Debating the definition of “livability”

After years of looking out my window to see a mostly empty surface parking lot, I was delighted to learn that a new development was proposed for a space that also includes a now mostly empty office building and another mostly empty surface lot. Finally, this significantly underutilized land adjacent to the activity center of Uptown would come to life with new neighbors and new amenities just a short walk away!

The population of the city is projected to keep growing. In a city that is almost entirely built-out, making better use of empty or underutilized lands is crucial. The Sons of Norway site is the perfect place for a larger project with higher density because of its access to transit and (soon more) bicycle lanes and its proximity to the core of Uptown, parks and Bde Maka Ska — all things that make this a wonderfully livable neighborhood.

So I was surprised to hear criticisms that the development would negatively impact “livability” in the neighborhood, with the most common concerns being about building height, traffic and parking. I have to give kudos to Ryan Companies for listening to feedback and altering their original design to reduce the height on the south end of the development.

The concerns about parking and traffic are more baffling to me. Cars, and in particular single-occupant vehicles, are one of the largest contributors to congestion on roads, reduced air quality and noise.

I think those passionate about livable communities need to consider how we can further encourage walking, biking, ride-sharing and transit so more people in our neighborhood choose alternatives to a solo trip in a car. I was shocked that I was one of very few people to walk to a recent neighborhood meeting; most attendees chose to drive the few blocks.

The access to a variety of shops and restaurants, greens spaces and lakes, the transportation options and the mix of people are all things that drew me to Uptown, and other people want to enjoy these features as well. The proposed development on the Sons of Norway site will allow more people to share in all that Uptown has to offer while bringing additional amenities that will further enrich our neighborhood.

Ryan Brown

East Calhoun

  • jmellum

    The “Voices” opinion, “Debating the definition of ‘livability'” in the Jan. 11-24 issue, raised the issue of what constitutes good livability. But one livability concern is often kept “under wraps” and not discussed, even though it presents a physical “barrier” to the ability to breathe clean, healthy air in our city. And that is wood smoke from increased wood burning residentially and in restaurants. Public events are often inaccessible to kids and others with asthma, keeping many people away unless they want to breathe the smoke against their permission. While some may like the smell, its toxic fumes contain a host of the same toxic chemicals that are also in tobacco smoke. Our public parks and urban areas should be accessible to all people–not just those who like or can tolerate wood smoke. For a city to be “livable”, it must be healthy and not a barrier that can harm others. Please contact the Park Board and request that they ensure no wood burning be allowed to contaminate our parks “for entertainment” when safer, cleaner alternatives are readily available.

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