Capacity crowd turns out to discuss streetscapes at MinnPost Social with Andy Sturdevant

MinnPost photo by Andrew Wallmeyer
Andy Sturdevant speaking during Monday night's MinnPost Social at Open Book.

About 90 people joined MinnPost Tuesday night at Open Book in Minneapolis to discuss how writers, artists, and those with “outsider” perspectives see and experience the Twin Cities with MinnPost columnist Andy Sturdevant.

Executive Editor Andrew Putz moderated the 90-minute discussion, which touched on a wide range of topics, including alley murals, accessory dwelling units, anti-stadium fliers taped to utility poles, streetcar lines, Edina labyrinths, and the enduring mysteries of stucco.

Sturdevant, a native of Louisville, Ky., said one of the first things that struck him about Minneapolis-St. Paul when he moved here in his mid-20s – apart from the prevalence of stucco – was the orderliness of the cities’ street grids, which to him seemed to stretch on forever.

“It wasn’t until I saw this map of the streetcar system as it was in the 1930s that I really understood why things are the way they are here,” he told the capacity crowd. “These were cities built for and by streetcars. Although the streetcar lines have long since disappeared, you can still see their influence today. … The intersections where they stopped remain commercial centers evenly spaced among blocks of modest single-family homes. That pattern gives a natural, almost musical, rhythm to the cities’ streets.”

The conversation was a part of the MinnPost Social event series, sponsored by RBC Wealth Management, in which our journalists share their insights with the public in a casual atmosphere. The events are free for MinnPost members, $10 for non-members.

The next MinnPost Social, which will preview the upcoming state legislative session, will take place in March.

The conversation was a part of the MinnPost Social event series
MinnPost photo by Andrew Wallmeyer
The conversation was a part of the MinnPost Social event series in which our journalists share their insights with the public in a casual atmosphere.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/18/2015 - 09:29 am.

    Effective System

    We did have an excellent urban transit system of streetcars, and still do with buses running those same routes. So, why don’t we patronize the current system to its potential? Suburbs…the short answer…requiring multiple transfers to reach the city core. Perhaps we are also no longer tough enough to wait ten minutes in the cold wind of winter for that transfer. Or, perhaps we have allowed our fundamental non-social natures to preclude shared transport. Would we not otherwise have a more robust commuter coach park/ride system? Don’t get me wrong here, I think rail is terrific, but also horrendously expensive per rider mile and, well, “untrackable.”

    The original grid was purposely designed to place most residents within about six blocks of a car line (and still within that same distance to a bus). We changed, not the system. Those who now live in Mac-Groveland or Uptown Mpls. have much the same convenient options as those who lived there 85 years ago. Can we make that claim for most any other element of contemporary living?

    If you can, live and work in town. Take the bus. Text at will without peril.

  2. Submitted by Art Bandini on 11/26/2015 - 08:58 am.

    Urban plans

    Although Mr. Million states, “The original grid was purposely designed to place most residents within about six blocks of a car line”, the reverse is true. The street car lines were designed to place most residents within six blocks of a car line on a pre-existing grid plan. As evidence, examine early plat maps of Minneapolis and note the grid pattern which pre-exists the street car lines by many years. The actual building of houses on the grid plan proceeded at an earlier date the closer they were to street car access, but the grid plan itself pre-existed the street cars.

    That development follows transportation access is true, of course. Witness the recent push for construction of the new Stillwater bridge across the St. Croix, which was driven by parties with an economic interest in development of new suburban communities in western Wisconsin – banks, local businesses, local government, construction-related firms, unions, and so on.

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