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Our Streets Isn’t Just for Minneapolis Anymore

Plus Strib talks trees, converting office towers, and Ant rocks in today's Flyover news roundup.

Our Streets|

Open Streets in simpler times.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Our Streets Minneapolis

In a small but telling move, the transportation advocacy org Our Streets Minneapolis is dropping the “Minneapolis” from its name. According to a press release, “The slight rebrand better reflects their ongoing campaign to convert an urban stretch of Interstate 94, which straddles the Twin Cities, to a multimodal boulevard.” That press release also trumpets the $1.6 million federal grant Our Streets was awarded and its part in the “Bring Back 6th” campaign to convert Olson Memorial Highway into a boulevard.

Our Streets’ work is clearly no longer limited to Minneapolis, but it’s hard not to also see the name shift as a commentary on how the city of Minneapolis estranged itself from a valuable nonprofit. The organization once put on the popular Open Streets program, but after a budget dispute between Minneapolis Public Works and Our Streets, and some very confusing messaging from the city, Minneapolis and Our Streets have parted ways. The program is still on for 2024, but given the city’s belated request for proposals and the uncertainty of how it would proceed, it seems like Open Streets is on shaky ground.

Following this incredible and largely unacknowledged fumble on the part of the Frey administration, here’s hoping Our Streets gets to work with more receptive governmental structures in the future. 

The Strib Speaks for the Trees

Every so often, the biggest newspaper in Minnesota puts its resources to work to produce the kind of story that we scrappy little shoestring upstarts can only dream of. This week, the Strib went all in with this look at the Legacy Tree, a celebrated white cedar up near the Boundary Waters, its existence threatened by climate change. "We're in such dark existential times," says Paul Schurke of the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in the BWCA. "[The tree] gives us hope because it's seen its own share of existential threats."

The story, which covers the history of the region and speculates on its future, is beautifully illustrated with detailed maps, rich photography and immersive video, and a timeline of human history as represented in the cedar’s rings. Kudos to Jake Steinberg, who contributed story and graphics, and Anthony Soufflé, who handled photos and video.

Alas, I couldn’t resist clicking the little green comment bubble at the end of the story, where various experts had gathered to tell me that climate change was either not real or not man-made and that the tree would either be fine or that its death would be no big loss. Which reminded me that aside from investing in more stories like this, another way the Strib could improve itself its to finally discontinue its often-reprehensible comments section.

Live Where You (Used to) Work

The commercial vacancy rate in the Twin Cities is currently 22.6%, and no matter what Minneapolis Mayor Frey called for in his State of the City address today, the workers who stopped going into the office at the start of Covid are not all coming back. So what do we do with the giant glass edifices whose construction our cities did so much to encourage over the past few decades?  Well, we could turn them into housing.

Today MPR News spoke with developer Chris Sherman, who believes “he can create hundreds of new homes without ever having to put a shovel in the ground." Sherman Associates is currently converting Landmark Towers in St. Paul and Northstar Center in Minneapolis, where the developer plans to spend $185 million in the transformation of 600,000 square feet of office space into 400 units of housing. What if the city of the future was no longer a centered commercial/retail/tourist hub but was composed instead of an interrelated series of neighborhoods?

I know—cities rely on a commercial tax base to survive. But as St. Paul City Council Member Rebecca Noeker puts it, when it comes to taxes, “We know that a full bustling residential building is far, far better than a mostly vacant office building.”

More Like Denver Nug-ASS

We’ve got nothing to say about the Wolves’ vicious 106-80 trouncing of the Denver Nuggets last night that you couldn’t see with your own disbelieving eyes. So let’s just celebrate the easily celebratable Anthony Edwards, who scored 27 points last night along with two rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. "Once I found my second wind I knew there was nobody that could stop me," the new face of the NBA told Marney Gellner of Bally Sports North after the game.

Incidentally, an older chat between Gellner and Edwards is blowing up online today, and it’s too fun not to share. In it, Edwards discusses the sports he played growing up, including baseball (he batted “straight cleanup on aisle three, come get it”) as well as hypothetical sports he would also excel in, including “tennis, swimming, la crosse—whatever you need me to play.” Gotta love the guy.

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