The city. The place that we live and thrive. The place on planet earth where large amounts of human beings live. A strange, long evolved, human reality.
Starting from a single bi-pedal upright mammal, choice or circumstance impacts all of our realities. From a singular experience, living alone in a tent, tepee, yurt, or other shelter, to a multi-story building, and the single or multi-family residential configurations available creates a plethora of options for living in most places on the planet. Human beings have experienced all these situations, from solitary conditions, to abundant density.
As we think about cities, we need to acknowledge that we, humans, are the single-most demanding creatures of the earth. No other insect, fish, fowl or mammal demands as much building, shaping, and environmental evolving as do we. The term “city planning” does not guarantee that all plans and preparations are completed prior to occupancy. Quite the contrary. The “work” of city planning is typically undertaken while inhabitants are occupying their dwellings. Chaos can be a part of the reality of change.
We demand systems. We demand water … clean water. We demand comfort from the cold. And from the heat. And from the humidity. We demand protective coverings for our bodies. We demand protection from all that we deem environmentally unfriendly. We demand shelter. We demand movement. We demand vehicles that can engage the ground, the water and the air. We demand built environments that allow us to engage one another. Cities, and their planning, evolution, habitation and growth, create a “patina” that makes it special in our minds and hearts. Two places that may not be readily visible to any of us. Cities allow for the inhabitation of all kinds of people … friends, relatives and strangers. Cities have people that we like, and those that we don’t. Cities have people that look like us, and those that don’t. Cities have people that think like us, and those that don’t. Cities have people that agree with us, and those that don’t. Cities have people that behave like us, and those that don’t. All these people, rubbing shoulders with one another, speaking with one another, making contact with one another are the root of the patina of a place. All of this is then the “genus loci” or “spirit of place.” Any place.
The Northside hosts all of these “demands.” City planning has achieved this goal. But what city planning cannot do is implement the science of economics into this community. This science classifies communities as low, middle or upper income. This information is further confirmed by census tract data. While city planning looks at the equal implementation of zoning codes and regulations citywide, it has little impact on the economic reality that impacts everyone’s lives. While the science of economics does not exist in the Minneapolis 2040 Plan or the zoning code, it does designate certain areas that it may target for more intensive development projects. The vast majority of effort that goes into making the economic “deal” comes from beyond the boundaries of governmental agencies.
City planning and real estate development are related. They can almost be viewed as being in a dance. Sometimes it appears as a waltz. All activities seem smooth and flowing. Other times it looks as frenetic as the jitterbug. For the Northside, this author advocates for more real estate development coupled with governmental agencies sympathetic to the goal of diminishing poverty and increasing economic diversity in inner-city communities. The goal is to achieve an improved lifestyle as a good thing for all.