Unleashing the Power of the Corridor with Charles Landry

Written by Jeanne Landkamer, Metropolitan Council

Inspiration blew into the Twin Cities on July 13th and 14th in the form of Charles Landry, a British consultant who helps cities take a fresh look at their potential and unleash creativity in becoming a bigger player on the global stage.
While his ideas are big, their focus is sometimes on the small scale – like the street.
“A great city is where people fall in love with the streets,” Landry said to a crowd of more than 200 people at the Guthrie Theater on the Minneapolis riverfront on Thursday, July 14. They were gathered for an event called “Unleashing the Potential of the Central Corridor.”
Great streets are walkable and human-scale, have a diversity of commercial and housing types, provide connections and offer surprises, Landry said. “The sensory and emotional experience of a place is the key.”
Using a rich and often entertaining variety of images, Landry provided examples of cities around the world – such as Vancouver, Melbourne and Zurich – that are transforming themselves into economic and cultural magnets by:

  • Encouraging creativity and cross-disciplinary thinking
  • Capitalizing on their diversity
  • Focusing on becoming much greener in many sectors
  • Doing transit- and people-oriented development

Too often, he said, the “rules” (such as zoning and streetscape parameters) are major obstacles to development that is designed for well-being and livability. So the rules must be re-examined in order to create places where people become anchored and that attract new residents and economic development.
Landry challenged the region to think about whether it will develop and redevelop “up to a standard” or “down to a price.” He said cities need to ask themselves: What is the cost of ugliness: of not thinking about creativity, culture, design, arts and heritage, and green infrastructure as they plan for the future.
The event also featured brief presentations about plans around five specific stations on the Central Corridor, followed by a Q&A with Landry.
Mike Christenson, director of community planning and economic development for the City of Minneapolis, said one of the best outcomes of the event was a potential new collaboration. Representatives of the Textile Center of Minnesota – which is headquartered and owns land ripe for development near the Prospect Park station – and Aeon, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, were at the presentation and talked for three hours after the event. “We’re all really excited about it,” he said. “These are exactly the kinds of connections we want to be fostering.”
The event was organized by the Corridors of Opportunity project. The project is a collaboration of business, foundations, local government, nonprofit and neighborhood groups, and others aiming to spur private investment and create long-term jobs, affordable housing and sustainable communities along the region’s emerging transitway system.
Landry also spoke on Wednesday, July 13, at the Ethnic Cultural Tourism Destinations Conference in St. Paul, supported by funding from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. His keynote address was titled “The Art of Conviviality: Planning for Diversity Advantage.”