The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Columns

January 18, 2014

Krohn: Midwesterners not comfortable with gates

I always had a soft spot for Savage, located along the Minnesota River just south of the Twin Cities.

I used to drive trucks of grain from our farm to Port Bunge or one of the other massive grain terminals that loaded corn and soybeans onto barges that make their way down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. It was a gritty, blue-collar town with 1950s homes, local businesses and the big Dan Patch Saloon where truckers and grain workers congregated.

So it was startling to see Savage has been pegged as the site for Minnesota's first gated, upscale apartment complex.

As you might expect, the wrought-iron fenced community of 300 apartments wouldn't be anywhere near the old town of Savage but to the south on what is now a farm field surrounded by picturesque landscape.

The Springs at Egan Drive, as it would be known, is making local developers and city planners giddy with visions of economic development.

Less giddy are existing residents, worried about traffic and simply the idea of people wanting to fence themselves off from the neighbors. Homeowner Tom Gavinski told the Star Tribune: “I’m curious on the fencing ... is that to keep people in or out?”

Oh, it's definitely there to keep you out, Tom.

You have to wonder why anyone would feel the need to protect themselves from the working families living in Savage.

Gated communities have been big in the South and Southwest but just don't sit well with Midwestern sensibilities.

Gated communities give the people living there the things they want: a sense of affluence, superiority and safety.

The upscale compounds certainly scream money and entitlement. But whether they really offer any more safety is up for debate.

Richard Schneider, a Florida professor of urban and regional planning, wrote that there isn't strong evidence people in gated communities are any safer from crime than people living in other middle- or upper-end neighborhoods.

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