26.3.15

Reading the Highland Villager #127

[Springtime is Villagers unearthed.]
[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: Ideas tossed around for open space at Ford site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old truck factory is going to become something else, some of which will be "open space." There was a meeting. People would like access to the nearby Hidden Falls park [Note: I've never successfully found the falls], wildlife habitat, gardens, playgrounds, and a "market space." People may or may not want a dog park. [Probably depends on whether one has a dog.] Bike and pedestrian trails seem to be popular, including a "greenway." Article includes discussion of historic ballfields on the site and the city's "parkland dedication fund." Open space may or may not be near Ford Parkway, which may or may not be too busy.


Headline: Blueprint for design of new single-family homes aired
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: City staff have come up with new "parameters" for designs of homes, like size, height, and materials, for the areas which have seen a lot of teardowns. "They aim to prevent monotony." [Lots of things have that aim, including this blog.] Article goes over background of the teardown issue, and has details about recommendations for sizes of home additions etc., e.g. "additions greater than 120 square feet [must have] windows and doors that account for at least 1- percent of the area of any exterior wall." [Sounds specific!] City staff would like to have any regulation extend city-wide. [That would be very difficult, I believe. Other parts of the city are not in similar boats, economy-wise.]


Headline: Bike plan rounds corner to final approval
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The bike plan will go before the city council. [It did, and it passed.]


Headline: Study hopes to improve on 40 years of free-market trash collection in city; New system sought to reduce cots and wear and tear on the streets
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Saint Paul has never had organized trash collection, but the Mac-Grove neighborhood got a grant to think about it. Some of the ideas are to "assign" haulers to different parts of the city. There are legal procedures for how to organize trash collection in state law. Minneapolis has organized trash collection. Many other cities have organized trash collection. [For a long time I was thinking about doing a rough anlysis of how much money the city loses in extra street maintenance costs by having 3-5X the number of heavy garbage trucks driving down its streets. The answer is that it's a hell of a lot!] There was a study in 2013 that said that nobody likes having lots of trucks driving up and down their street all week.


Headline: BZA supports plans for Woodlawn teardown
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A couple can tear down a home they bought and replace it. Neighbors are upset.


Headline: Ward 1 DFL falls short of endorsing City Council candidate
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Dai Thao did not get the endorsement. [Not sure why. He seems pretty good to me.]


Headline: 'Making Strides' Report outlines steps for a more accessible Green Line
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People are beginning to notice how crappy the sidewalks around University Avenue really are, especially for disabled people or old people [or anyone on foot, really].


Headline: Lex-Randolph property purchase opposed
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: City and county plans [but mostly county plans] to widen a street by tearing down existing homes [and taking away some of their yards] in order to add turn lanes are not very popular. The local neighborhood group voted to oppose. They'd also like to move the Metro Transit stop farther from the corner. Article includes LOS grades ("between C and F") [for some reason]. "Adding a northbound lane is expected to bring the grade up to a D [from an E]." [$1.5M and the loss of valuable property for an extremely marginal change?] Randolph Avenue is being reconstructed anyway.


Headline: Debate continues over Merriam Park cell tower agreement
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People are still arguing about whether the city owes the neighborhood money about a cell phone tower that was built years ago.


Headline: Residents appeal BZA decision to allow student rental on Grand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People who own a house on Grand Avenue would like to register it as a student rental but are having trouble with it because they forgot to register it when it was required after the student housing ordinance was passed two years ago. The neighborhood group is supporting the owners. Some people are upset.


Headline: Goodwill moves into new flagship store on University
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There's another Goodwill on University now. [It's got a big surface parking lot right along the sidewalk, too.]

19.3.15

Twin City Bike Parking #16

[Grand Marais.]

[Grand Marais.]

[Phillips, Minneapolis.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.]

 [Raymond Avenue, Saint Paul.]
 
[Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis.]

Signs of the Times #101

New DOOR

[Marshall Avenue, Saint Paul.]

Pillow Cleaning
New 
Tics

[Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul?]

WATCH BATTERIES
WHILE YOU WAIT

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

Please do not
Stand or Climb
on Statues!
Thanks

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

NEED YOUR DRIVERS
BACK DUE TO TICKETS
AND FINES? I 
ASSIST IN ALL
DRIVING VIOLATIONS

[Pole. West Side, Saint Paul.]

 DOGS
HERE
MUST BE 
LEASHED
Thank You!

[Fence. Northeast, Minneapolis.]

 THE ART SHOPPE
90 LOCAL
ARTISTS' 
WORK IN
HERE!

[Window. Lake Street, Minneapolis.]
 
OPEN

[Hamline Avenue, Saint Paul.]

Twin City Shovelers #5

  [Location forgotten.]

  [Location forgotten.]

  [Location forgotten.]

 [Location forgotten.]

 [West 7th, Saint Paul.]

 [Lowertown, Saint Paul.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]

16.3.15

Vehicular Violence and the War on Buildings

This weekend, yet another car plowed into yet another historic building in Saint Paul when a drunk driver ran a red light, collided with another car, and was launched into the front of the Green Mill restaurant on the corner of Grand and Hamline.* A day after the crash the car’s bumper and license plate were still inside the building.

That makes the total count something like one high-profile incident per month for the last few months. Just on the top of my tongue, I can remember the car that drove into the locally-owned pharmacy on Snelling Avenue, the car that drove into the burger bar in Lowertown, and the car that drove into the fire station on West 7th Street. For every incident that’s reported in the paper, I’m going to bet that there are two or three lesser collisions where cars jump the curb and slam into a tree, planter, pole or some other part of the streetscape.

For every car slamming into another Saint Paul business, how many sidewalk caf├ęs go missing?
Fire station.

Restaurant.

Bar.
 [Just the most recent bits of automobile erosion.]

Literal Violence

Discussing urban design, it's easy to understate the effect our automobile-dominated street design has on the quality of life in our cities. Cars are such a ubiquitous presence. Even as I type this now, my apartment window is open for the first time in half a year, and the early spring sounds of morning birds mix with the faint hum of car tires from of a nearby freeway, and the high periodic whine of cars speeding down George Street. We’re taught from an early age to be wary of streets, and speeding cars have been eroding piece of mind for so long that we forget what we're missing.

In an odd way, then, it’s easy to dwell on the ineffable and forget that cars also literally do violence to our cities. The signs are all around us, as Joe Scott’s bittersweet revenge walk reveals: scars on trees or a new facade.

In Saint Paul, Red’s Savoy Inn offers the extreme case. Red’s Savoy is an old school italian bar and restaurant, chock full of character. It’s also an island in sea of freeway interchanges, nearly the last remnant of an old industrial neighborhood that was folded into the old rail yards that used to dominate the east end of downtown Saint Paul.

During the 1960s, almost all of the neighborhood was torn down as three freeways were rammed through the neighborhood (Interstate 35E, 94, and US Highway 52 all come together here). As locals are fond of pointing out, because of one badly designed on-ramp, so many cars have gone through the front of the building that they built a permanent concrete barrier on the sidewalk.

That Red’s Savoy is still standing is a testament to resilience, not just to the economic tides, but to the literal violence of cars smashing upon its bricks like waves. Saint Paul’s Gibraltar.
 
 


* Not coincidentally, the corner of Grand and Hamline is the site of the tragic killing of Cleo Thiberge, a young exchange student who was walking down the street on her first day in Saint Paul. Thiberge had the right-of-way in the crosswalk.