Upzoned header image 1
March 18, 2020  

“The Worst Planning Mistake in Minneapolis History”

March 18, 2020

Many towns and cities have at least one: the physical reminder of some particularly egregious development mistake.

In Minneapolis, one such legacy is a Kmart—the last Kmart store in Minnesota—built in the late 1970s in a plan that went south right from the start. As Jessica Lee wrote in a recent article in the MinnPost, Kmart agreed to occupy the space only “on the condition that the city would close Nicolett Avenue so the retailer could build a massive, sprawling store.”

Since then, the Kmart, a grocery store and parking lots have spanned the 10 acres between Lake and West 29th Street. Residents and businesses for decades have protested the street layout. To this day, the closure of Nicollet has been called “the worst planning mistake in Minneapolis history,” said David Frank, the city’s director of Community Planning and Economic Development.

Now, at long last, Kmart has agreed to “terminate its lease and vacate the building.” It is the culmination of a “years-long debate over what should come of the 10-acre site that interrupts the city’s street grid system.”

On this week’s episode of Upzoned, host Abby Kinney, an urban planner with Gould Evans in Kansas City, and Strong Towns senior editor Daniel Herriges (a Minnesota native) discuss the past and future of a project that’s long been a thorn in the side of locals…and people everywhere who love cities. They look at why planners in the 1970s spent millions of dollars in public funds to essentially replace urban blight with suburban blight. They also discuss how Minneapolis can ensure that one top-down mistake isn’t replaced by another, and what city governments everywhere can do to be more supportive of bottom-up energy.

Then in the Downzoned, Abby recommends The Righteous Mind, a book by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt about why “good people are divided by politics and religion.” (The Righteous Mind happens to be on the Strong Towns essential reading list.) Then Daniel talks about how the latest season of Dr. Who has been a welcome distraction from all the distressing coronavirus news.

Show Notes