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Poll: Should Suburbs Change or Should Critics Back Off?

Fridley has embraced transit-oriented development near the Northstar train station.

An opinion column that had the unusual distinction of appearing in both the Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press over the weekend was written "In Defense of Suburbs," as the Star Tribune's headline put it.

In his op-ed, locally-based city-planning consultant Tom Martinson beat back a range of criticisms frequently levelled against suburbs:

As suburbia expanded coast to coast over the past decades, criticisms only increased. Suburban subdivisions are not "walkable," so people have to drive everywhere. Suburban traffic is terrible. ...

As an antidote, suburban neighborhoods should be made as citylike as possible, with very small lots resulting in much higher densities, emphasizing increased walking, bicycling and reliance on public transit.

The City of Fridley has instituted transit-oriented development in the area around the Northstar Commuter Rail station, and has made efforts to increase the city's friendliness for walking and biking.

What do you think? Are suburbs fine as they are or do they need to change?

Stephanie Churchill Ling November 28, 2011 at 01:42 PM
I agree that suburbs (specifically Fridley) need to change. I fully agree with the columnist that this city needs to become more bike and walk friendly, but the solution is not to increase density. We have very few things worth walking TO! More and more retailers are leaving the area. Fridley never had much retail to begin with, but perhaps we need to work together with neighboring communities to encourage them to stay. I was angered recently when I found out that Sports Authority is now leaving the Northtown area. I'm sure Michaels is close behind. And yes, these retailers are not in Fridley. I know that. But Fridley has NOTHING like those retailers to begin with. So my biggest beef with Fridley is bikeability and walkability, but reason #1 remains -- No where to bike to. Secondly, biking and walking the retailers we have (mostly grocery) is more of a hassle than it's worth. I live "on the other side of the tracks" and there are few crossings and those are very inconvenient. Neighborhoods are winding and often end in dead-ends or have few access points. The few roads that do go all the way through are major roadways with speeding traffic. I am not about to take my preschooler for a bike ride to run errands on those roads. So yes, suburbs like Fridley need to change. Don't increase density, just give us more places to go and ways to get there!
Jeff Thompson November 28, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Fridley appears to be just an insignificant store networked into the suburban skyway. From here to there we live just inbetween somewhere else...and that is where they are going...somewhere else.
Pam Reynolds November 28, 2011 at 04:04 PM
The desire to urbanize Fridley lies predominantly with those who don't live here, the Met Council and City Development staff. Walk-ability and bicycling were built into suburbs via the residential layouts. The TOD planned for Hyde Park was met with great resistance from the majority of property owners in the Hyde Park area, but their desires were ignored. Imagine if the city decided to turn your quiet, tree lined neighborhood into a high density, mixed use area. The desire of the Met Council is to "redistribute the pockets of poor" and shore up the need for the failing Northstar. The TOD, with its built in requirements for high density and increased commercial uses within Hyde Park, is nothing more than social engineering. Hyde Park, for 30+ years, had a protective zoning that did not allow for additional commercial or high density properties. Now the tables have been turned in the name of progress. Granted some of the apartment buildings in Hyde Park could use some serious updating and maintenance but this could have been accomplished through code enforcement. Think about it---bicycling to CUB, maybe walking to get an oil change, or as Julie Jones, city planning staff, said," Walking with friends to have a nice dinner at one of the local eating establishments"(Zantigo/McDonalds). This concept seeks to meet the desires of City Development staff and no one else.
Josey Warren November 28, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Yes, surburbs need to become more walk and bike friendly. In my opinion this means safer. Safety is a big issue and why a great number of people move to less density. Providing safety is not cheap, police protection is costly. Maple Grove has build a downtown with high density housing surrounding the area. I would not choose to live there, I for one want more space and solitude. We, the residents, must make our educated wants and requirements known to those who want to urbanize our cities. How? Perhaps it is time to form neighborhood groups with a voice to influence the decision makers. We are all busy, but this is important and each of us could use a bigger voice. Just some thoughts............
Jeff Thompson November 28, 2011 at 07:13 PM
Downtown Fridley is like trying to find Waldo! To me, Fridley is like a cluster of island neighborhoods without a nucleus or hub. If it is left to the businesses then sidewalks are going to disappear just like...well, the businesses. Re-inventing Fridley may be Maple Grove-like material if the Fridley comprehensive plan takes root. From Central to East River Road could one day be the gateway into Fridley. Imagine 694 travelers seeing the allure that Maple Grove has beckoning them to exit and shop. It may take such a development to get investors into Hyde Park or up University to 61st Ave. With the Northtown area slipping away along with the Moore Lake businesses drowning, considering the changes at Holly Center and Moon plaza, one may just have to wonder what can bring it back or do we do as Fridley has done lately, remove it and make it look like an opportunity? Lately it has been hard to see the empty store fronts as opportunity. Good bye Columbia arena, Moon Plaza, and most other retail shops and hello faster traffic zooming through Fridley going somewhere else. Maybe a toll booth on East River Road, university Ave, and Central will cover our losses in revenue over the last 5 years?

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