Episode Summary

  1. There's 5 types of grid types for city infrastructure. The 2 most common are classic grid with rectangles and squares and organic which was developed using trails and pathways before the advent of the automobile.
  2. Though Minneapolis hoped for stealth density and affordability by increasing missing middle housing in their city, they're finding that the elimination of parking requirements is the real secret sauce when it comes to increasing housing supply.

Grids are good? (3 min read).

Grids by continent (4 min read).

Update on Minneapolis 2040 (6 min read).

Facilitate conversation about public space with this tool.

Episode Transcript

Grid, Continent, 2040

This is patterns of development.

Hey everyone. Iā€™m Kyle Gulau and on this show, patterns of development, we take less than 10 minutes each week to deconstruct what's going on in real estate, architecture, and urban planing.

Let's start off this week by talking about a concept.

The Grid.

In the context of physical space, a network of lines that cross each other to form a series of shapes. These lines are pathways of transportation and there tends to be 5 types (go to show notes for the visuals):

  1. The classic grid iron - perfect rectangles and blocks. Right angles.
  2. Organic grid - thinking converting old horse paths and trails into roads. They meander rarely is there a right angle.
  3. Loose grid - mostly rectangles but they're not all perfect
  4. Radial grid - very geometric and rare - think Washington DC in some areas. This is a grid mapped out across a circle.
  5. Suburban grid - this is the larger square with paths that cut in and dead end.

So that's the concept and common methods of implementation. What if we take a look by continent and see what method is the most popular. Well Dave Munson beat me to it. He took a look at the most populated continents and matched up the most popular grid method.

The classic grid dominates American urban planning with 38 of the 50 largest cities following the right angle format.

No surprise that Europe has about 35 of its 50 cities following the organic grid. The organic grid is also the top planning structure found in Asia with 22 of 30 most populous cities following the format.

South America trends towards the loose grid with 43 out of 50 cities following that basic structure.

Africa has the biggest spread. With half of its most populous cities using a loose grid. There's a lot of "why's" to unpack here but that is for another show.

Let's check in on Minneapolis. They have been a frequent topic on this show for walkability, affordability, and the adoption of friendly zoning towards missing middle housing. Well? How's it going?

Are the patterns of development talked about on this show making a difference in Minneapolis? According to data collected by HousingLink Minneapolis median rents for one- and two-bedroom apartments are lower ā€” in actual dollars ā€” in 2022 than they were in late 2018. Three-bedroom rents went up 2 percent over the four years.

This data would imply that Minneapolis is probably 1 of the only places in the United States where the cost of housing decreased.

However, when Minneapolis approved it's 2040 plan the goal was to increase the supply of missing middle housing (specifically duplexes and triplexes) to increase housing supply and make housing more affordable. Did that happen?

According to data from the community planning and economic development department of the 9000 housing units the city permitted during that 4 year period, 79. That's right. For every 1000 homes built 7 were missing middle housing.

Ok. Rents are falling. Permits are up. But it's not multifamily housing. Any other ideas?

James Wittenberg, who is a city planner with Minneapolis, credits the elimination of parking minimums as the biggest factor in seeing an increase in creation of residential dwellings (specifically single family homes and mid rise apartments).

As part of the 2040 plan parking minimums were eliminated entirely. And according Wittenberg, 19 major development projects have been approved since the parking minimums were eliminated that would have been very difficult to implement if there was a requirement of even 1 space per unit.

Which leads us to our patterns of the week:

1. There's 5 types of grid types for city infrastructure. The 2 most common are classic grid with rectangles and squares and organic which was developed using trails and pathways before the advent of the automobile.
2. Though Minneapolis hoped for stealth density and affordability by increasing missing middle housing in their city, they're finding that the elimination of parking requirements is the real secret sauce when it comes to increasing housing supply.

That's all for this week. Talk to you soon.