Goodbye Golden Boy

Baby Boomers and Block E. Preservation and parks. Urban history and virtual reality. Outgoing city planning director Paul Farmer on the politics and passions that got him fired.

CP:What needs to be done now to make sure Minneapolis stays a "livable" city?

FARMER: We've had a metropolitan region in almost unparalleled sustained prosperity for the last 25 years. We've almost always outperformed the national average on major indicators like unemployment rates, real income growth, and job growth. We feel recessions, but not to the extent that the national average has. And we recover better. We do in the next 25 years have an opportunity to bring a lot of people back into the city who are going to be looking not for the four bedrooms, the three-car garage, the huge basement for the kids, out in some third-ring suburb. They're going to be looking for something that provides access to a theater or to a river or to the excitement of Uptown or Central Avenue. So there has been a lot of migration to the Twin Cities for all levels of employment--high income, middle, low. With older, smaller, less-modern housing concentrated in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and increasingly the first-ring suburbs, these areas have inevitably gotten more of the low-income population. I don't think it's good for the region in the long term.

If you could imagine the skyline of Minneapolis 10 years from now, how would it look?

I would imagine the sidewalks of Minneapolis as opposed to the skyline. What we do at the street level is far more important than what we do at the skyline. Skylines are very forgiving. Streets aren't. We need to get it right in terms of how our buildings meet our streets and our parks and our open spaces. We need to encourage livelihood of space. If we continue to be successful with that, then I think we can have a great city.

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