Aside from the report on my phone of a shotgun-wielding man four blocks from my home, it was a quiet day. Might have been a bogus story. Stuff pops up on my Citizen app that has a scant relation reality, because the app confuses the north side of town with the south side. It also tells me that COVID is increasing and I should tell the app whether I had a fever today.
It's a peculiar time. The neighborhood is peaceable and lovely. People walking the dog, pushing prams. The shopping area is full fo cars and kids on bikes and chattering tweens, the mood in the store buoyant with plans for the evening meal. The sun is bright and the leaves are spattered on thick green lawns.
And this litlte glass slab in my hand, on every channel, shouts doom and fear.
Here's a long Bleat of limited interest on urban studies, the fall of downtown, and the rise of the burbs!
Few things have been as disheartening as the swift desiccation of downtowns in the pandemic, partly because I think it was needless and overdone and a reaction to uncertainty and panic, and poorly thought out, and paranoid. To start with. I hope Minneapolis comes back. Literally: I hope people return to the office buildings. The transit authority of San Francisco - or, as we insiders like to call it, Frisco - has mandated that large companies require 60% of their workforces to stay home. Huh? They have no such power. It will require Laws, although I’m sure those can be ginned up, since the cause is noble. It has nothing to do with Covid; it’s using the New Normal to make people stay home, and thus reduce carbon emissions.
No, I’m not making that up.
You know how I feel about downtowns, large and small. The urban center serves many purposes, economic, social, artistic, cultural, the whole fascinating stew of things. I also love shopping malls, for similar reasons. For a guy who’s content to be on his own, I still need to be around other human beings.
And you know how I feel about Southdale, the first enclosed mall (go argue in the comments, if you must) and how its original plan cooked up by a Viennese socialist was eventually realized by capitalism. He’d hoped the area would be a new city, with schools and hospitals and housing and such. For decades the area had big-box stories with vast parking lots, but over the last few years they’ve added paths to connect the green spaces and lakes.
||You don’t notice this when you’re driving through, because it's behind everything, threading its way to the man-make lakes. It's for residents.
More and more people live there. What was once an empty dull intersection -
Is now faced on three sides by buildings, two large housing complexes and a hotel.
From the other direction, the new housing going up on the insection:
I expect the fourth corner will go eventually. It’s a jewelry store on the site of an old Midwest Federal Glass Tree building, a perfect 60s suburban structure.
Many locals don’t want it to be densified. That’s not what they moved here for. Traffic! Well, the streets are quite broad, and the new complexes are not casting shadows on their backyards. The Lunds / Byerlys housing units are between France and York, and anything between those two streets is fair game. Then and now:
That's 2011. Last year, after all the roundabouts went in:
But wait! There's more! The Guitar Center store is already gone. Rising on its site:
Why do I bring this up? Because there are still acres of dull 60s / 70s office buildings that commit the standard sin. They hang back from the street, fronted with parking, and the general effect is that nowhere-anywhere land with no sense of place. Take, for example, this bank building. It’s an exercise in how not to be interesting. How to hide. How to add nothing.
It’s going to be replaced.
In a few years more will follow, and the area will be dense-but-not-dense, a collection of structures that arose from individual decisions instead of a top-down mandate to create a NEW DOWNTOWN.
Like this one.
That's a few miles away. It’s ersatz and forced. The Southdale area will be eclectic, walkable, and car-friendly, with plenty of dining options. In other words, a city.
Unspoken, in all these renderings: Safe. You can walk outside at night. It’s okay.
The old normal is the new selling point.
(PS there was a murder a few blocks away but they caught them already)