Hopkins is in the Elite Eight — not in basketball, but an online tournament to select “America’s best town.”
The Minneapolis suburb will face Frank Sinatra’s hometown of Hoboken, N.J., in the next round of the Strongest Town contest sponsored by Strong Towns, a Minnesota-based national advocacy group that promotes citizen involvement, financial solvency and smart planning.
Hopkins is the only Minnesota city in the tourney, which drew more than 30 entries nationwide. The organization’s staff selected 16 contestants and put them in a tournament bracket, with each matchup determined by online voting.
“We deal with important issues that towns are struggling with,” said Rachel Quednau, a Strong Towns spokeswoman. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to celebrate the positive things that are going on in their towns — and to see towns that are exemplary, to show that it can be done.”
Quednau said the group was particularly impressed with Hopkins’ downtown, described as “not a dollhouse, touristy downtown meant for show,” but a “genuine, lived-in district that serves residents’ needs.” The suburb has a population of 18,000.
Strong Towns grew out of a blog by Charles Marohn, a Brainerd civil engineer. He wrote a post, “Confessions of a Recovering Engineer,” in which he declared that the urban design principles he’d been practicing were destroying the livability of the cities that were his clients.
Marohn’s blog grew into an advocacy group with members in 50 states, and Marohn became a sought-after speaker for business, community and government groups looking for a new approach to design and livability issues.
James Warden, a member of Hopkins’ Zoning and Planning Commission, put the entry together with city staffers.
“I’ve always thought Hopkins hits a lot of the check boxes they recognize,” Warden said. “When this contest came around, I thought, ‘We’re already doing these things, and let’s show that to the world.’ ”
Voting in the Hopkins-Hoboken contest begins Monday morning and ends Wednesday night. To vote, go to strongtowns.org/strongesttown.
Warden is gearing up for a tough fight with Hoboken, a city of 50,000 just across the Hudson River from New York City.
“Hoboken had a lot of community involvement, so we’ve got to step it up strong going into this next round,” he said.