a hypothetical destination, say, who is this walking man?

Northfield’s downtown is growing, and this is something that needs to be encouraged. A large constituency of Northfield residents have strong feelings about centering community life around the downtown and preserving/expanding its historical character. They want this to continue to feel like the small river town it has been throughout its history, regardless of growth.

There has been a discussion on the N.org “Issues” list about pedestrian safety related to this growth. Basically the issue centers around growth across Highway #3 to the west. If this area develops as a commercial area, there will certainly be a lot of pressure to make it a continuation of the existing downtown. If this is the way the area develops, it will be important that pedestrians are able to safely and conveniently cross Highway #3 between what exists now and what will come to be on the other side of the highway.

Jim Pokorney, a Northfield City Councillor, recently discussed this in his weblog. He included a reprint of an editorial he wrote for the Northfield News.

He makes several important points that bear some reflection. For my part, I’ll make some observations of my own.

Councillor Pokorney is exactly right to point out that downtown commercial development should be treated as fundamentally different from the highway commercial development on the south end of Northfield, extending into Dundas. These two different areas can complement each other well despite what some naysayers will tell you. It is important to recognize this distinction and separate them when discussing development and planning. Downtown is and should be pedestrian focused, as opposed to the south highway district which is vehicle focused. They each have advantages and disadvantages and I’m sure that a lot of folks use both for different reasons.

The City should be planning for this development and expansion of the downtown and has an interest in making pedestrian crossing safe in order to further that vision. MNDOT has an interest in this section of Highway #3 as well. Their interest is focused on safely moving vehicles north and south on the highway, as well as improving access to Highway #19 for truck traffic.

Both of these interests are valid and appropriate undertakings for government. Both the City and MNDOT want improvements in the infrastructure that will increase safety and ensure that commerce can effectively be carried out. That’s what they’re supposed to do: health, safety, welfare, commerce.

As to the specific issue of a light at 3rd Street, I think it’s a “chicken or the egg” scenario.

On the one hand, it may be difficult to support the expense of a signal based on current statistical information about the intersection. There may be more supportive statistics available when more pedestrian-engaged business is carried out on the west side of the highway.

Then again, how attractive will it be for developers to want to improve/renovate that area when they don’t see a ready-made conduit for their foot-powered customers to get to them?

So, I see the question as: when will the light(s) be added to Highway #3, as a result of the redevelopment or as a necessary precursor to it? I am convinced they will be there (MNDOT is installing wiring in anticipation of it as part of the existing project) we just need to decide what the actual mechanism for requiring them will be.

The Irish in Northfield

The 5th annual Northfield St. Patrick’s Day Parade, known as the Patty Dazzle, was held downtown this evening. After living here for several years, I was glad to finally attend this fun event. All the right things were present, a bagpiper, a dancing St. Patrick, the flag of Ireland, and several family banners and crests.

I had a chance to talk with several people who were either marching in the parade or who came to watch. There seems to be a universal theme of fun surrounding St. Patrick’s Day events, and knowledge of the actual history and tradition of the holiday isn’t critical to taking part in the celebration. Even if you don’t know what “Erin go Bragh” means, you can still participate.

Mike McGovern was the Grand Marshall this year and the parade event itself was organized by a group of folks who included Kevin O’Donnell, Jim Bohnhoff, who took the role of St. Patrick, and Northfield City Council Member Jim Pokorney.

I did have the chance to take some pictures and will post them later. For now, you should check out Northfield.org‘s photo album posted by blogger extraordinaire Griff Wigley.

Update: The photos turned out pretty cruddy, so I won’t post them here. Sorry for the tease. Guess I need to move into the late 20th century and get a digital camera…

“The Scarce Man”

A friend of mine has finally taken the time to follow the advice given to him by his pals and written a book.

    The Scarce Man

“The Scarce Man” by James Frie is an excellent police mystery novel that is distingushed by realistic description and vivid detail throughout the story. It really gets you wrapped up in the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the very end.

The Scarce Man centers on Agent Mike Rawlings of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He is Minnesota’s top murder detective and is nearing retirement when he’s called in to handle the most baffling and dangerous case of his career. Someone with a violent M.O. is killing certain people in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Rawlings deduces that the murders are politically motivated, but what he doesn’t know is that the killer, who in the days following 9/11, has become obsessed with the idea that he alone can begin a chain of events that will launch the social revolution he believes will save the country. The killer forms an alter-ego, whom he calls The Patriot. What Rawlings doesn’t know, is that the Patriot has inside knowledge that will make him more deadly than anyone he’s ever faced; and much harder to stop.

Being from Minnesota, I can vividly picture each location as the story unfolds. If you like a book that’s hard to put down, then you should definitely check it out.