Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's Up With Lyn-Lake - Is it Uptown?

As Prince said, Uptown's where you wanna be. But where is Uptown? And, more specifically for this post, should we consider Lyn-Lake to be Uptown?

Minneapolis is a city of neighborhoods, with most having very specific city-defined borders. These official neighborhoods don't always fit along with reality. Uptown's the perfect example. "Uptown" doesn't appear on NRP maps - it's not a specific neighborhood. It's a fluid area that encompasses many different areas; the formal neighborhoods most typically considered to be "Uptown" are ECCO, CARAG, East Isles, and the Wedge (LHENA).

It sometimes seems as though everyone has his or her own definition of Uptown and its borders. The Uptown Association, the neighborhood's business organization and commercial boosters, define the boundaries as Lake Calhoun to Dupont, 31st Street to 28th Street. I think most of will agree that their definition is artificially limited. It is, by necessity, a commercial definition, one that revolves around the traditional Hennepin-Lake intersection. Lyn-Lake is the next business district over, and its commercial organization defines its boundaries as Dupont to Grand, and along Lyndale from 26th to 33rd Streets. Again, a commercial definition that fails to really address the larger question of neighborhood identity for local residents.

My personal opinion? I don't think the Lyn-Lake area is Uptown, although I would push Uptown's borders over to perhaps Bryant. Lyn-Lake has its own commercial hub, a vibrant and well-established one that deserves to anchor its own neighborhood. For people who live somewhere between Lyn-Lake and Uptown they can decide for themselves whether they feel more connected to Hennepin or Lyndale.

There are strong benefits to fully acknowledging Lyn-Lake as a neighborhood in its own right. Uptown has become such a city and even metro-wide destination, one that has come to mean all sorts of things in different people's eyes. Rather than have it sprawl ever-larger, let's give all local neighborhoods - officially defined or not - the chance to embrace their own unique identity. In many big cities - New York and San Francisco, for example - you can walk for miles through one nice or interesting neighborhood after another. Perhaps one day we'll have crowds of residents and visitors strolling along Lake Street from Lake Calhoun to Hennepin to Byrant to Lyndale and from there on to Nicollet and other streets and neighborhoods farther east.

Minneapolis already has a chain of lakes - let's embrace its chain of neighborhoods.

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