Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Thoughts on Lyn-Lake and Uptown

In a city with sharply defined boundaries between official, government-recognized neighborhoods, Lyn-Lake and Uptown stand out as being more ambiguous communities. While not neighborhoods in the NRP sense, they are neighborhoods in the community sense. To complicate things further there is no one, shared larger vision of exactly what is the Lyn-Lake "neighborhood" versus what is Uptown. In addition, two formal neighborhoods (CARAG and the Wedge - aka LHENA) straddle both Uptown and Lyn-Lake. I've addressed this in other posts, but given that Lyn-Lake is currently in the process of creating a Small Area Plan of their own I thought it worth another visit.

As with Uptown, the Lyn-Lake Small Area Plan process started with a series of community meetings. While the complete report has not yet been issued, initial meeting notes as well as additional materials can be found online. Some of the comments I found most interesting, as well as relevant to a larger Lyn-Lake/Uptown discussion include the following (not direct quotes):

  • One participant lives between Uptown and the plan's Lyn-Lake cut-off boundary; this person stated that they do not consider themselves as living in Uptown, and believed that the two areas were distinct and unique.

I know that there are several ways of looking at this. One perspective is that Uptown is a vast, sprawling area encompassing multiple commercial districts. Lyn-Lake might be considered part of Uptown if you take that view. The other perspective is the one taken by this participant; Uptown and Lyn-Lake are different places. I happen to agree with this person - I feel that Lyn-Lake and Uptown are, and should be, seen as separate and unique. They are, on the other hand, very closely interconnected, and realistically it is impossible to totally separate the two. Perhaps the implementation of the Uptown Small Area Plan and the future completion and implementation of the Lyn-Lake Small Area Plan will help each area to better tackle these complex issues for the benefit of both Lyn-Lake and Uptown.

This participant's comments also highlight the personal subjective nature of identifying with neighborhoods; I'd guess that there are others living on the same block who feel a strong affiliation with Uptown. It also serves as a reminder that the official boundaries of formal neighborhoods, typically major commercial streets, do not always correlate with the more unofficial community boundaries of city neighborhoods.

  • Several people thought that Lyn-Lake of today reminded them of Uptown of the 1960s and 1970s .

I agree with this. It's one of the strongest appeals of Lyn-Lake today. Lyn-Lake has a more old-school, eclectic, non-yuppified vibe going for it. The challenge will be to retain that feel as it continues to evolve.

  • At least one person wanted Lyn-Lake to retain its own distinct identity, and not be seen as Uptown's "dowdy sister."

Amen to this! Lyn-Lake should be distinct, should be celebrated, and shouldn't be seen as "Uptown-lite."

Exciting vibrant and walkable cities such as New York, San Francisco, or Washington DC contain long strings of interesting neighborhoods. Take Washington DC, for example. Let's say you live in Dupont Circle. You can stay in the neighborhood, enjoying all it has to offer, but whenever you want a change of pace you can walk to nearby Adams Morgan, Georgetown, or Woodley Park for a completely different feel. I'd like to think that Uptown and Lyn-Lake can be sort of like Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan - different but equally nice neighborhoods in their own ways, with at-times blurred borders yet each with with a strong sense of personal identity.

Both Uptown and Lyn-Lake leaders, as well as the City of Minneapolis, not to mention the many residents of both neighborhoods (wherever you consider their boundaries to fall) recognize the importance of strong connections between Lyn-Lake and Uptown. These connections should continue to strengthen with the completion of both Small Area Plans, as well as with continued improvements and activity along the Midtown Greenway as well as along Lake Street. The future looks exciting, whether for Lyn-Lake, Uptown, or a broader "UPTOWN" encompassing it all.


  1. I live in the Lyn-Lake area and read the Lyn-Lake small area draft plan yesterday.

    Maybe I read through it too quickly, but I found nothing that excited me or, for that matter nothing that particularly bothered me.

    What did like or dislike about what it had to say?

  2. I started writing this post a couple of days ago, and at that point I don't think the final draft had been put on the website - I'll have to take a look at the complete draft now that it's up.

    That said, what excited me most about the initial materials was primarily the fact that Lyn-Lake is getting a plan - it's an opportunity to get a diverse range of people together to discuss the community at both the theoretical and the practical level. On a smaller level, I also liked the discussion of community gardens - that's something that didn't really appear in Uptown's plan.

    I'll have to take a close look at the official draft and see how it all came together. I'll be curious to hear what others think, too.