Travels with Donjek: The Marked Up Map

I love the last week of the year. It reminds me of evenings looking at maps on canoeing and hiking trips, reviewing the day’s travel and preparing for what is to come. On a broader scale, I enjoy the retrospectives of the year that become available mid-December. This year, I recommend you check out The Atlantic Cities’ Year in Review page, featuring the year in ideas, the best city reads, and the “best of ‘best ofs’ of 2011.”

For Donjek, it’s been a vivid and productive road in 2011. I hope you’ll indulge my short list of key developments.

In February, after an intense competition against three other teams, Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition judges awarded victory to the Donjek team, led by Kennedy Violich Architecture and the Tom Leader Studio. My role on the team focused on developing a narrative for the future of the Mississippi River as connector of North and Northeast Minneapolis, on the future of industrial uses currently on the river, and historical research of land uses dating to 1860. Read my February post, and visit what has now become the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Initiative.

Following an application and interview process, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton appointed me in March to represent Saint Paul on the Metropolitan Council. The Council operates the region’s expanding transit system (mainly bus, light rail and commuter rail) and its wastewater treatment system. The Council also provides affordable housing, guides local planning with an overarching regional framework, and funds priorities like brownfield remediation, transit oriented development, and affordable housing. Its regional scale allows the Council to undertake these core services in a cost-effective and aligned way, and I am invested in advancing its work.

In April, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak presented the Minneapolis Saint Paul Metropolitan Business Plan to an audience of policy makers and thinkers at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. As project manager, lead researcher and writer of the plan, I was gratified by their charismatic joint presentation of a document that links together a panoply of interrelated efforts currently underway in the region. See the final business plan and executive summary, or see the mayors’ comments and other content at the Brookings web page.

In September, I completed work on an extensive reuse study of the historic Hudson Manufacturing Building in Hastings, Minnesota, along with team lead Stark Preservation and collaborators Claybaugh Preservation Architecture and Peter Musty LLC. The project represented a demonstration of how the value of land can evolve. The Mississippi River-front location was attractive for the manufacturer for one set of reasons in 1870; today, the location and historic portions of the building derive value in a very different marketplace, driven by demand for access to a rehabilitated river and its views. Read my earlier post with more detail about the reuse study.

Toward the end of the year, I presented findings of a Donjek economic impact study of a prospective linear park in downtown Minneapolis, linking the downtown employment base, light rail and bus transit, the Minneapolis Central Library, and the Mississippi River, via underutilized spaces ripe for redevelopment with both open space and structures. Stay tuned for more detail about the study and its findings; in the meantime, take a look at the 34-story Nicollet Residence development now approved to proceed at the southern boundary of this space.

It’s December 30, and time to unfold the map leading into 2012. I wish you good luck and look forward to working together.