Linden Hills: How Do You Stop Future 'Linden Corners?'

Planning effort could cost neighborhood organization $60,000.

Local developer Mark Dwyer’s controversial Linden Corner development may be dead following , but one critical thing hasn’t changed since then. The corner of 43rd street and Upton Avenue still sits marinating in the smell of ribs and basted by the unseasonably warm sunlight, looking like a delicious parcel for an enterprising businessperson looking to build something profitable in the center of one of Minneapolis’ most desirable neighborhoods.

And as it stands now, there’s not much Linden Hills residents of any ideological orientation can do to influence what might go up there, short of another divisive, multi-year verbal civil war over the future of the area’s signature business node.

That’s also where the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) is hoping to make some change. On Mar. 6, LHiNC voted to start organizing a process to create an official document, called a “small area plan,” that if adopted by the City Council would embed neighborhood preferences in the city’s zoning code.

Unlike many neighborhoods around the city, Linden Hills never got their hopes and dreams for the neighborhood's business districts written into law. That's not to say they haven't tried. LHiNC developed a document (available at right) for just this purpose in 1997 and tried again in 2008, but each attempt never made it to the final step of City Council adoption.

“This is not going to be a rehash of the Linden Corner debate. We’re not talking about one site” but rather the neighborhood’s three commercial districts LHiNC board chair Pat Smith said.

The 1997 plan would serve as a basis for the work going forward, Smith said, partly as a way to save the neighborhood money.

“Instead of reinventing the wheel, let’s focus on plan and refine it,” Smith said. “What parts do you like? What parts don’t you like? Let’s go from there.”


Cost Could Be Controversial

According to Smith, the entire effort to develop a new small area plan could cost the neighborhood group as much as $60,000—consultants would need to be hired to run the process, several public input sessions would need to take place, and the consultants would need to translate that public input into a document the City Council could adopt. The dollar figure was arrived at, Smith said, after seeking out informal quotes from multiple planning firms.

Because the Mar. 6 vote to allocate the full $60,000 to the small area plan project came with little fanfare or warning, recent posters on the neighborhood E-Democracy forum said they felt “disenfranchised” by the decision.  However, LHiNC can’t begin what Smith promised would be a “competitive” bidding process until they gets neighborhood approval. Smith said LHiNC would be organizing a neighborhood forum in late April or May to get that approval.

“This is nothing new we’re proposing,” Smith said. “This is something the community has been trying to do since 1997.”

LHiNC Treasurer Tim Voltz said the money would come from a number of different sources.

“There’s no clear picture of what we’ll draw from,” Voltz said. “There’s not necessarily one answer to how this will impact the LHiNC budget.”

Spending that much would certainly impinge on LHiNC’s ability to fund other projects, Smith acknowledged.

“I’d say there’s no more important use of NRP money,” he added, referring to a part of the city budget that partly funds Minneapolis’ neighborhood organizations

“There's no doubt that LHiNC has a good deal of money available to it,” former LHiNC co-chair Bruce Manning in an email to Patch, but $60,000 “represents around three years of record-setting (Linden Hills) Festivals.”


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Chris March 19, 2012 at 03:25 PM
What developer in their right mind would want to invest in Linden Hills now? What a failure for everyone involved.
James Sanna (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 03:54 PM
@Chris - as I say in the story, a lot of neighborhoods have things like this. The basic idea is to give more specificity to the zoning code, since what's right for 43rd and Upton may not be right for 46th and Bryant, even if they share parcels that are zoned in similar ways.
Chris March 20, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Everywhere has zoning, but not everywhere has the level of NIMBY attitude and $60,000 to throw at keeping a BBQ and parking lot in place for the next 30 years. I don't live in Linden Hills, and am not a developer, but if I were looking to build in Minneapolis I would take my business elsewhere. Hopefully to my neighborhood!
Allan Rosenwald March 21, 2012 at 05:06 AM
I live in Linden Hills--have for thirty years--and I agree with Chris. Why spend that amount of money on something that was already tried but failed twice before?
James Sanna (Editor) March 21, 2012 at 01:20 PM
That's an interesting way to look at it, Allan. You'd have to ask folks who were on the LHiNC board in '97, about that, but I understand the 2008 effort died because these things are big endeavors, and no-one could commit to it full-time. I'm working on a story trying to figure out how small area plans have worked in other parts of the city. Hopefully that might help clarify the issue.


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