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