Portage Avenue 1976 and 2007There was an interesting MinnPost.com post back in 2007 about Minneapolis' skywalk system.
In 2007 Minneapolis hosted the International Vital Winter Cities conference and a couple of world renowned architects were invited to take a tour of Downtown Minneapolis and give their impressions. One thing they both agreed on ? Get rid of the skywalks ! An excerpt:
The biggest problem, both said, is that people in Minneapolis don't realize that great cities — even cold cities — are now defined by the vitality of their street life. "People here don't see a crisis," said Gehl. "They don't yet see themselves as behind the times."Earlier this year Architecture Minnesota Magazine held a video competition to show what life would be like in Minnie without the skywalks, or at the very least how to improve them.
Canada, in general, tends to be a decade behind the U.S. when it comes to bad urban trends (and Winnipeg a few years behind that).
For instance, the idea that downtown malls could combat urban decay reigned in the U.S. through the 1970s and came to us in the 1980s. In the past few years a number of cities have realized that the downtown mall was a bad idea and centres such as Columbus, Rockford, Green Bay, Sunnyvale, Cleveland and Salt Lake have been demolishing theirs inf favour of, well, what used to be there: storefront offices and shops, smaller scale projects that are walkable and comfortable.
We're nowhere near that point on malls so any discussion about whether elevated skywalks are good or bad for a downtown will take years to reach us. After all, we're still proudly expanding our system with plans to add more.
One aspect of a walkable downtown that will come up for debate in the next couple of years, like it or not, will be the possible reopening of Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic.
Perhaps then we can begin to make amends for decades of building projects that take people off the streets.