Geography of the Twin Cities
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Geography of the Twin Cities Development Part 9: Redevelopment Planning David A. Lanegran Geography Department Macalester College

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Geography of the Twin Cities

DevelopmentPart 9: Redevelopment Planning

David A. Lanegran

Geography Department

Macalester College


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A 1964 view of the Metropolitan building, formerly the Guarantee Loan Building, in downtown Minneapolis. This building was torn down to make way for new development. Its destruction was a significant event in the planning and redevelopment of Minneapolis. The new plans had no place for historic preservation. The modern schools of architecture and planning were uncontested for three decades between the end of World War II and the mid-1970s. However, the destruction of the Metropolitan Building was such a dramatic event that the preservationists began to organize to save other monuments.


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The planning debates of the 1960s centered on finding a compromise between maintaining the property values and tax base of the city centers and the strong pull of suburban development which was fueled by lifestyle preferences of the population. The result was this general model called the Constellation City Model. Some humorists have called it "Dayton's Plan for the City" because it called for shopping malls in the suburbs that were being developed by Dayton's Property Division. The various centers were to be linked by transportation corridors. A close examination of this map shows that the planners of the 1960s thought the city would grow much faster than it actually did; this miscalculation can also be found in the 1917 plan for the city. However, the metro area in 2004 will look similar to this plan for 1984. A major component of the plan was the creation of a large regional park at the edge of the Metro Area. These parks were developed in the same spirit that produced the Minneapolis Parks. The open space was secured well in advance of the population growth.


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Plan of shops in Southdale Mall. In many respects, the Constellation City Plan was an attempt to catch up with what property developers had already created. The concept for the enclosed, climate controlled shopping mall came from commercial designers working for profit-making corporations rather than planners working for the common good.


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The Cedar Riverside Associates, a group of investors associated with the University of Minnesota, worked with the City of Minneapolis HRA to develop a "New Town In Town" adjacent to the West Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota. Designed by the head of the U of M Architecture school, Ralph Rapson, the design was quintessentially modern, with direct links to the new towns of Northern Europe. Developed in the mid 1960s as an effort to transform the area of the city with the most dilapidated properties and lowest land values, Cedar Riverside was to be a multi-cultural, mixed income, vibrant community that would be an exciting alternative to the suburbs. However, the project was begun at the wrong time and in the wrong place. In 1967 the student protests against central authority began in Paris and spread throughout Europe and North America. The West Bank became the counter culture's home base in Minnesota. The centralized modern design of Cedar Riverside was unacceptable to this population, and through a series of court actions, it brought the corporation into bankruptcy. The result has been low income households living in high-rise towers, attracting crime and violence.


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The counter culture in the 1970s continued to claim the fringe of the University Campus, and a few entrepreneurs moved there to market the ambiance. Gradually the university expanded and other developers built smaller housing projects. But the dream of an exciting mixed community was never realized.


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The use of murals to define communities and express hopes for the future was wide spread in the 1970s. Public art became a topic of community interest and eventually city governments passed requirements for art to be included in all large construction projects.


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The river valley was a target for planners in the 1970s. The biggest dream was to transform the Pig's Eye Lake area and make the marsh and shallow lake into a major river port and recreational area. Some development had occurred along the east bank of the river and the water treatment facility had been surrounded by a flood wall. The plan (on next slide) was quite controversial.


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This rather unusual plan called for the development of a heavy industrial area on each end of Pigs Eye Lake and the creation of a large recreation area in the middle, very close to the sewage treatment plant. In the end an environmental group called the "Pig's Eye Coalition" argued that the heron rockery on the lake had to be preserved and the development should not go forward. Other skeptics wondered about the viability of a plan that called for picnic grounds and campsites so close to the treatment facility. The failure of the plan was the beginning of a trend toward the re-evaluation of riverfront property.


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Model of Pig's Eye Development


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The future of the old streetcar commercial streets was in doubt all throughout the final decades of the 20th century. They were difficult to redevelop. Some contained interesting old buildings that were under-utilized and provided very low cost housing; however, the old buildings were not earning enough money to pay for major repairs they needed, and many feared deterioration would make them un-savable. The Fort Road/West Seven Federation, a local resident and business organization, became active and succeeded in getting a grant from the Federal Government via the City of St. Paul to redevelop the communities and businesses in the area.


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The plans for West Seventh involved a variety of programs that made the first floor commercial space oriented toward restaurants and shops, and the upper floors were converted to market rate housing or offices.


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The great development programs of the 1960s and 1970s involved the freeways. This is a view of I35W as it goes south from the center of Minneapolis. The freeway designers were careful to wind the route between the Minneapolis Art Institute complex and the Honeywell corporation. In a sense, this freeway is the modern version of the boulevard called for in the 1917 plan The freeway encouraged residential development in the southern suburbs.


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Sibley Plaza shopping center. This was one of the first attempts to bring ideas from suburban communities into the older sections of the city. The concept is quite simple: just develop auto oriented low-rise shopping centers in older neighborhoods and ignore the pre-existing landscape!


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This map of population and projected population prepared by the Metro Council was intended to illustrate the rapid growth of employment in the beltline. Some of the development did not occur because 3M moved divisions to Austin Texas rather than build a new campus on Highway 5 in Oakdale.


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Tommy Thompson, the city administrator of Minneapolis, the planning department, and the downtown business community determined that the CBD could be greatly strengthened by connecting the Mall with the Lake District by a new development along the newly created Greenway. This bold move was costly and nearly caused the city to over-extend its borrowing capacity. However, the development has been very successful.


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The IDS Tower was finished in 1970 and served as the new symbol for Minneapolis. It was significantly taller than the existing skyline and was a statement about the future of the city. This slide shows the City Center building under construction and the West Bank of the falls before any redevelopment occurred.


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Although the 1964 plan for Minneapolis called for the building of many three-story apartment buildings in the older neighborhoods, there was one development at Franklin and Milwaukee Avenue that went against the trend. The Milwaukee Avenue Project involved historic preservation and reconstruction of smaller houses.


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The houses on Milwaukee Avenue were originally built for railroad workers, but with the use of large subsidies, the houses were transformed into space for middle- and upper middle-income households who wanted an alternative to suburban development.


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The new model neighborhood de-emphasized the automobile and made the focus on the neighborhood and the intensively-landscaped pedestrian way.


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Upper income town-house communities were also built near Loring Park as another option for in-town living.


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The county government became involved in the redevelopment of downtown in a very direct way. After a great deal of consideration, the new county courthouse was built in two blocks adjacent to the old building. It is interesting to note that the old building occupied the entire block while the new building spans a street and is surrounded by open space. Also visible are the blocks of surface parking that were created by the clearance programs. The sharp contrast between tall buildings and surface parking indicate an unusual land market at the time.


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The Hubert H. Humphrey Metro Dome. The city planners were eager to have professional sports come into downtown and expected a boom in land use around the dome.


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The East Bank of the Falls district was viewed as a great opportunity for the development of a festival market and new residential community. There had been an earlier attempt to redevelop the area away from the river for middle income households and for students attending the University of Minnesota.


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The plan for the East Bank called for the restoration and re-use of the oldest buildings (the limestone structure on the left) and warehouses (the brick building on the right), as well as new construction of mid- to high-rise residential structures and parking ramps. The mixture of new and old was thought to be a combination that would attract shoppers, seekers of entertainment, and people interested in distinctive neighborhoods.


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Due to the historic nature of this site, the developers faced several hurdles; one was to relocate this building which had served as a livery stable. The building was moved to a nearby site to make way for high-rise residential units.


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The Gateway renewal area was eventually redeveloped but with high rise residential structures. Both apartment blocks and condominium towers were built. This development resulted from new ideas about the future of city centers. Commercial land use was not expected to continually expand out from the most accessible location. Instead the old commercial areas were redefined as residential areas. These new neighborhoods grew very rapidly.


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View of residential tower in gateway redevelopment area. The new structures offered spectacular views of the downtown and riverfront and created a new neighborhood for young professionals and empty-nesters.


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This scene shows the building know as City Center under construction. The building was the last modern style building in downtown. Produced by Oxford Development Corporation from Toronto, the building proved to be very efficient, but its design failed to spark much enthusiasm.


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On of the great innovations of the Minneapolis plan was the redevelopment of the warehouse district. The great Butler Building became the showpiece of the early efforts to revitalize this area as an entertainment district for the entire metro area. Thus, while the old red light and cheap bar entertainment districts were left alone, Hennepin was the victim of urban renewal a new up-scale entertainment district was developed on First Avenue.


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The Butler Brothers Wholesale Hardware Company built this building to solidify their hold on the businesses of the upper Midwest. The redevelopers gutted the building and exposed the fantastic timber frame. The space was opened and offices created in the upper floors; restaurants and shops occupied the lower levels. Butler Square was to be the anchor for the redevelopment of the entertainment district.


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The new spaces made possible some creative designs such as these interior window boxes.


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This air view of downtown St. Paul indicates both the strengths and weaknesses of the location. The freeway had successfully cut the downtown off from inner neighborhoods and the capital campus. In addition, the old street pattern had been preserved; however, the picturesque views of the river had not been maximized. This low-rise core attracted a great deal of investment and renewal programs during the three decades from the mid-1960s to the end of the century.


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This view shows us the "opportunity" of downtown St. Paul. The St. Paul Companies would eventual build new office headquarters on the surface parking on the other side of Landmark Center. In the process, a new exterior would be applied to the old headquarters and the wondrous 1960s blue would be lost. This area still has not been developed to its potential.


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Galtier Plaza under construction. This effort to develop a new commercial and residential community in Lower Town was made possible by visions of city centers based on the experience of Minneapolis and cities further east. However, the building plan was too large for this particular site, and the mall that was built did not attract shoppers to this old warehouse district. The building eventually changed hands for ten cents on the dollar. The retail space has been replaced with offices, though the residential portion has always been popular.


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Smith Park was renamed Meers Park, and it was the initial booster of Lower Town. A hard edge urban surface was installed in the park that was thought to be a great match for the new high rise structures. The park has since been rebuilt.


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In some cases, the building of office blocks in the suburbs seems to defy the logic of land markets. These buildings are really not designed to maximize income on small blocks of land, but rather to be symbols surrounded by parking lots.


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The freeway strips, or edge cities, are developing a multiplicity of services and closely resemble the historic downtown. In addition to shopping and office facilities, hotels and entertainment complexes have been built in edge cities.


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In an effort to revitalize downtown St. Paul, the administration of Mayor George Latimer worked with the State Government, then lead by Governor Rudy Perpich, to establish a World Trade Center in Downtown St. Paul. The site selected was a lot that had been cleared for urban development but remained vacant for a decade. The general plan was to use this World Trade Corporation to promote new trade connections between Minnesota businesses and organizations around the world. The building was expected to house a variety of corporations engaged in trade and other services. This is an excellent example of how local governments worked to stimulate economic development in downtowns by finding new functions.


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This is the base of the World Trade Center under construction. The sign indicates the change in land value. Land that was used for a surface parking lot was converted to a first-class office high rise.


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This view down Fifth Street shows two other public-private efforts intended to save the downtown and find new functions as the traditional downtown functions moved to suburban malls. The Ordway Music Theater on the right was developed primarily by private funds. It reflects the trend toward making downtowns entertainment and cultural centers instead of retailing and business centers. In the background, the building known as Landmark Towers can be seen. This structure was built by the St. Paul Port Authority to lease to American Hoist and Derrick or Am Hoist. Am Hoist wanted a corporate headquarters but could not afford to build a signature building. After leasing space for a while, the company moved to Denver. This building has continued to provide space to both corporate tenants and residential units on the highest floors.


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Ordway music theater


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The St Paul Union Depot has attracted a variety of developers. The massive façade and interior impress visitors but provide somewhat inflexible spaces. Presently, restaurants occupy the main hall. The concourses, or waiting areas, have been used from time to time to house special exhibitions but have no permanent tenant.


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Commercial redevelopment and gentrification displaced many low income workers from affordable housing in downtown. This building was remodeled to provide a type of apartment known as "single room occupancy."


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The restoration of Landmark Center was the spark needed to begin the revitalization of the Rice Park District. However, the commercial power in this part of the city is the St. Paul Companies (The St. Paul) world headquarters. This corporation, together with the Minnesota Mutual Insurance Company and Lawson Software, dominate both the skyline and the business culture.


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In order to maintain the accessibility of downtown, the city government worked with the Minnesota Highway Department to create a new exit from east-bound I-94 that allows for a an easy entry into the western side of downtown. This is an example of people changing the relative location of a place to make it competitive in a new transportation or technologic era.


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The Falls of St. Anthony. The old industrial functions of the river banks at the falls have diminished and the site is being redeveloped as an entertainment and residential district. The history and spectacular landscape attracts visitors from far and wide. The old Stone Arch Bridge has been converted to a pedestrian route and provides extraordinary views of the Falls and the old milling district.


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The view of the Minneapolis Central Business District (CBD) from the east bank of the river gives an impression of a "work in progress." The Minneapolis City Government and the downtown business community have worked hard to create a critical mass of buildings and supportive institutions to attract and maintain corporate headquarters in the historic core.


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Another view of the redevelopment of downtown Minneapolis


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The downtown plan for Minneapolis called for several key features. It was to become a "high-rise downtown" with distinctive buildings. A large convention center and hotel complex would be built. Freeways would bring workers and visitors into a series of large parking ramps on the fringe of the CBD. Skyways would be used to create a pedestrian district within the downtown.


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The Loring Greenway provided a spine for the development of new condominiums and apartments near the fringe of downtown. This was done in response to the idea of creating a new neighborhood in the city center. In many ways, this was a rejection of the older models of urban change which called for only low income households close to the city core. Some argued that high income households would not move into these buildings because of the Minnesotan taste for lakes and suburbs. The nay-sayers were proven wrong; this area provides enormous vitality to the city.


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The creation of a new neighborhood in the city core did not slow down the rate of urban expansion. A variety of communities were built on the fringe. In addition to large single-family houses on large lots, small homes were built as well as apartments, quad homes and other higher density buildings. These quad homes are in West Bloomington


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This building, named Edinburgh, represents another style of development. In response to the dictates of winter-city design, this building was constructed to combine residential buildings, an office tower, and a park, thereby limiting the needs to move outside the structure during inclement weather.


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The increased accessibility of the freeway created new phenomenon sometimes referred to as "edge cities." The office functions that were concentrated in the city center during the streetcar and early automobile eras moved to freeway intersections. Here the corporations could attract workers from the growing suburbs and build signature buildings that could be seen by thousands of highway commuters each day.


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This is the development of Anderson Lakes, the last open land along the south belt way (near Southdale). The area was used as a gravel pit to building the many structures of the southwest sector of the metro area. Finally it became too valuable to leave undeveloped.


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Another view of the suburban development process near Southdale


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