Sunday, March 15, 2009

Uptown in a Larger Context

A recent Pew Research Center study declares Minnesota to be what they define as a low magnet/sticky state. In other words, Minnesota doesn’t attract a large number of new residents (perhaps they’re afraid of the cold?) but does retain most of its natives for life. Some other interesting statistics, also from the Pew Research Center:
  • 37% of Americans have never lived outside of their hometowns; this number rises to 46% in the Midwest.
  • 57% of Americans, and 64% of Midwesterners, have not lived outside of their home state.
  • 15% of Americans have lived in four or more states.

So what does this have to do with Uptown? Although I don’t have the statistics for Uptown. I would suspect that Uptown, as a desirable city neighborhood, has a higher percentage of people born elsewhere. Still, I’m sure that there are many residents in Uptown who have never lived outside of the Twin Cities, or of Minnesota. This potentially translates into a population consisting of people who have limited experiences with other cities. While this can be mitigated by travel and research, a tendency towards parochialism, combined with an at-times smugness and a rah-rah Minnesota attitude, can hurt Minneapolis and Uptown by squashing deeper dialogue and limiting vision.

I think this limited viewpoint can be seen most acutely in discussions about transportation. It's shocking that a metro area of this size is so lacking in rail options. We’re finally starting to make up for lost time, but perhaps if more people were familiar with light rail, subways, and commuter rail found in other cities across the world they’d more fully embrace light rail in the Twin Cities. Similarly, if more Uptowners had lived in cities with busy light rail or subway networks they’d better understand why so many people consider it vital that the Southwest LRT alignment come through Uptown.

A limited understanding of other cities also leads to at-times silly assertions. Remember a few years ago when there was talk about the “Manhattanization” of Lake Calhoun’s shores? It may be news to the neighborhood’s hard-core NIMBYs, but Uptown is no Manhattan. It goes the other way too, sometimes, with proud Uptowners comparing the neighborhood to Greenwich Village. Again, for better or worse, Uptown is no Manhattan.

I am a strong advocate for exploring other cities. I’ve lived a lot of places in my life, and every experience has helped me to further refine the way I think about urban design and the makings of a good – or bad – neighborhood. They’ve also helped me to better put Uptown into a larger, national context. Travel, too, has shown me yet more neighborhood options. The world is wide open with possibilities, and Uptowners needn’t be restrained when it comes to daydreaming about the future.

I’ve been doing a little thinking about what other national (and maybe international) neighborhoods Uptown resembles. One of Uptown’s charms is, of course, that it retains a distinct identity. Still, there are certainly many comparisons to be made, all of which can help us to better understand what works and doesn’t work about this neighborhood, as well as to provide some inspiration for further developing Uptown’s unique identity. I’ll post my personal summary later this week, but in the meantime I’d love to hear from others what neighborhoods Uptown should be looking at as we continue to chart the future.

To be continued…

No comments:

Post a Comment