easy thing to describe, because examples are so few. As I described in my piece, the Minneapolis Plan for 1917 was basically a Haussmann-style plan (though more directly modeled on more recent and more proximate Burnham Chicago plan):

[The 6th Avenue boulevard for Minneapolis.]

Along the way, the Minneapolis plan (never built) references efforts in Saint Paul to plan the State Capitol Grounds around a "trivium" (or three-road) City Beautiful design that would emphasize the monumentality of the Capitol, the Cathedral, and downtown. While it involved bulldozing a whole bunch of historic Saint Paul buildings, this is one of the Twin Cities few examples of a City Beautiful plan that actually got built.

The original plan looked like this:

Today's capitol mall complex is pretty close. Here is the panoramic view of downtown and the cathedral:

[Three axes coming together.]

A similar planned from Smith Avenue on West 7th street also frames the Capitol building as a terminal focal point. According to a friend of mine, "the architect of the capitol envisioned the building interacting with this street/view. (I think it was called Mohawk then)." Anyway, this is the view from near my house, and it's an excellent lesson in vanishing points and scale:

[Smith Avenue.]

An odd Minneapolis example is the axial view from along Victory Memorial Drive on the Minneapolis/Robbinsdale border. The construction of long terminal views, which were then seen as somehow civilizing, is pretty much the only thing that can explain this weird park/road:

You might argue that the view of downtown Saint Paul from West 7th Street is also a planned axial view, as the street was not always straight as an arrow. Anyway, once you cross the (largely unnecessary) railroad bridge by Saint Clair Avenue, you get a lovely axial view of downtown from the street:

[Farther away on top; closer on the bottom.]

Accidental Axials

Other than that, there are a few accidental axials scattered around as well. I'd place the Selby Avenue view of the Catherdal in this category:

[Selby Avenue. H/t Matty]

Here's the view up Nicollet Avenue that terminates in fine white walls of the Hyatt Hotel:

[Nicollet Avenue.]

As well as the view of City Hall from Park Avenue (whose layout probably predated the construction of City Hall in 1906):

[Park Avenue.]

Here's another accidental City Hall view from the Warehouse District:

[I think this is 2nd Ave S.]


Once you get past that, you're left with skyline views. Because the skyline sticks up, you can see it from lots of places througout the city. Here are some of the most interesting skyline views of Minneapolis sent in by readers:

[From Cedar Lake Trail. H/t Michael.]

[From the UMN transitway. H/t Michael.]

[From the railyards. H/t Mike.]

[From Cedar-Riverside. H/t Sian.]

[From the 15th Street bridge. H/t Scott.]

[From Lauderdale. H/t Steven.]
[From the 24th Street Bridge. H/t Cassie.]
[Again with the bridge. H/t Joe.]


The Vikings Stadium / Star Wars Metaphor

Seeing the Vikings stadium rise up over the city of Minneapolis reminds me more and more of the Death Star from the Empire Strikes Back Return of the Jedi. It doesn't help that the stadium design looks almost exactly like an Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer, or that everyone keeps raving about the stadium's "impressive equipment." (Get a room, preferably a non-taxpayer funded one.) Or that the stadium development's demands for an elaborate set of space dock-like skyways only make sense if you think about Minneapolis as being a total vacuum. Or that there will now be a sci-fi-looking landing platform over the light rail station.

So now I can't look at the construction without seeing the (second) Death Star. So I posted this image on my Facebook/Twitter feed and then Michael asked whether bicycling around the city was Endor and now I'm wondering how far the metaphor can go!

Vikings Stadium = Death Star

Giant horrifying thing slowly being built. 
Admiral Ackbar = Mark Dayton

Somehow in charge. Eyes reveal complete cluelessness. It's obviously a trap.

The Deflector Shield = Stadium Glass

The way that that the rebel fighters bounce of the Death Star's (cloaked) shield is exactly how migrating warblers bounce off the bird-killing stadium glass.

The Emperor = Zygi Wilf 

Brains behind the scenes. Fond of maniacal laughter. Entirely evil.

Darth Vader = Lester Bagley

Mind control tricks. Threats to politicians. Menacingly touching tables. Almost entirely evil.

The Death Star Super-Laser = Brain Injuries

Instead of going around blowing up innocent planets, the Vikings Stadium goes around destroying people's brains.

Han Solo and Princess Leia = The Audubon Society

Both trying to destroy the shield. Facing daunting odds.

Luke Skywalker = Ed Kohler on Twitter

Deploying massive (Jedi) skills to constantly fight off an endless supply of uniformed morons. Fondness for mind tricks.

Ewoks = The People of Minneapolis

Both powerless, adorable, massively outgunned, like to shake things in the air.

Endor Speeders = Biking in Minneapolis

Because it's the most fun you'll have in the movie or the city.

Jabba the Hut = Joe Soucheray

Both repulsive and horrible. Like to keep women in chains. In charge of some sort of strange cult-like society in the middle of nowhere (Tatooine or Saint Paul).


In the movie, the people blow up the Death Star and celebrate around a campfire in the primeval woods while fireworks go off in the sky. In the real world, the Empire wins.
[Oh well.]


My friend Nate asked me, "Which Star Wars character would RT Rybak be?" The answer is obvious.

Lando Calrissian = RT Rybak

Smooth talker in charge of a city. Sense of style. Likes himself a bit too much. Sells everyone out, and then pretends he didn't.