As Chuck and his family are chasing Mickey Mouse and the gang in sunny Florida, I’ve volunteered to take over the day-to-day duties of his everyday life including (but not limited to): feeding the dogs, shoveling his driveway, and writing the Friday News Digest.  I’m happy to report the dogs are doing well, the driveway is passable (barely, with the recent snow) and the Friday News Digest is posted.  Enjoy this week’s news everyone: 

  • Let’s start with the “Lowertown Parking Challenge,” by our very own Nate Hood.  This article and corresponding video were created in response to a wave of feedback he got from his original article regarding parking in St. Paul.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see Nate’s mug on the front page of Startribune.com.  Excellent job man, keep it up!

St. Paul is still being held hostage by out-of-date auto-oriented transportation planning. And worse yet, it’s so ingrained in our psyche that a situation like sidewalk cafes and parking comes into our public dialogue and we don’t even consider that one-way couplings and our tenacity for traffic flow might be our biggest impediment to a successful downtown.

  • Although not shocking news, it’s been discovered that mixed use neighborhoods have lower crime rates than segregated (e.g. residential-only, commercial-only) areas.   The main factor thought to be the deterrent: the presence of people.  Interesting. 

A neighborhood with lunch counters, offices, condos and bars is likely to have more “eyes on the street” at more times of day. And this collective surveillance ostensibly deters criminals.

  • In another astonishing development, it’s been determined that living in a mixed use neighborhood or near recreational destinations (beach, park, etc.) increases the likelihood that people will walk more.  I’m surprised it only took ten years to figure that out.

The ten year study found that the overall health of residents of new housing developments in Western Australia, improved when their daily walking increased as a result of more access to parks, public transport, shops and services.

  • Speaking of healthy habits, I’m saddened to admit that I currently do not own a functional bicycle.  It is bit embarrassing to admit, especially considering my profession. I do intent to buy one this spring.   I’ve always used the excuse, “This northern Minnesota town just isn’t bike friendly.”  It’s really not, but I’m going to make the most of it.   Hopefully we’re on the cusp of a revolution, not just an urban (or small northern MN town) fad.

The car will not simply disappear and bicycles will not suddenly take over our streets. But as we look for alternative solutions to our current transport woes, cycling is suddenly looking like a pretty smart option.

  • When we mention “mixed use” at Strong Towns, this is NOT what we are talking about.  Although the Mobil Gas station that was previously located at this site was probably not the best use present day, the proposed development is certainly no better.  

The building’s massing, articulated in two staggered towers atop a four-story base, pulls away to the southwest, in part to address that concern. The z-shape made by the towers’ floor plans, said VDT’s Stephen Droll, is a response to the neighborhood, which is mostly comprised of single-family homes to the northeast.

  • Our friend Kaid Benfield wrote an alarming piece this week on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Land Use.”  In it, he analogizes the traditional seven deadly sins to land use in America. He even gives a “shout-out” the Strong Towns Wizard, Chuck Marohn.

This may surprise a new reader (but it won’t surprise long-timers):  the laziness that most offends me is within our own community - a failure of urbanist and smart-growth advocates to demand more of our built environment.

  • And finally, as Spring approaches and the critters begin waking up from their winter slumbers, I present to you, "Walk on the Wild Side."  Back to regular programming on the blog next week- Have a fantastic weekend everyone.