The North Loop Is Burning!, Part I: “Solve The Problem We Helped Create!”

I’m not saying the Star Tribune’s Editorial Board is full of people that want a dictator to solve all our society’s problem.

am saying that if a dictator ever wanted to take over, they’d’ need society to be full of people like the Strib’s editors to have a chance of succeeding.

They ran an editorial this past week proposing some solutions to the problem of crime, violence and their bedfellows social and economic decay.

And it’s a masterpiece of double-talk, deflection, and putting a crisis to political use.

Home to nearly 6,000 businesses, downtown Minneapolis swells daily as more than 160,000 workers head in to the state’s economic hub. Its landscape is dotted with major businesses, banks, hotels and a massive football stadium.

Yep.  The idea of the hub-and-spoke downtown is alive and well, in a city that pretty much depends on the idea being propagated for eternity.

But unlike a generation ago, downtown is also a growing neighborhood, home to nearly 40,000 residents. By design, they tend to be educated, affluent professionals craving an urban lifestyle that includes the excitement of a nightlife powered by bars, theaters and restaurants along Hennepin Avenue and in the bustling North Loop.

“By design”.

Two very loaded words.

A generation ago, when I moved to the Twin Cities, the North Loop was a blighted area, nearly vacant after dark but for the occasional roughneck bar and strip joint.   Just down the road from North Minneapolis – which was just as big a problem to the city’s reputation then as it is today, although people were a lot less reticent to say so, or why, back then – it shared some of the same pathologies, albeit without a resident population.   I wrote about my encounter with the old North Loop 11 years ago.

Somewhere in the nineties, Minneapolis noticed the small groups of young entrepreneurs that were taking advantage of cheap, blighted property and, with the aid of a flood of federal and state tax money, decided to turn the North Loop into a little Brooklyn;  to replace all that urban grit with a hipster/young child-free-couple-friendly version; let’s call it “Urban Grit-land”, like an urban fantasy version of a Disney subdivision.

Not that the redevelopment of the North Loop was a bad thing.   More stuff going on is better than less stuff going on, all other things being equal.   The Strib, of course, supported the redevelopment – partly, one must imagine, because it increased the paper vallue of their property up on Eight Street North, the paper’s former printing shop and now headquarters, which allowed them to sell their old property down on 4th and Portland for a huge profit.

And let’s not forget – the Strib has always been a relentless supporter of the DFL politicians and policies that have left the neighboring North Side a blighted battlezone.

Of course, what they also did was put a big population of soft, wealthy (and, election results would seem to indicate, very unlikely to resist) targets within reach of a whole lot of urban grit that hasn’t yet been sanded and laquered to a fine patina yet:

But downtown also has a stubbornly rising crime rate that threatens all of the effort and investment in making this area vibrant and attractive. Robberies are up significantly. Homeless encampments are becoming more common. Weekends bring regular reports of shots fired. Complaints about aggressive panhandling are up, and some light-rail transit stations have become trouble spots that draw crowds of young people late at night.

You mean, exactly as we warned them they would?

These are the early warning signs that can signal greater trouble in the future. Spiraling crime can scare off prospective residents and employers. Residents of downtown, unlike those in most neighborhoods, tend to be renters, for whom moving is as easy as not renewing a lease. Businesses, too, can vote with their feet if they or their employees become uncomfortable.

The Strib then goes on to prescribe some “solutions” for the problems that – as we’ll see – they helped create.

We’ll be looking at this for the rest of the week.

Tomorrow:  Kotkin Was Right!

11 thoughts on “The North Loop Is Burning!, Part I: “Solve The Problem We Helped Create!”

  1. The trick is to cut off high speed avenues of approach. When the Lowry Ave bridge over the Mississippi was closed and getting worked on, it was amazing how much less crime was happening on the east (NE) side.

  2. OK, we have a lot of crimes being committed in an area where a lot of visitors are coming to bars (and can not carry if they drink) or Target Field (where they can not carry). And then you’ve got the workers coming in to their jobs (where they can not carry) being victimized. Hmmm….obviously the problem is the NRA for allowing people who are not going to Target Field,or bars, or their places of employment to lawfully carry a pistol.

    Somehow I’m reminded of the case of Florida from a couple of decades back, where thugs figured out that any car with a car rental sticker on it would not have armed occupants. Thankfully, if memory serves, the rental companies simply took off the stickers to protect their customers.

  3. There is only one solution for all urban problems: MO MONEY!!!!

    But saying that is vicious and cynical, a much more viable solution is STILL MO MONEY!!

  4. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 09.18.17 : The Other McCain

  5. “…some light-rail transit stations have become trouble spots that draw crowds of young people late at night.”

    Choo Choos put up less than 100 years ago are never worth it. They do no net good. Unmanageable.

    I notice that the one in Salt Lake City has huge corruption problems. The only one you never hear bad stuff about is the one in Orlando.

  6. TFS, having driven through Chicago recently to avoid tolls, I can verify that even when light rail has been there for a century, stations STILL serve as places where crimes occur and bad actors hang out. Plus, having grown up in the area, and having seen news story after news story of the city begging for more money from Springfield and Washington, I don’t think that even century old systems come close to breaking even. That’s the case in Gotham, too. The only reason for light rail in these cities is (a) they didn’t build an adequate road grid and often (WTC) destroyed what they had and (b) insist on subsidizing downtown office buildings.

  7. “(a) they didn’t build an adequate road grid”

    You can justify a very small one here because of they didn’t put another East West freeway on the north side of downtown. Take the load off the Lowery Hill tunnel and shoehorn people into the downtowns and the airport. But no, we have to turn the whole area into a leftist sims game. It’s insane.

    The problem they are having with the big ones like the San Francisco BART are unbelievable. All it does is waste money and jack up the cost of real estate by whereever they put track.

  8. The question is not whether one can justify a smaller grid here, but rather whether we can justify the extent of high rise building with the road grid we’ve got. If, say, the new 100 story tower will have 12000 people working there instead of, say, around 500 people living and working in the previous five story buildings, is the road grid, parking, and such sufficient to carry the load even when some roads are under construction?

    IMO, downtown gridlock is largely a consequence of the failure to answer this question. Plus the idiot carpool lanes on 394, which appear to deprive drivers of 2-3 lanes in each direction. Great way of reducing congestion, planners!

  9. Pingback: The North Loop Is Burning!, Part III: Never Never Land | Shot in the Dark

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