"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Jane Jacobs

The Holiday Train

The Holiday Train

One of the benefits of living in a Midwest city that still operates a thriving rail system is the Holiday Train. While not quite the Polar Express, the Holiday Train still draws a large crowd at each stop it makes as it travels across North America. Despite the freezing cold temperatures last year, I was able to attend the event as the train rolled through Minneapolis. The stop is located in Lions Park, dividing the cities of Minneapolis and Columbia Heights. I had no idea that it was an actual park until this event. It is more a leftover patch of grass in-between the street and railroad tracks.

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What is a Well Building?

What is a Well Building?

Most people have worked in an office with poorly regulated temperature, where it seems that whatever the weather is outside, its the same inside. The office also probably had terrible fluorescent lighting, a severe lack of windows, and the ability to waft the terrible smelling tuna someone brought as their lunch throughout the building. These buildings were all designed to cram as many people into a building as possible without regard for how the office environment would turn out. For some design professionals, this does not make sense which is why they are turning towards WELL Building certification.

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Bird Art for my Yard

Bird Art for my Yard

A few months back I was in the Commons (a new downtown Minneapolis park) having coffee with some friends when I noticed an interesting sculpture. I glanced at it briefly, long enough to find it unique, but then we continued walking. It wasn't until this weekend that I finally realized what that sculpture was and its intended message. Those same friends told me about an event at the University of Minnesota campus where they were giving out pieces of a dismantled sculpture. After stopping by and grabbing two (a bird house and feeder) it finally dawned on me that the pieces they were giving away were part of that sculpture I had seen in the Commons.

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Passive House: an economic and environmental solution to building

Passive House: an economic and environmental solution to building

Anyone that owns an old house knows that while they are charming and full of character, they are notoriously inefficient. I love my old bungalow, but it is nearly impossible to keep at a consistent temperature or save on energy costs. Despite being a solid structure that has lasted 100 years without major failures, there was no need to keep it sealed for efficiency. All summer long the windows would have been open because air conditioning was not available. 

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The World of Clocks

The World of Clocks

Growing up, we had a grandfather clock that sat in our dining room. I was so fascinated with it, making up stories in my head that it was a magical portal to another world. I would make sure to keep it wound up to chime on time. My best friend and I even kept our super secret friendship pact hidden at the base of it. We thought it would be safe, hidden where no one would look for it. 

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The Mysteries Behind Daylight Saving Time

The Mysteries Behind Daylight Saving Time

As tomorrow approaches, we anticipate the end to daylight saving time (yes that is correct, it is not savings) where we gain an extra hour of sleep and can stop going to work every morning in the dark. While I love one extra hour given each fall, I would gladly give it up to stay on daylight saving time year round to have an extra hour of light each evening in the winter. Living in a cold climate filled with snow, it would help the winter blues to have a little extra sun after work. Despite participating in DST for the past almost 3 decades of my life, I never knew much about the history and it turns out, what I did know was all based on misconceptions.

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Ten Things I Learned From IMCL

Ten Things I Learned From IMCL

The International Making Cities Livable Conference held their annual conference the first week in October in Santa Fe, New Mexico this year. Each year a new city is selected based on the innovate approaches that have been implemented by their local governments. Dozens of countries were represented at the conference this year despite political tension, immigration bans, and natural disasters that kept many from traveling. Despite the lower than usual attendance, the sessions were well rounded and provided a wealth of information on how to make our cities more livable.

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The Airport City

The Airport City

I recently flew from Minneapolis to Santa Fe, stopping over in the Denver airport. While waiting for my connecting flight I noticed something about the the airport that I had not seen before. Airports, those large enough to support multiple terminals, function like a city. Each one has restaurants, retail shops, transit (the train between terminals and moving walkways), separate lanes for faster moving traffic, and nodes of activity. The airport works like an ideal community, providing a safe environment for spontaneous interaction among the inhabitants.

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Stars Hollow's Idealistic Town Square

Stars Hollow's Idealistic Town Square

In the TV show Girlmore Girls, the town square is the heart of the fictional city of Stars Hollow. I watched the whole series again in preparation for the release of the reunion season. What I noticed is the town square in the show functioned like the town squares of early American cities before cars took over and pushed everyone into the suburbs. What is so unique about the town square in Stars Hollow is that it brought the community together, it was the hub of spontaneous meetings, was surrounded by shops, restaurants and residential units, and was designed for pedestrians, not cars.

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A Plaza for Protests

A Plaza for Protests

Today's public squares have become remnants of the city beautiful movement, home to landscaped areas in a picturesque setting. They offer a nice place to sit for lunch, but little more. The purpose of the public square in history is rooted in government interaction and democracy. One that represents this and continues to function as such today is the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, California.

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Bridges for Bears

Bridges for Bears

When my family moved to a small acreage surrounded by corn fields I learned about the conflicts between deer and vehicles. While I was never in the clear, I needed to be especially cautious in the fall when driving near dusk. I have had several close calls, one deer leaving a dent in my hood as it glanced the side of the car and continued running. In most areas, this conflict between nature and man is unavoidable, however I recently found out that on some major highways they have found a solution.

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What Makes a Street Friendly

What Makes a Street Friendly

A few weekends ago I held a garage sale to cut down on the amount of stuff I have to move to my new house. After living on my street for the last year and a half, I have spoken to five neighbors total. The only neighbors I got to know live next door to me or across the street. I have seen a few others, picked up on their daily habits, but I could not tell you their names. The day of my garage sale I talked to more neighbors than I had the entire length of my residence. 

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Living Like a Planner

Living Like a Planner

When I moved to the Metro area I bought a house that sits on almost half an acre in a first ring suburb. I also bought a newer car to save on gas for my 30 minute commute to work in another suburban town. The longer I spent in my daily commute, the more I hated where I was living. I realized everything about my way of life was contrary to being an urban planner. Density and multi-modal transportation is what I preach, but I was living the complete opposite. I decided I needed to start living like a planner.

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Growing into 2040

Growing into 2040

It is hard to keep pace with the ever changing trend of where people want to live. One week we seem to be moving back into cities, the next the suburbs are back on the rise. Larger trends like the suburban flight of the 1950's and 60's are easier to see, but the year to year progress is more disguised. Urban cities were finally gaining momentum as people, and millennials more specifically, moved back inward. The city has so much to offer with the ease of traveling by bike, bus, or on foot. No car needed. Many articles have been written in the past year stating the trend has seen its peak, people are moving again to the suburbs.

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A City of Immigrants

A City of Immigrants

People tend to forget that we are a nation founded by immigrants. Few of us can claim our ancestors were native to this land. Everyone here came from somewhere else, whether that be Britain, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Poland, Ireland, Japan, or any number of countries that gave us a booming population of hard working and innovative people.

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Three Eagles and Twenty Three Loons

Three Eagles and Twenty Three Loons

I am fortunate enough to have grown up going to a family cabin on a lake in Minnesota. At an early age I fell in love with the state bird, the loon. I remember purchasing my first loon call in hopes of luring them close for a good photograph. It took much effort and determination in order to get a good shot, but eventually I did. This past weekend, on the same lake where a loon was a rare sight, I saw twenty-three loons, three eagles, a number of sparrows and seagulls, and another unique bird. Clearly nature has made a come back on this lake, as it has on numerous throughout the United States.

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The Urban Farm

The Urban Farm

Living in Minneapolis has many benefits, one being the plethora of farmers markets to choose from year round. One problem with the city though is the climate. Our cold winters mean I rarely find local fruits and vegetables after October and before May. While this might sound like a standard problem for northern cities, some are breaking the mold and growing crops year round. The logical answer is a greenhouse out on the rural fringe, however some cities are taking it to the next level. They are growing acres of crops on small city blocks. The answer they have found is a vertical greenhouse.

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How the Great Depression Preserved the Historic Wesley Center

How the Great Depression Preserved the Historic Wesley Center

I recently had the opportunity to tour the Historic Wesley Center in downtown Minneapolis. The former home of the Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church now houses 8 nonprofit groups and hosts outside events. The Historic Wesley Center nonprofit, was formed about a year ago to preserve and protect the building after its viability as a church had expired.

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The Life of Plazas

The Life of Plazas

After recently starting a new job in downtown Minneapolis I noticed the plethora of public plazas available to residents, visitors, and employees. Almost every major tower has an inviting public realm leading to its primary entrance. I see a cleverly landscaped space daily from my office or when eating lunch out on the rooftop terrace. No two plazas are exactly the same, however each one has a standard set of basic amenities.

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