Mayor Rybak to Launch Great City Design Teams
Rybak’s Great City Agenda Calls for Partnership with Design Professionals, Citizens
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak tonight announced the creation of Mayor’s Great City Design Teams to engage architects and other design professionals in a vision for a re-woven city of urban villages. Speaking before a packed house of nearly 300 at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, Mayor Rybak reported that the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, in conjunction with their 150th anniversary, would recruit 150 architects to work with community organizations on visions for their neighborhoods. The architects would partner with the Urban Land Institute, University of Minnesota, and city staff to incorporate community visions into city plans and initiatives, including the city’s comprehensive plan and transportation action plan.
"I want to make a call to the community to actively engage in planning the vision for our city," Rybak said. "We need both your vision and your action. As the ancient proverb says, vision without action is just a dream; and action without vision is a nightmare."
"If we do nothing, Minneapolis will be one of the better cities in America. But is that enough? I ran for Mayor five years ago because I couldn’t get a single phrase out of my head: I was born in a great city and I don’t want to die in a mediocre one," Rybak said.
Before a crowd of architects, developers, and land-use professionals Mayor Rybak outlined three core values he said should guide the building of the New Minneapolis: that streets aren’t just connections to destinations, they are destinations themselves; that urban villages thrive on diversity; and that Minneapolis should embrace growth but guide it wisely.
"For the first time in my life, the popular culture of America values urban living, and no other city in America is as ready to step up to that challenge more than Minneapolis," Rybak said. "Generations before us have brought Minneapolis to the brink of greatness. Now it’s time to go further and claim our rightful place as the Great American City of our time. We should settle for nothing less.
Streets as Destinations
Mayor Rybak hailed the many great places in Minneapolis and called for a focus on connecting the great spaces of the city together by envisioning streets as destinations. "Our challenge is to link the great places of this city together and make those links destinations in themselves," Rybak said.
At the top of Mayor Rybak’s list of streets as destinations was Washington Avenue. "Imagine this street transformed into a grand promenade connecting the University of Minnesota, Guthrie Theater, Center for Book Arts, Mill City Museum, Brenda Langton’s new farmer’s market, MacPhail Center for the Arts, the Central Library, new condos in the North Loop, the Cedar Lake Bike Trail and a new Twins ballpark. The remarkable concentration of new attractions along Washington Avenue make this an opportunity we have to seize, and in the grandest way possible. The lessons learned here can be applied in streets all across our city," Rybak said.
A Collection of Diverse Urban Villages
Chief among Mayor Rybak’s goals is to support sustainable urban villages where residents can access unique goods and services nearby. "Minneapolis doesn’t want to be ‘McCity,’" Rybak declared. "We want to be a collection of different urban villages, each with its own character, growing out of the best of who we are. Eat Street, Lake Street, Central Avenue and streets all across Minneapolis are coming alive because diverse people are creating varied businesses and communities that can’t be imitated."
"The best way to create cities that can’t be imitated is to weave them around the natural environment. We have the nation’s greatest urban environment and the nation’s greatest park system. We owe it to future generations to continue to expand the system but also connect it to the rest of town," Rybak said.
Towards this end, Mayor Rybak called for increased bike and pedestrian connections linking parkways with neighborhoods, similar to the Midtown Greenway, which links the center of the city with the Chain of Lakes and the Mississippi River. "Let’s weave northeast to the river via an 18th Street bikeway; let’s connect north Minneapolis to the river, Wirth Park and Victory Memorial Drive with bike trails on Plymouth, 26th and Lowry. Let’s make sure that green values are an essential aspect of all our urban villages," Rybak said.
Grow the city, but guide the growth
Mayor Rybak used his speech to address the challenges of rapid growth in Minneapolis. From 1990 to 2000 the city grew by 14,000 people and is expected to grow by as much as 50,000 in the next 15 years. "Growth to a city is like wind to a sailor. If you can direct it, the wind can take you to great places. So, one of our great challenges in the new few years should be to aggressively articulate where we want this city to grow. We can grow, we need to grow, and we should want to grow. But as a sailor knows, if you can’t harness the wind, it can tip you over. Like a boat on the sees, we need to keep our balance when it comes to growth," Rybak said.
"To reweave the urban fabric we have to get beyond the silos that often isolate our work. It is about how transit, community development, public art, beautiful architecture, environmental design, green-space, a tangible connection to commerce and services, and more all work together to create great, sustainable spaces," Rybak said. "I am laying out my vision, but I am also encouraging dialogue about these issues and calling on citizens to get involved."
This was the second of three forums framing Mayor Rybak’s four year Great City Agenda. A previous Great City Forum was held in January on preparing youth for the future. The third forum will be held March 29 on closing the gaps between haves and have-nots. The forums are all free and open to the public. The Mayor’s State of the City Address will be on April 18.
Published Mar. 1, 2006