We all know when a neighborhood is livable. When a street works, it feels charming by instinct. But why? What specific urban planning techniques make a street successful? To discover these answers, I took a look at communities in South Minneapolis to uncover how neighborhoods have succeeded in captivating their citizens.
Although there is a plethora of elements that create successful neighborhoods, the use of landscape design (specifically, trees in Minneapolis communities) is crucial to the way we interpret our streets and communities. Trees are so vital because they relate directly to how we perceive the proportion and scale of our buildings. For example, if a four-story building is placed directly next to a two-story building, it may not be received well by the community because of vertical growth (Image A). However, if trees are present in front of the larger infrastructure, the area is perceived as having less vertical space (Image B). Trees not only add to the aesthetic value of the neighborhood, but they also take away visual attention on infrastructure, thus allowing for reasonable higher density neighborhoods to be built.
Along with allowing buildings to be more proportional to pedestrians, trees are also crucial to enclose our streets. This is key to prosperous street businesses. When analyzing neighborhoods in South Minneapolis, it was evident that street businesses enclosed by boulevards and trees profited by their vibrant street life. For citizens to feel at place in a community and to desire to live there, they must feel enclosed and that they belong. Where streets are vastly open and dominated by mass parking lots and big box stores, that simply does not happen. For example, at Nicollet and 57th, the street is encompassed by two 8 ft sidewalks, two 8 ft parking lanes, and an 8 ft median (Image C).
However, in this mess of concrete, there is no sign of any green buffer; How can businesses at these types of intersections be inviting to consumers? For neighborhoods to be successful, they must be capable of engaging with the street while allowing pedestrians to separate themselves from street activities.
What elements make neighborhoods in your city successful? How can we influence citizens and leaders alike to implement these successful elements further in our communities?
Credits: Images by Abbey Seitz. Data linked to sources.