Whither Northfield’s neighborhoods?

Jay Walljasper

Jay Walljasper spoke at the Northfield United Methodist Church last Sunday, invited by Northern Letter blogger Bill Ostrem for their Sunday Morning Adult Forum.

Great Neighborhood book coverJay’s a Senior Fellow at the Project for Public Spaces, the same organization that just named Division Street in downtown Northfield as one of the Five of the best neighborhoods in North America.

He talked about the importance of neighborhoods, as he’s got a new book out titled, The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Placemaking.

Click play to listen. 40 minutes. (Not available via podcast but you can download the MP3.)

Wigley halloween entrywayI’ve been thinking about neighborhoods lately since we just moved to a townhouse in the Hidden Valley/Heritage Park area of Northfield. Is it a neighborhood? I’m not sure.

But since tonight is Halloween, I suggested to Robbie that we use it as an excuse to meet as many of our neighbors as possible. She dressed up our entryway and I’ll be there, hamming it up with the kids and handing out candy bars.

How many neighborhoods does Northfield have? What are they called? What’s to like about yours? What are people and local organizations doing to strengthen them?

14 thoughts on “Whither Northfield’s neighborhoods?”

  1. Griff –

    When the Planning Commission took their bus tour of Northfield last summer, one of the ideas that seemed to be supported by both Commissioners and Staff was the recognition of more distinct neighborhoods within the community. For those of us with extensive experience in other communities, it struck us as a little bit unusual that Northfielders often seemed to speak of only two “neighborhoods”, though two sets of two, either “the Eastside and the Westside” or “Historic Northfield and the New Developments”.

    There was some discussion about what might be the best approach to recognizing neighborhoods: could it be done from above by elected or appointed officials and professional staff or would it slowly and eventually develop from the ground level as the town continued to grow. There was also recognition that certain streets might divide the neighborhoods along logical lines or that predominant, distinct architectural styles might lead to the definition of unique neighborhoods.

    I’ll have to hear more about Jay Walljasper’s presentation and ideas. I would be interested if he provided some guidance on this process that could be used here in Northfield. This could be a very useful discussion to have as our town continues to change.

    – Ross

  2. I just ordered the book from Monkey-See-Monkey-Read over the phone. It’s a new copy at 20% off the cover price of $20 and no shipping. I suggested he order more and put them in the window, which he said he would.

    Eventually, I wanted to have book links on my new website to Amazon. Maybe I will talk to ? (sorry, I do not know his name, but he seems like a great guy) and link to his site instead. 🙂

  3. We live on St. Olaf Avenue and Halloween HAS to be one of the best nights of the year in our neighborhood. Around dusk everyone turns on their porch lights and the goblins and fairies and action figures and Harry Potters materialize on the sidewalks. We usually have around 150 kids. Later in the evening….if our porch light is still on……some college students will stop by. They seem a little embarrassed but are having a wonderful time. What a great time to connect with neighbors!

  4. Hey, Chip –

    Your list reminded me of one of the things we’ve discussed at the Planning Commission – “neighborhoods, not subdivisions”. Many if not all the names on your list are descriptive names used by the City, e.g. “Kwik Trip addition” or the developers’ marketing names like “Hills of Spring Creek”. It *might* be a place to start, but I doubt it, because the things that characterize a neighborhood – having defined edges, some sort of central area for public use, good auto and ped connections – don’t necessarily follow the property lines of a particular developer’s parcels.

    I think it would be both interesting and insightful to get people together around a map (stage 1) to try to define where neighborhoods are, then confirm that with a walk around (step 2). Then we could play “name that neighborhood” (step 3). Neighborhoods do have personality, and I think they need names. It could be a Locally Grown project – Let’s see if we can come up with some good names and spread the word to see if they’ll be accepted!

  5. Judy Covey, glad to have you posting here… and hear how important Halloween is to your neighborhood. Is your neighborhood commonly referred to as ‘the St. Olaf Avenue neighborhood’ or ‘the Way Park neighborhood’ or something else?

    BTW, our Halloween strategy worked great. We met a whole bunch of parents from around Heritage Park who came to our door with their kids. Now we probably should take Walljasper’s advice and organize a neighborhood potluck before the holidays. Hmmm.

  6. Griff,

    I don’t think our neighborhood has a name. If it does I don’t know it and we’ve lived on the Avenue since 1966.

  7. Except for Halloween night, I think our neighborhood is more divided amongst
    houe type. We have the townhomes that Griff and Robbie live in, the twin homes across the street, and then up from there the single family homes.
    We have had exchanges between all, but mostly our twin home neighbors.
    There have been several neighbors live where G and R live, and several turnovers in a few of the other places over the last few years. Most people
    are busy raising kids and or working. Our big tie in is with our great collie,
    who is loved and loves just about everyone on his walks.
    I have often thought about a pot luck night and starting a neighborhood
    garden club, but we always think we might be moving, but then we never do.
    But, I can help get something going.

  8. Griff wrote:

    Kewl! Thanks, Chip.

    My pleasure!

    For the record, it’s no my list: Note that it’s a link to the Rice County website.

    Tracy wrote:

    Neighborhoods do have personality, and I think they need names.

    Yep! I like that idea. Where we live now, they do exactly that. It kinda rules. 🙂

  9. Your list reminded me of one of the things we’ve discussed at the Planning Commission — “neighborhoods, not subdivisions.” Many if not all the names on your list are descriptive names used by the City, e.g. “Kwik Trip addition” or the developers’ marketing names like “Hills of Spring Creek.”

    Of course there’s no reason why a subdivision can’t also be a neighborhood. I think as long as it as community space and encourages walking and being out in your yard (*ahem* not having three car garages attack the eyes of passers-by), there’s no reason why it can’t be the creation of one developer. Though the houses themselves won’t be winning any architectural awards, the new developments around Spring Creek Park do a decent job of this — enormous, usable park space, lots of trails, and sidewalks on almost every street.

    I’d also like to note on what you mentioned at the end of your comment, Tracy: my utter disgust with the marketing names of newer neighborhoods. I’ve been sighing for two weeks since Bridgewater Heights added a permanent sign (great restraint on the part of D.R. Horton, though, that it did not include their logo, like every other sign in the subdivision). I say if we can restrict culs-de-sac, we can restrict tacky signs 😉

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