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Joe Urban

612-251-4662 3913 29th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Last Build Date: Wed, 06 Dec 2017 21:41:50 +0000



Wed, 06 Dec 2017 21:40:53 +0000

The highlight of watching my son’s soccer game last month was the rare sight of a 747 taking off from the nearby MSP airport. For me, the highlight of CNU in Detroit (DTW) last year was arriving that the terminal to see a 747 parked at the gate, preparing for the long flight to Seoul (ICN). The 747 still stops people short, a combination of stellar industrial design, a symbol of cultural and technological change, and an encapsulation of the wonder of flight. As a kid there were three 747 departures per day out of MSP (didn’t you learn your…

Downtown Minneapolis Salvation

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:20:05 +0000

Alright, I’ll bite. Nick Magrino’s recent post in the City Pages, One Weird Trick to Fix Downtown Minneapolis, got me thinking. While I’ve advocated for (and been criticized for) skyway removal, my ultimate goal is the same as that of many Minneapolitans, that I just want to see a vibrant downtown Minneapolis street life, with ground floor retail spaces buzzing with activity. I say remove the skyways. Nick Magrino suggests banning skyway level retail. Let’s consider this. Early in my career I was a commercial appraiser, working downtown. One comparable retail space table stands out in my mind all these…

Tom Petty

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 16:15:18 +0000

When it comes to music, 1989 is my formative year, hands down. I was 14, years old, discovered The Beatles, learned guitar, started my first band, saw my first concert, smoked my first cigarette, became a vegetarian and grew a mullet (thanks to Paul McCartney for, um, all of these). Eventually bacon obliterated my vegetarianism, the mullet was short-lived, and luckily I had friends who would have laughed if they knew I smoked, so I never made it a habit. I still try to play bass like Paul McCartney. But definitely the most lasting influence from 1989 is Tom Petty’s…

While I’m Fishing, the Grocery Industry is Churning

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 16:22:09 +0000

On a couple occasions this summer I was able to go fishing on a Thursday. That’s the day we receive delivery from our CSA from Turnip Rock. I arrive home with a couple fish on the stringer, eager to know what vegetables we got from the farm. For dinner the entire meal is either direct from “our” farm or caught by me, including a growler of beer from the Northbound! It’s pretty cool to come home with a fresh catch for dinner, but even more gratifying to know my kids understand where some of their food comes from. I do…

Panama Canal Impacts Logistics, Real Estate and the Global Supply Chain

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:42:43 +0000

The global economy is fascinating to me, particularly the supply chain, logistics and how goods are moved across the planet. I’ve followed this since writing two articles in 2009 and 2010 for Urban Land magazine. Now that the expanded Panama Canal is complete (in 2016), allowing significantly larger container ships through, what are the impacts on global trade and real estate? Research departments at the large real estate firms are already speculating, and reporting some shifts in activity. Most consumer goods imported from across the Pacific are unloaded at west coast ports, and containers are loaded on trains and/or trucks…

Little Infill – 3535 Grand

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:07:42 +0000

Among the latest little infill projects in Minneapolis is 3535 Grand, by the Lander Group. This project builds somewhat on Lander’s recent Motiv, but breaks new ground (pun intended) in a number of ways. There are 24 somewhat affordable units on what were two city lots, parking is in back where it belongs, and the building is an attractive addition to the urbanity of this street. Based on the notion that the surrounding neighborhood and city holds the amenities, Lander Group added very few within the 3535 Grand building. Much has been made of the missing middle in the past couple years as developers struggle to…

Mainstreet Hopkins is Almost Perfect

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:25:45 +0000

Last week I met a colleague at Munkabeans Cafe & Coffeehouse on the beautiful Mainstreet in Hopkins, Minnesota. Of all the Main Streets in America, the Hopkins version is unique because they smash the two words together. Mainstreet. And a fine street it is, better than before, having been recently rebuilt and with some new businesses drawing me there. But there is just one problem. You have to apply to cross the street. After my meeting I was keen to visit Mill City Sound, so I set off on the four block walk. As it was bright but brisk, I…

Tough Love for Downtown Minneapolis

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 17:32:15 +0000

I took my mother to the Oak Grill in January. We needed to see the place one last time. Share one last popover. And a manhattan. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never been. So for me eating at the Oak Grill was a new experience in downtown Minneapolis. Looking around the dining room that day I suspect I was the only one for whom this was true. For them, a piece of downtown died last month. I’m not sure what it meant for me. The downtown I miss is shown in the photo above. Sure, I did shop at Dayton’s and…

Simple Urbanism – Inspiration and Aspiration

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:12:57 +0000

As a follow-up to the critique of a recent post about the urban design of Harriet’s Inn, let’s consider the parts of the city that inspire us and the standards to which we should be aspiring. To do so, we need only look past Harriet’s Inn, as well as the gold standard for old urbanism in the Twin Cities, Linden Hills. Assisting us is a really great recent how-to guide on urban storefronts by Steve Mouzon at Original Green. Looking up the Lyndale Avenue and across 40th Street from Harriet’s Inn (above) is the kind of streetcar-era mixed-use building that…

Urban Plan – Democracy in Training

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:06:58 +0000

I celebrated inauguration day last week by observing democracy in action. “Democracy in training” is probably the more apt phrase. The Minnesota chapter of the Urban Land Institute has been working with Roseville High School for more than a decade with their Urban Plan program, and last Friday seven student groups presented their RFP responses to the mayor and city council, and a winner was awarded the project. Here’s how it works. Students are put in groups of five and given a map of a redevelopment area in a city. Using oversized Legos, their task is to determine what uses…