Didier wrote:As an aside, I'm pretty sure Al Franken lives in one of those townhouses.
That's true. I went to a fundraiser at his townhouse during his Senate campaign. The Grant Park townhouses are very nice. They look so solid and timeless; I really wish more new construction fronted the street with three story townhomes and a tower set way back in the middle of the block.
The Grant Park townhomes are great housing for (rich) families downtown.
I'm generally content to leave aesthetic concerns to John and others with an eye for such things, but I can't help but notice that Grant Park must be nearly perfect from a street frontage perspective (Streetview)
as described by Joe Urban in his recent Streets.MN post.
However, I lived a block away from Grant Park for two years and NOT ONCE saw anyone using their front door or patio. And while those stoops look like a nice place to grill dinner or sit and read a book and watch the city go by, I think that was generally done on the townhomes much more private 3rd floor rooftop patios. And even though those street-facing entrances look like front doors, most probably came and left via the back because that’s where they parked.
Grant Park is a situation of nearly perfect urban form resulting in almost zero streetlife. Which brings me back to an Onion article from years ago.
Sometimes I Feel Like I'm The Only One Trying To Gentrify This Neighborhood
The Onion wrote:When I moved into this neighborhood, I fell in love right away. Not with the actual neighborhood, but with its potential: It's affordable, there are nice row houses all around just waiting to be filled up by my friends, there's lot of open space to be exploited, and plenty of parking. Plus, this area has got a great authentic feel and, with a little work, it could be even more authentic. Perfect, right?
So why am I the only one doing anything about it?
I mean, I don't want the people here to leave. I just want them to stay inside more. Especially if they're not going to do anything to bring this community to life. But they're always out on their stoops, just playing dominoes or talking. I like talking, but I do it inside, where it was meant to be done. It makes me uncomfortable to have people watching me all the time. Not that I think they'd do anything, but I just like to be a little more private.
Also, their dogs stay outside and bark all day. I like dogs just fine, but why can't their dogs be smaller and more nervous?
When I was involved with the Elliot Park neighborhood group, a contingent of Grant Parkers came for a time to complain about crime and to demand increased police patrols. Even on a gorgeous September day, they would all drive separately to the meeting rather than walk the three blocks. They claimed a good number of Grant Park residents would completely refuse to venture east of Portland Avenue.
When I was at the fundraiser I mentioned, I overheard the owners of a coffee shop just across the street from Franken’s place, invite him to stop by sometime. I bit embarrassed, Al admitted he was not even aware there was a coffee shop across the street. He said he always goes “that way” [while motioning westward to the CBD]. Nevermind, that he lives on a one-way street going east.
I’m not writing any of this to dig on rich people, and most certainly not on Al Franken (who I endorse for Senate in 2014 -- as if anyone cares). I'm just expressing skepticism about the claim all this luxury housing is going to greatly invigorate street life or neighborhood retail. To be an actual city, we need to offer housing in the core that attracts a diverse range of people. Not just semi-retired rich people, not just single yuppie/hipsters, but people of a various income range, ethnicity, and family structure. Otherwise, were left with a fake Disney set façade of a city, not much different from “Mainstreet” Maple Grove, or the fake balconies on Block E.
Elliot Park is downtown's best chance to densify with families, workforce housing, and diverse ethnicities. I'm not saying the economics work out to build affordable housing there, but we need to find a way to overcome that market failure, for the good of the city as well as for the benefit of those without six figure incomes.