Real estate guide war escalates; fixed pedestal news racks needed?

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I blogged last week (Dueling real estate guides hit the streets of Northfield) about the battle between By All Means Graphics and the Northfield News. A new front has opened up in the war: competing news racks for their guides. (BAMG’s rack is gray and distributes both the NEG and the REG.

Both are visible in front of The Kuyper Group’s office on Division St., clustered with the Strib, PiPress, Northfield News, and Jobs and Careers news racks.

newsrack_pedestal.jpgI think this proliferation of news racks is now poised to go beyond the blight stage and has the potential to start disrupting pedestrian use of the sidewalk as well as that pet project of mine, sidewalk dining.

Isn’t it time to consider fixed pedestal news racks downtown (left photo) like San Francisco has done?

16 thoughts on “Real estate guide war escalates; fixed pedestal news racks needed?”

  1. Griff,

    The NDDC submitted a proposal on this topic as part of our “Enhancements to Downtown” project in 2003. This project preceded the DSU study of downtown and the Downtown Streetscape Task Force both of which were later commissioned by the City Council.

    The NDDC’s suggested solution to the news rack concern is somewhere in between what exists today and what you propose. The mechanism is called a “newspaper box corral” and provides a metal bar in a strategic location that allows the boxes to be chained to it.

    There’s an even simpler solution which Red Wing uses and that is to designate an area for boxes by ordinance. That tidies up the sidewalk and doesn’t require any money. Any of these measures prevents boxes from being chained to trees, signposts, railings, etc. and/or blocking sidewalks and doesn’t impinge on the free speech question at all, just organizes the delivery.

    Thanks for raising the topic for us to chew on.

  2. Glad to help resuscitate the idea, Dan. Maybe since ordinances will soon be worked on for the comprehensive plan, the ordinance governing news racks can be added to the pile.

    Does the NDDC have photos of the alternatives you mention? If so, blog ’em!

  3. I work in St. Paul, and it is REALLY bad here.

    There are rows of these boxes all over the place, and they are UGLY.

    I am all for one unified location per block, with a total of three of them downtown. Place them near the center of the block. We should also have it written that they cannot be in Bridge Square proper. (the mailbox should be moved as well)

    Just my $0.02.

  4. One per block / 3 downtown / that sounds good to me. It would be in our interest certainly to have a limit and guidance as to where to put them – but in checking prior to moving forward on securing our boxes – we found there wasn’t any guidance. Now that I’ve put a couple up I’m more aware of how many there are, and agree they are rather obnoxious as they exist now.

    They are great hubs for our publications – the product stays in sight, is stacked nicely and they’re effective.

    I didn’t see an sidewalk blocking issue with the placement of our boxes, but we’ll put contact information on them in case anything comes up.

    Can we get the conversation to an official level?

  5. One avenue to bring it to the “official” level is through the Downtown Streetscape Task Force. The NDDC has two representatives in the group, Joe Grundhoefer and Keith Covey, both of them on the NDDC Board. I believe that group meets next week to discuss remaining 2007 projects.

    The other official channel is to talk directly to elected city officials and city staff. The City Councilor whose ward includes most of downtown is Jim Pokorney. Scott Davis would be the other council member directly involved. Of course, talking to any member of the City Council would be fine as would members of city staff. Dan Olson, the City Planner, would be involved if placement of the news publication boxes was regulated by city ordinance. Joel Walinski, Director of Public Services, would be involved if the solution dictates purchasing devices that will be installed on city sidewalks.

    In fact, these folks are the ones to talk to about additional bike racks, benches, planters, etc. in the downtown district if those things are of interest to you.

    Oh yeah, and how about that way-finding signage we got a preview of last winter?

  6. $80,000? really? I paid $100 for mine. Sounds like it could be worthy of a Golden Fleece Award.

    How about those Signs? When can we expect to see them downtown? No info on the city website that I could find.

  7. The City website works fine. What the City doesn’t have is staff that knows how to use it. A couple of months ago there was some buzz about perhaps having public library staff (who, thankfully, ARE tech literate) do the maintenance of the City site. Don’t know whatever became of that, but it seems like a good idea.

    Now, back to the subject at hand….

  8. Personally, it should be up to the City Administrator, and the IT Manager to have “responsibility” for the website.

    At a minimum, the IT Manager should be able to do the updates on a Friday afternoon. Thier content cannot change that frequently, can it?

    80 Grand…unreal. (walks away, shaking head)

  9. RE the 80K discussion – why save it for another day?

    Tracy said:

    “The City web site works fine. What the City doesn’t have is staff that knows how to use it. A couple of months ago there was some buzz about perhaps having public library staff (who, thankfully, ARE tech literate) do the maintenance of the City site. Don’t know whatever became of that, but it seems like a good idea.”

    What I’d like to hear is why 80K; if as all you other “wiser than me” think… it could have been done better for far less dollars:

    Jerry said $100???

    WOW. If I were Tracy I’d have addressed that kind of remark. Whether the staff is updating or not… I find it difficult to navigate my way around it – but I’m the old fart right? But what about dollars spent? Wise or unwise? Griff seems to balk at 80K too “Arrrgggg” or whatever. How ‘bout it Tracy? Can you defend the cost?

    Or, can Jerry direct the city to a better Web Designer?

  10. From the streetscape taskforce meeting: (which I had to leave early) Regarding the wayfinding signs downtown (they look really nice, by the way), as soon as the plans are approved by the city council they will be implemented into the first large streetscape project–the gateway re-do at Hwy 3 and 3rd street. Other way finding signs will begin to appear (hopefully ) by the end of the summer. The next cross walks to be “bricked” are at Division and 3rd by the library–slated to begin in July.

    We also discussed the proliferation of the literature boxes and everyone agrees that this is very important to bring to the discussion of street improvements. I believe Joel Walinski will start researching the legal/ordinance issues here. But the tricky part is that we are 1) dealing with a free speach issue, and 2) do we really want to start regulating what gets put on the sidewalks too strictley? Think about all the great planters at Hodge Podge Que, the tables and chairs that are sprouting up, and being used when technically we don’t have outdoor dining, and the delightful merchandise in front of Antiques of Northfield. The probable solution is to create a certain literature box that is “acceptable” then have them for lease or purchase by the publishers to use in certain limited areas. Stay tuned…

  11. Wow, that’s a great report, Mary. I’m delighted to hear that the news boxes got on the agenda and that Joel is looking into ordinance/legal issues. If SF can do it, we can do it.

    Might the streetscape task force stay in business a bit longer and take on the sidewalk dining issue too, since you have nothing better to do? 😉

  12. Mary – Do we really want to regulate sidewalks too strictly? Probably not.

    Can we regulate these boxes without having it spill over to all the other items: decorative, product and marketing, that take to the sidewalks on a regular basis?

    Directing placement of these boxes to specific areas seems the least invasive as publishers can continue to use the boxes they’ve invested in, won’t need to add the expense of leasing of buying space from the city, and the city wouldn’t have to invest in hardware for multiple locations that would need to accommodate free and cost publications – not to mention determining who gets one of the most probably finite spaces.

  13. I don’t understand why the only two choices have to be total anarchy or total regulation of everything touching the concrete. I’m not sure there has to be any regulation at all.
    It seems there are a limited number of very reasonable publishers and a few reasonable designs for common publication stands that would reduce the clutter. Surely the publishers and the city can work out a voluntary agreement without the need of a year of public meetings and consultant studies and such.
    I would think the only reason for regulation would be in some renegade publisher refused to cooperate and caused a serious sidewalk obstruction.

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