The future of Edina is being decided right now, and it’s probably too late to change course.
The grandchildren of today’s residents will be living in an Edina that’s currently under construction by a City Council and professional staff with a definite point of view on shaping the city for the 21st century.
But relax. That shape looks to be pretty good.
The key to what’s happening in the city: urbanization. That’s a dirty word to some Edina residents, perhaps many. Grace McNeill, who’s lived for more than four decades in the Highlands neighborhood, once fumed to me that Edina leaders “want to citify it, make it like Minneapolis.”
Kim Montgomery, who’s fighting to keep public space in the city’s Grandview area, declared to me her distaste for recent City Council actions: “This is a densification and urbanization council as it stands today.”
Both critics are right. But they’re painting the picture with too broad a brush, in my view.
The City Council and city administration are indeed promoting densification and urbanization. But their focus is only on certain parts of the city.
I’ve never heard a council member or staff person express a desire to plop down giant developments in the heart of Edina’s residential neighborhoods.
But there’s no doubt that they believe the city’s future is best served by encouraging greater development in key areas that are already citified. That’s not just my opinion; it’s taking concrete form right now at Southdale, Centennial Lakes and the old Pentagon Park office complex.
And, for a variety of reasons, I believe Grandview eventually will be added to that list.
Edina, along with cities like Richfield and St. Louis Park, was once on the edge of the metro area. But it’s been decades since that was true.
Now those cities are inner-ring suburbs. People who want to live on the outskirts aren’t looking at Edina any more.
The people who move there now may want to live in a nice, quiet neighborhood with tree-lined streets — but they also want easy access to business, entertainment and shopping.
It’s possible to have both, and that’s the path the city’s leaders are taking: preserving the existing neighborhoods while boosting development in places that are already built up.
Yes, that includes features like sidewalks, bike lanes and trails that tie neighborhoods and destinations together. If you want to call that urbanization, it’s a justified label. But it’s not an attempt to create concrete jungles.
What residents can expect to see is more development in places that already have it. The Southdale area is booming with office buildings and new residential high-rises, some of them built in the shopping center’s parking lot. The city’s transportation plan for the Grandview area calls for a future rapid-transit hub, as well as new frontage roads along Hwy. 100 to open up now-vacant land for development.
These are certainly density moves. But it’s hard to see how they’ll dramatically affect the peace and quiet of city neighborhoods a mile or more from the action.
Feel free to disagree with the city’s direction, but realize that it’s an eminently defensible position — and one that many modern planners agree with wholeheartedly.