Strong Towns in Northfield

Curbside-Chat-textPLAN TO ATTEND!  The NDDC has invited the Strong Towns organization to Northfield for one of their “Curbside Chats”.  The event will be held on Monday, February 17, 5:30-7:30 pm, in the Archer House Riverview Conference Room on the lower level.  The Curbside Chats are designed city officials and community leaders, but the strong towns are built from the grassroots, so the public is welcome and your voices needed at this free event.

Curbside Chats zero in on three “big ideas” central to Strong Towns thinking:

  1. The current path cities are pursuing is not financially stable.
  2. The future for most cities will not resemble the recent past.
  3. The main determinant of future prosperity for cities will be local leaders’ ability to transform their communities.

I’ve written much on this blog about Strong Towns and ideas related to their mission.  Here’s a good summary of my posts.  But my interest goes back further than this blog.

When I served on the Planning Commission in 2001-2005, Northfield was approving hundreds of acres and hundreds of units of single family homes.  The short term attraction was clear: creating jobs and expanding the local tax base.  But longer term issues were raised by the Planning Commission, but dismissed by the Council such as:

  • If we build housing on all these acres, where might future commercial expansion take place?
  • If the city doesn’t negotiate with developers about street design and connections, how can the Northfield be able to plan for efficient service delivery in the future?
  • Will the increased tax revenue pay for the maintenance of the infrastructure added and the cost of delivering services to the new areas?

Strong Towns caught my attention in about 2010 with its message of the financial impact of the way cities have developed in the last 50 years or so.  Certainly as a City Council member at the time, I could see that Northfield’s tax revenue was not keeping up with maintenance or service needs, so I was relieved, thrilled, and excited to see the questions I’d already asked be asked by people with more development experience and to see that message go from Brainerd, MN to national news.

Does Strong Towns have all the answers?  No, but that’s where you come in.  Come think with Strong Towns and your neighbors about the future of Northfield.  I’ll be in Finland, but I can’t wait to hear what happens.




3 responses to “Strong Towns in Northfield”

  1. Oy. When I went to college in Northfield — I graduated back in 2000 — I was complaining that what the city needed was
    (1) an intercity passenger train line to the Twin Cities (proposed as the “Dan Patch Line”, sabotaged by a ban on discussion imposed by some Lakeville state legislators),
    (2) taller buildings in in the walkable part of town which already had sidewalks (which is basically from St. Olaf on the west to Prairie St. on the east, and Lincoln Parkway on the north to Jefferson Parkway on the south)
    (3) Pedestrian improvements around Route 3, which was dangerous to cross and created a sort of “dead zone”.

    I am sad to hear that the Northfield Planning Commission continued to approve masses of tract homes on farmland from 2001-2005. A terrible choice.

  2. Speaking of bad urban design, I see that Northfield Hospital is in a particularly horrifying location, reachable *only* by car — it really should be moved.

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