Downtown Voices

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November 17, 2003 // UPDATED 11:07 am - April 30, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

NIMBY go away The skyline is beautiful in part because it changes; don't listen to those who complain about it

I've now lived on the 30th floor of a Loring Park apartment building for seven years. It's the first time that I've lived above the third floor. It means I take the elevator instead of the stairs.

Back in 1996, when I was looking for a new place to live, I fell in love with the view. Only later did I realize that it is a collection of views.

At night, when the wind is in the right direction, I'll see a long line of lights from airplanes headed toward the airport. I can see to Bloomington, or the leaves on the ground near the Art Institute. If it's cloudy, I may barely be able to see the hotel next door.

If I look the other direction, I see two flag-topped tower cranes working on changes to the skyline.

The most notable change in my seven years has been the Target office tower. It's notable for a couple of reasons: its unique lighting display and that it is relatively nearby. Back in 1980, when I moved to this city, we only had IDS and Foshay -- now we even have a halo.

Personally, I think we look more like a city now.

What I find strange is when people who live in Downtown high-rises start objecting to the construction of (drum roll please) ... new Downtown high-rises. I'm not sure if they are worried that their view might change (news flash: it will) or if it's size envy. What it isn't is logical.

Over 20,000 people live Downtown. It's a growing number. It's a densely populated place, no wasteful 5-acre lots; we just stack 'em on top of each other. It's efficient, doesn't require much snowplowing or many miles of utilities per household. Some people even manage to walk to work. If we keep growing, we could have 10 percent of the city's population living here in the next decade.

The density creates the opportunity for restaurants, retailers and services that make the area both pleasant and desirable.

Contrary to what some would like you to believe, it's a safe place, too. OK, we don't have a real grocery store. Even if we did, most would probably still drive since carrying gets tough after a couple of blocks, so we continue to live without it.

Still, Minneapolis is a city that has advanced NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) to a science. On a recent Sunday morning run, I went past the new Stone Arch Apartments just downstream from St. Anthony Main. Stone Arch's design includes an interesting mix of exterior materials, a nice looking collection of buildings. Guess what? The neighbors didn't want it. I guess they thought, who wants more neighbors anyway? Not that Stone Arch is very close to any of its neighbors.

The Pillsbury "A" Mill has been proposed for housing -- lots of housing. I can hear it now, the residents of the old grain elevators across the river will be telling us that converting a flour mill site to housing is not consistent with the property's historic use. NIMBY needs to get a life.

The first revivals of St. Anthony Main and Riverplace were less than smashing successes. However, in recent years, we've seen fresh development across the river, new housing, nice restaurants.

The "A" Mill proposal provides more units of housing (1,000) than many Minnesota towns. All of Traverse County, Minn. has 2,200 housing units; Southeast Main Street doesn't even need a Sheriff.

Take the path across the bridge from Boom Island toward the Nicollet Island Inn. You find a real neat neighborhood right in the shadow of the city. That neighborhood is living proof that you can build nearby and still maintain interesting neighborhoods.

When you exit the path, you see what cities are known for: the skyline. The skyline is a canvas for a piece or art that never gets completed. Just as Ft. Snelling grew up along the riverbanks, a century later, we are building near the falls. No city's canvas will ever be completed.

One Twin Cities editorial writer once referred to the Independent Confederation of Minneapolis, I often think of a collection of fiefdoms. Either way, the message is the same: NIMBY go away, let's have a dynamic city.

Terrell Brown lives in Loring Park and works Downtown. He can be reached at terrell@terrellbrown.org. Letters to the editor may be sent to dbrauer@skywaynews.net.