Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Amazing Race Season 9!!!!!!
Time to kiss the Tuesday nights goodbye until summer. This is one of the best damn shows on the air right now along with LOST on ABC Wednesday nights and Battlestar Galactica on Friday nights. Man, i am turning into such a waste of space...
Hopefully the adventures of the Amazing Race will inspire me for some crazy adventures when I am abroad in Norway next Fall.

Brokeback Mayors – Support University LRT

The local Star Tribune had a great article about the growing cooperation between Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and newly elected St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. To read the article click here.

Both Mayors support the Central Corridor and I think both prefer the Light Rail alternatives. Hopefully, with the combined cooperation between the two cities, the Mayors could use their combined political clout to put pressure on the Governor and the Minnesota Legislature in drafting a dedicated source of funding for our mass transit projects and potentially have the proposed network fully developed by 2020.

In addition to this new investment in Infrastructure, I hope the region can also pass new design guidelines in the local zoning codes to ensure use of Transit Oriented Development or New Urbanism designs in transit corridors of both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Let’s hope it happens an the cooperation between the two cities continues…

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Powers of Persuasion

I think my skills in persuasion are already starting to improve thanks to this Persuasion Theory class that I am taking here at the University of Minnesota. Take for example the events of Wednesday night. The Sklar brothers were in town as the headliners for a comedy show at Coffman Union. I found out about the show Monday night and decided that I wasn’t going to miss it.

I tried to convince Frank to come, but instead he and Ta went to the Gophers vs. Purdue Basketball Game. On Wednesday evening, Kirsten and I both got off work at 4 and grabbed some sandwiches from Erbs & Gerbs for dinner. After that we went to Espresso Royal and grabbed some Chocolate Chi Tea and attempted to do some studying. I didn’t want to stay very long afraid that I wouldn’t get a good seat at the comedy show. With Frank and Ta going to the Basketball Game, I tried to convince Kristen to join me.

Kristen had a night class Wednesday night and was trying to do her reading before class at 6:40. The comedy show was scheduled to start at 7 PM. However, she is taking the class pass/fail and I felt that her missing it and having some fun wouldn’t hurt. Plus, I stressed that the show was free and would be a chance for the two of us to spend some time together because Kristen was going home to Dassel this weekend.

We got to Coffman pretty early and waited for the people organizing the show to let us sit down. The theater was pretty empty for a while but then filled up just after the opener started. As Kristen mentioned in her post, the opener from Mystery Science Theater 3000, was disappointing and only had a few funny moments.

The Sklar brothers, however, were hilarious. Many of the people in the audience came to see the Sklar brothers, after seeing them on Comedy Central Presents and their show on ESPN Classic. They have a great two-man gig and did some of their classic material such as “Chopper 4” and “Unsung heroes: Strip Club DJ”. They also had some good new material that I hadn’t heard before including some jokes about people from the Twin Cities.

This weekend, Kristen is in Dassel and will be back on Sunday. Last night, I hung out with some of my friends from freshman and sophomore years here at the University. This morning I woke up with a hang over but nothing that some orange juice and breakfast couldn’t cure.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend


Friday, February 17, 2006

Pillsbury A Mill Developers Wins Appeal.

Yesterday I attended the public hearing on the appeal of Shafer Richardson’s (SR) plan to develop the Pillsbury A Mill complex. In January, the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) denied Shafer Richardson’s plan citing that the proposed towers would significantly alter the historic landscape. However, the two major neighborhood organizations of Marcy-Holmes approved SR’s plans citing that “in lieu of the heights, the plan accomplishes the goals of the community by making the riverfront more accessible to everybody.” To read the two articles from the local Star Tribune follow the proceeding links: February 16 and February 17.

This is a very exciting turn of events. For a while I was unsure whether the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee would agree with the HPC or approve the plan. In my opinion, the city of Minneapolis and Marcy-Holmes will both benefit from this reinvestment in a growing “Historical District” that encompasses both sides of the Minneapolis Riverfront.

There were a number of important issues brought up by ward members including:
• The Significance of Small Areas Plans.
• The Power that neighborhoods and their Master Plans have and how strictly they have to adhere to them in regards to development.
• Potential precedents that may result from allowing taller developments.
• Continued importance of Historic Preservation, Strengthening of city neighborhoods economically, and continue the reinvestment of the Minneapolis Riverfront.

A great day for the eventual intensification of development in Minneapolis and St. Paul, now if only we could throw a street car line in behind the development that goes all the way to the Central Corridor…But that would be asking way too much so I will take what we got. It will be interesting to see if SR will redesign the site so that taller buildings are in the rear of the site and shorter buildings are closer to Main St. as was suggested by Lisa Goodman of Ward 7.

Well, now I must get to some homework on this incredibly cold Friday. Hope everyone has a good weekend and stays warm.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Central Corridor…No tunnel, No Train

Ah the Central Corridor, the Twin Cities second light rail line that may never be. This line has been the topic of many discussions in the world of transit advocacy and in the local papers including the Minnesota Daily

The Columnist for the Minnesota Daily, Angela Gray, must have attended the Transit Summit at St. Thomas before writing the article. I was impressed on how she interviewed some important figures of the Central Corridor Partnership and business owners located in the corridor. She even interviewed students around campus to see if they would support a light rail line going through campus. However, the student that she interviewed stated that a tunnel would not be crucial and that "students will adapt". I highly disagree.

A few weeks before the article in the daily was published, there was an article in the Star Tribune on Planning Officials, The University of Minnesota, and the controversial tunnel. A local blogger has commented on this issue as well. He has the story linked in his post. I suggest you read it.

Some crucial information left out in both of these articles has been the cost. They skimmed the surface of the cost of the project in Grays article of the project being around $800 Million, when really the project is closer to $900 Million. The project total cost in 2003 dollars was about $840 Million. The Metropolitan Council hopes that it can cut the cost by eliminating the tunnel underneath Washington Avenue. The figure is an estimated $140 Million. I assume most of the cost of tunneling would be the engineering improvements necessary to turn the Washington Avenue Bridge into a triple-decked bridge with Pedestrian on top, Traffic in the middle, and light rail on the third rung.

Without the tunnel, the light rail will be forced to run on the surface, eliminating two lanes of traffic on each side of Washington Avenue simply because it is not wide enough to support central median operation, parking, sidewalks, and two lanes of traffic. This is Washington Avenue, not University that is 120 ft. in width.

I wish planners had more foresight than 25 years. They should be planning for one hundred years. Then again, with the way cities change and re-arrange themselves it is difficult to see what changes in technology and the built environment will occur over the years.

Last week, while enjoying a conversation with a friend of mine at Royal, I got into a discussion with someone sitting behind me about how backwards the current University alignment is. He tried to sell to me that the line should be located 2 blocks North of University Avenue. He also tried to sell to me that we needed more vertical economic development, basically transit villages with very large multi-block “sky-cities”.

I had two major disagreements with his proposal. The first was the location. 2 blocks north of University Avenue is where the Red Rock/Northstar connection is planning on running on the freight ROW. The second is the cost. A proposal that includes such large planned development like a transit village would put the total cost probably into the Billions. Although I agree that development like a “sky-city” would be awesome for the Twin Cities, right now with all the space we have available there is no pressure for land conservation and thus development like this is seen as overkill. For those interested in these types of development I suggest viewing Discovery Channel’s series Extreme Engineering.

Last issue to write about is the controversy of the intersection of University and Snelling Avenues. I agree with the author of twin city sidewalks, that the light rail may need to be elevated over this intersection like the Lake St. station which would be cool or be put underground which is pretty unlikely. I think an elevated station would be the best bet. As for the owner of the Midway Bookstore, I hope his store is where the first plank goes for the station. Just think, had he supported the rail he probably would have gotten a much better facility and benefited from a more walk-able University Avenue.

Back to my original topic, this Tunnel is crucial. If the tunnel is not in place, it will add more congestion and suck up tax dollars just as Republicans say it will. Let’s not let this happen. I encourage all members of the University of Minnesota to encourage planners and the powers that be, that the Central Corridor has to have a tunnel or needs to be put on the shelf until other rail projects such as Northstar are completed.

Whew, a pretty lengthy post…ENJOY!!!!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pandora – A Box That Everyone Should Open

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to this nifty website called Pandora. Pandora.com was created through the efforts of the music genome project started by Tim Westergren. Here’s what is neat about Pandora. When you get to the Pandora homepage you are asked to put in your favorite artist or favorite song. Using the information that you put in, Pandora compiles all the songs in its database and matches it with the type of song that you entered. They then take that music and create a playlist/radio station that matches what you entered.

It’s a great resource for finding other songs and artists that match your tastes in music. For example, one of my favorite artists is Guster. I created a radio station with that as the search and came up with some great artists that I have never heard of and some new favorite songs. Pandora has links to the Itunes Music Store so that you can download the songs that you find and add them to your collection.

I have recommended this site to most of my friends and my co-workers at Minitex. One of my friends exclaimed to me that “Pandora is one of the greatest web pages ever made.” So I write this post with the hope that those that read it check it out and play around with the music genome project and can make possible recommendations on what artists to look under or people’s favorite songs.

Visit Pandora.com
And check out The Spaceman's comments about Pandora at The Chronicles of Spaceman Axdahl

That’s all I got, now back to more Space Above and Beyond and hopefully schoolwork.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Future Predictions on Urban Development of the Twin Cities

Well, I am back!! How long did I go without Bloging? Three days I think. In that amount of time I have been working on my studies, however, I have also been playing Halo 2 a sequel to the Xbox classic FPS (First Person Shooter for you non-gamers) Halo.

As I mentioned in my last post, the topic that I wanted to address is attempting to predict what the Twin Cities will look like in the next 10, 20, and even 30 years based on current trends that we (as residents of the Twin Cities, and students in the field of Urban Studies) have observed with the condo/loft boom in both downtowns and the investments being made in critical infrastructure. Other issues include the region’s paranoia of height in new developments, and the ever-increasing amount of backward thinking and NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard) that has been discussed heavily in both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Current issues and development:
Currently the Twin Cities (along with the rest of the country) is facing many challenges. For the nation, we are experiencing massive increases on the cost of energy and the amount of energy that the United State’s consumes. In the recent state of the Union address, President George W. Bush has called upon the United States to become less dependent on foreign oil from the Middle East and have a revolution or Manhattan project of new and reusable sources of energy. This initiative should’ve been done years ago and a part of me feels that the President is trying to save his numbers by telling the public what we want to hear, but in the end will not deliver instead put us further and further into debt and dependence on oil.

The Twin Cities are facing issues of massive congestion and a lack of investment in critical infrastructure such as our highways. Many auto owners have noticed the huge potholes in many of our highways and city streets that have been poorly patched. Many drivers are also upset on the 394 exclusive lanes that MNDOT botched over the summer. However, all of these issues have a common cause and solution…that is funding. However, the state and local municipalities do not have it thanks to the efforts of the Republican Party and their cronies of “No New Taxes” famously phrased by the current Governor Tim Pawlenty that will be up for re-election this coming year.

Now that we have some of the current issues, let’s dive into the future!!
Note: Current age 21
Important dates that are left out:
November- 2006: Democrats take back the Governor’s seat of Minnesota from thee grasps of the Republican Party and bring back the quality of life that Minnesota deserves.
November- 2008: The Bush Presidency is over. Democrats reclaim the White House with anybody but the following: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, or Joe Lieberman. In a stunning turn of events John McCain is elected and becomes one of the best things to happen to both Republicans/Democrats by being a great moderate President kicking the evangelicals out of the Republican Party and brining in more allies to assist with Iraq.
(Events are fictional, but I really hope they happen.)

2016- My age 31.
Many of the Transportation projects assigned by the Metropolitan Council have been finished including the Northstar Commuter Rail Line that has been operating with fare box recovery for seven years since its completion in 2009. The Central Corridor, a major source of controversy in the years 2000-2006, was completed in 2012 following the success of both Hiawatha and the completion of Northstar and over the four years since has become the highest source of Ridership in the Twin Cities metro and a great catalyst for development in the Midway area of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Worth mentioning are the new TOD developments such as the Super Target in Midway, the Rondo Community Outreach Library & University and Dale Street Apartments (completed in 2006), and the Penfield towers just as you enter downtown St. Paul.

The Twin Cities continue to add population, though we are still far from our 1 million new residents as estimated by the Metropolitan Council back in 2000. With the added residents come new pressures on development. One of the areas in particular is the Franklin Avenue area across from Augsburg and the University of Minnesota West Bank campus. The 2-3 story walk up apartments; have been replaced by taller and newer towers following the success of New Urbanism oriented developments in the early 2000’s. Students who attend Augsburg and the University of Minnesota mostly rent these apartments. In the works are plans to take back the open space that exists over I-94 and reconnecting the two sides that were bisected when I-94 was built in the 1950’s. Similar plans are in the works for St. Paul and the bridges that are over I-94 near downtown St. Paul and the Capitol.

Prospect Park joins the register of Historical Neighborhoods in 2013 and a Light Rail Line or Streetcar is proposed for Hennepin Avenue/Larpentuar Avenue with a station at the State Fair.

Talks are progressing with the State and Federal Government on the possibility of a High Speed Rail connection from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Duluth and then South to Chicago to connect with the new High-Speed Rail system that has recently been completed on the East Coast and is spreading to the rest of the nation as the Air Industry continues to face financial and security issues.

2026- Age 41
As we approach our estimate of 1 Million residents, there are concerns that the Twin Cities are becoming too dense. This leads to another outward movement of many residents along the well-used transportation corridors that were constructed in the 2010’s. The High Speed Rail connection has been made between the Twin Cities and Chicago.
Minnesota and the Midwest have become very powerful states after the short “Water conflict” in 2020. The Western states attempted to break away from the Union and take the Midwest’s preciouse fresh water resources. The Conflict is ended when General Rory Hanlin and his elite forces known as "the dirty sconies" kill the leaders of the seperatists allowing Union forces to retake the Western states. Casualties in the western states are low and water is still babdly needed ,however, desalinization plants have helped the west keep its residents, many have moved out of areas such as Phoenix that have dried up due to the effects of Global warming and because of the effects of the uprising.
Minneapolis now resembles Vancouver in design with many amenities such as public paths and an award winning transportation system. Of course, the public park system is still one of the best in the nation.

2036 and beyond- Age 51 and older
I finish my term as the Governor of Minnesota and settle into the life of a retired developer touring the world and viewing cities and the developments they are building and facing. Human’s still haven’t made it to Mars yet, but we are getting closer to Fusion technology though the process still requires a lot of resources. Recently the Military has taken over the state of Nevada and has deemed the entire desert (Las Vegas was destroyed in the “water conflict” along with all its fountains) as a place for the research of Fusion technology. With tensions increasing between China, Korea (Kim Jung Il Cloned himself and is still in power unopposed by any nation), The United States, The EU, and the Hamas controlled Middle East, the world is moving closer to destruction. With that the United States has begun developing massive underground cities in the mountains, in the event of a Nuclear World War some will survive.

Inhabitants of Moon 1-the first colony and city to be established on the moon, has increased production of commercial and Military spaceships and has released that they are close to developing faster than light travel with the use of Hyperspace Gates by the year 2050.

Back to Reality:
Okay Okay, the last part I totally made up. In fact the entire thing I made up. But it was a lot of fun writing and speculating on the future. Probably because I read too much Sci-fi. Anyway, let me know what I can improve or what theories there are out there in the world of Bloggerdome.

P.S. It’s good to be back. Next post, Central Corridor…No tunnel, No Train.