There’s a darkness…

A strib article today about a farm in Brooklyn Park that may be razed to accommodate a freeway intersection.  And it’s not just a farm that is disappearing, it is the edge of town.

Due to a unique instance of long-range planning, a large swath of Brooklyn Park remained rural for decades.  In the 70s the city made the decision to develop the southern portion of their jurisdiction at slightly higher densities, allowing for the northern half to be developed very gradually, in pieces.  From what I’ve heard (this info came from a consultant who taught a seminar I took in college) this strategy has worked out fairly well, as the development that has occurred in the reserve has been valued higher and brought a higher tax base due to the induced demand created by the development scarcity inherent in the reserve.

The only other town that I’m aware of having a similar policy, though on a smaller scale, is Plymouth, which has an urban reserve in its northwestern corner.  Plymouth, however, hasn’t coordinated growth in the rest of the city as well as Brooklyn Park did.  The “reserves” created by anti-growth policies like Lake Elmo’s are quite different, as they will turn into the typical slash-n-burn boomburb strategy that most American cities take as soon as a developer-friendly council is elected.

In the meantime, the city has grown around Brooklyn Park’s edge of town, so that it is now entirely engulfed in suburban development.  And the city that exists today no longer has an edge.  As we’ve decided to build our cities to the lowest densities imaginable, we’re surrounded on all sides by houses that have farm-like veneers, but whose occupants (pending foreclosure) have thoroughly suburban lifestyles.  The edge of town may be gone, but the darkness remains…

20 years ago, the urban reserve had already been chipped away a bit, but it still reached the Coon Rapids Dam and had a narrow escape passage between Maple Grove and Champlin.

This image from 2006 shows the shriveled state of the edge of town, scarred by freeways and surrounded on all sides by suburbs.