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Minneapolis: BoBos In Paradise

In our continuing series of articles on land use and urban development, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has this editorial extolling the virtues of the new 24-hour downtown.

A new fifty story residential complex is being built on Nicollet Mall, and looks to further transform the city into a cosmopolitan, bourgeois bohemian (BoBo) epicenter. The tower will certainly cater to the influx of DINKs (double income, no kids) couples as well young (and aging hipsters) who seek to be near the high-end shopping and avant-garde arts scene that downtown Minneapolis provides.

This appears to be a further example of the trend that is pricing the middle class out of urban living. Wealthy persons and couples with information-age jobs and lots of disposable income are driving up residential prices in the urban core and forcing families to either relocate to the suburbs, or other cities that aren't so cosmopolitan and chic like Cleveland or Milwaukee.

What does it mean that our cities are becoming more, not less homogenous because of this demographic and cultural shift? More and more, these sorts of places and developments end up excluding families from the scene because of the assault on traditional values that crops up in these new urban enclaves. The bohemian has now mixed with the consumer culture, and the non-conformists are now the ultimate conformists. Families are the new counterculture, but will there be a physical place for them to challenge the dominant paradigm of Western culture?


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Comments (1)


Downtown wants to shed its current identity and become a combination of Northeast and Uptown…except without the riff raff. The only trouble with that is, of course, it’s the riff raff that makes Northeast and Uptown worth visiting. The DINKs are a subculture based on conspicuous consumption. There are not now and never have been enough of themto sustain a neighborhood. And the cultural isolation and inbreeding leads to an even shallower philosophic disposition than the crumbling culture at large. They have a dim sense that they would like a funky coffee shop and a used book emporium and ethnic restaurants, but they haven’t the conviction that leads ordinary working folk, despite the parking hassles and oozing toxic pretension, to shop at Magers & Quinn or the Book House. The Book House doesn’t carry the latest Oprah selection. When the downtown planners think “ethnic restaurant” they think Chipotle. When they think “hap-nin’ coffee shop” they think Starbucks. When they think “funky little bakery” they think Breadsmith. Nothing but chains. The DINKs first fled to the status pastures of the suburbs, but now that the working class has also found the suburbs, the DINKs seek to relocate the playhouses of fortune to the urb itself. The uber-urb. Keeping up with the Joneses, or the Wolf-Slattery-Joneses. They have found that they can lean on the city to keep the sidewalks clear of snow, unworthy parkers and degenerates. It must be utopia to them. Soon, Minneapolis will raise taxes and build walls around the downtown core and just make the entire area a mall. That is what they really want. Cardboard condos towering over the Mall of America II.

But what makes a neighborhood desirable is, ironically, diversity. And despite their platitudes, they will have none of it. When we were first married and living a few blocks off of Nicollet and 38th (the ‘hood), we had a time warp bakery two blocks away. Fresh whole wheat bread for $1.50. A dozen awesome donuts for less than $2. A little old guy and his wife had been getting up at 4am 6 days a week for 30 years in their apartment overhead, coming downstairs and baking like it was 1959. Where in downtown are you going to find that?

Cities are organisms, and their evolution is not subject strict human control. I have been here ten years and I have been constantly amazed by both cities’ breathless efforts to “revitalize” the downtowns. But were they ever vital? How long ago? Growing up in Seattle, and taking jaunts to Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, etc., I always associated downtowns with diverse cultural and economic currents. After seeing much of the northern tier of the country now, I see how rare that is in the Midwest. It’s a wonderful thing in Seattle, but it just kind of happened. It was diverse in the late 60s when Seattle really began to grow, and when the economy crashed there in the late 70s the diversity remained in a recessed state. Now the diversity endures. Its great; it make Seattle and the entire Puget Sound region a desirable destination. But I don’t think you can legislate it.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 12, 2005 9:49 AM.

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