Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Step Carefully

Since living in New York City I have seen waterfront industry disappear and be replaced by skyscraper condos. Along with it comes displacement (of residents and jobs) and new housing that is usually not geared towards the current residents. This article in Minn Post about the Hiawatha Corridor and its future is troubling. Cities (NYC is not alone in this one) tend to see progress through new growth. While this new development can be justified, the question that is not asked: Can we rebuild what is about to be lost forever?
The first step in that process is now under way — a close study of the historic significance of the businesses, homes and other buildings in the three-block-wide strip between Hiawatha and Minnehaha avenues. It's an area full of challenges to county and city planners, mainly because it includes a highly visible swath of historic grain elevators and a still-functioning railroad spur serving them.

Among the questions facing them is how these towering silos — which, after all, still provide valuable jobs, industrial tax base and freight rail transportation connections — can be made to fit with the successful kind of "livability" moves performed along the Greenway. Steps like bike and walking paths free from dangerous motorized traffic, rebuilt road and sewer infrastructure made to suit residential uses, and extensive environmental clean-up?

This article clearly demonstrates that this is an active industrial area. While it is never easy to balance residential and industrial land use in combination, it would behoove the city to listen to residents and move slowly. Although these silos might not be worthy of being historical landmarks (defined by who?), what seems more critical to this situation is how can Minneapolis improve the city through livability, without having negative consequences for existing areas that create and maintain jobs. The wrong path is creating a wrong by doing a right, a lesson that our cities need to learn as we move forward.

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