Few would doubt that the IDS Crystal Court in Minneapolis is one of the Twin Cities’ most noteworthy places. Or the historic Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.
But a port-a-potty in Wayzata?
They’re all among the candidates for the 2014 Great Places Awards, given by the Sensible Land Use Coalition. Winners will be announced Wednesday night at a ceremony hosted by former WCCO-TV news anchor Don Shelby.
Before you balk at the notion of including an outdoor toilet alongside some of the area’s best-known landmarks, consider the goals of the competition. The Great Places awards recognize places open to the public in the seven-county metro area that are memorable, transformational and elevate function to art.
The Wayzata biffy isn’t your typical grungy plastic booth. Set inside a fabric-wrapped metal framework and accentuated with a hanging flowerpot, the potty exceeds expectations, said Lucy Thompson, St. Paul’s chief city planner and a member of the steering committee for the award.
Normally, the ubiquitous port-a-potty is “a thing that’s so functional and mundane and usually makes people want to turn their head the other way,” Thompson said. “And the fact that somebody thought about [improving it] is great.”
In fact, several temporary structures were nominated for an award.
“We’re happy about that,” Thompson said. “You can create a great place wherever you are. We have a good mix of urban and suburban; a good mix of legacy, new and temporary.”
The Sensible Land Use Coalition, an Excelsior-based nonprofit, includes city planners, designers, lawyers, public works officials and commercial developers. The group’s goal is to develop consensus approaches to land use and development that will meet the broad needs of society.
Though the coalition has been around for more than 35 years, the awards are in their second year. The jury choosing the winners includes architects, artists and developers.
“We want people to start recognizing these great places, and by celebrating them, to give a message to the development community that people appreciate great places and that there is economic value in them,” Thompson said. “There’s emotional value, but there’s economic value, too.
“We want to encourage the development community to recognize their value and build more of them.”
Last year’s winners included the Piazza on the Mall, Midtown Global Market and the Loppet, Minneapolis; Rice Park and the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, St. Paul; and Heart of the City, Burnsville.
The 2014 Great Places nominees are:
• Columbia Heights: Heights Theater
• Edina: Centennial Lakes Park
• Golden Valley: Wirth Beach
• Hopkins: Mainstreet
• Minneapolis: IDS Crystal Court, Midtown Greenway, Ruin Courtyard at Mill City Museum, Streetscape Lab
• St. Louis Park: Excelsior & Grand, the West End
• St. Paul: the Hub at Beacon Bluff, Pedro Park, St. Paul Farmers Market, Urban Flower Field
• Wayzata: Portable Restroom Wrap