The day after exploring downtown, Cailie and I hit the city with an agenda. We used our Nice Ride pass to go south. We headed through Loring Park to get to the Midtown Greenway. The Loring Greenway was a bit confusing to navigate, a couple of signs or markings could improve that. Nonetheless, it was a great greenway and is the sort of pedestrian/bicycle space that every city needs. Leaving Loring Greenway, we headed down Hennepin’s bike path which during construction was confusing. Fortunately a bike detour was provided which ensured we didn’t have to share the lane with speeding traffic.
After crossing a bridge over Lyndale, we ended up on Bryant Ave: this was my first time biking on a bicycle boulevard. What is amazing about the experience of bicycling on Bryant Ave is how uneventful it is. The cars are infrequent and slow, the stops are few and the architecture is good. We were biking to get to a destination on a route that I suspect sees high volumes of cyclists and we didn’t have any problems or concerns whatsoever. I imagine this is what Amsterdam or Copenhagen are like. I would definitely like to be able to have this cycling experience in Newark.
Arriving in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood we stopped for a quick morning snack at Muddy Waters. Lyn-Lake is an interesting neighborhood. The market has definitely hit. In the area, there are at least half a dozen new residential projects that have been constructed. The stores in the neighborhood seemed very hip and it looked like there were at least a few good breweries, though since it was morning, we unfortunately couldn’t verify the quality. A quick look shows one bedrooms going for $1450 and two bedrooms going for $2,000. These are east coast prices in the midwest. With these sorts of rents, I worry that retail rents may be driven up and the stores and restaurants that make the neighborhood cool will be priced out. If that’s the case, Lyn-Lake may be the next Uptown.
Cailie and I biked over to Uptown. This is a neighborhood that once was part of the counterculture and even where Prince launched his career. Yes, that Uptown Funk. I could certainly see how Uptown was once cool and still kind of is. That said, Uptown feels like a mall. Stores in this area include Famous Dave’s BBQ, Timberland, H&M, Apple Store, The North Face, Columbia, CB2, Urban Outfitters and Victoria’s Secret. Though local culture and shops exist, they are dwarfed by the typical outlets. This neighborhood had the funk and remnants of it remain. Nonetheless, the funk has subsequently moved to Lyn-Lake and is probably in the process of moving to another neighborhood.
From Uptown, we biked to Midtown along the Midtown Greenway. The Midtown Greenway is legendary and lived up to its reputation. This abandoned rail line runs below grade with very limited street crossings: the stretch we biked only had street crossing at grade. This is an area benefiting from “Bike Oriented Development.” With the completion of the bikeway, significant residential development has popped up in Uptown and Midtown. One particularly interesting aspect was the way that these buildings not only fronted onto their streets, but some of them even opened up onto the greenway.
This corridor is also the subject of studies to incorporate a new streetcar line. The addition of the streetcar would be great, but it could be even better if it ran down Lake Street. Assuming the system could have signal prioritization and dedicated lanes, a streetcar system on Lake Street would be more convenient for passengers and leave more open space in the greenway for people to enjoy. Additionally, running transit down Lake St. would allow an easy transfer to the Blue Line helping improve the transit network. The Blue Line Transfer Station would be a great site for redevelopment. Currently the site is used for typical commercial suburban sprawl, but it appears that redevelopment is already underway. Obviously running transit down Lake St. would create a larger political issue: removal of two lanes of traffic. Nonetheless, Minneapolis is continuing to move in the right direction by working to increase the transportation options along this corridor.
Cailie and I got off the greenway in Midtown and went to the Midtown Global Market. This is a great market showcasing a wide variety of ethnic foods as well as different products. This is very similar to other markets such as the Chelsea Market and the Reading Terminal Market, though it is less centrally located than these two examples. What is interesting is that it is located on the ground floor of a former distribution center for Sears and Roebuck. Currently, in addition to the Midtown Global Market, the building hosts apartments, townhomes and Allina Health. This combination of uses guarantees that the market remains busy and doesn’t have to rely only on tourists. This type of market can serve as a great business incubator by lowering the costs of starting up a business and providing access to customers. I suspect that this will be an essential hub for the Midtown neighborhood as it grows. Though I suspect there will be growth, it doesn’t appear that much development has occurred yet. There are several lots dominated by surface parking and low scale retail or auto oriented uses. At the same time, there are a couple of properties with traditional architecture and character that would ideally survive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there would be the base of old and desirable buildings which are able to provide lower rents for more unique and local shops and thus it is likely that any development here will face the same challenge that other development sites have: only attracting (or leasing to) established chains.
From Midtown, Cailie and I biked down Park Ave into Downtown East prior to getting our rental car and heading to Wisconsin for the wedding. Downtown East was a particularly important place for me to visit. In 2013, the ULI’s Gerald D. Hines Student Competition concentrated on several blocks in this area. The blocks that served as part of the competition were underutilized office buildings and several surface parking lots. I worked for two weeks with a team to develop a real estate development and urban design plan for the area. While my team was too conservative with our development strategy, we did receive an honorable mention for our efforts. It was pretty amazing to see these formerly dead and vacant blocks being developed.
Though this was a very brief visit of Minneapolis, I feel that Cailie and I were able to see a lot of the area within the short period of time. The ability to get around the city without the need for a car was particularly enjoyable. In many cities, this sort of mobility is impossible. In other cities, this mobility is only possible by using subways. In Minneapolis, we were able to get most places simply by biking. Not only was the biking great, but the destinations were great. This is an incredible city and I hope to have the chance to explore it more in the future.