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City Plans High-Density Future, But Where?

If city is trying to boost density, could that come to Southwest Minneapolis?

Shortly before I left for Boston to enjoy some family time, the Star-Tribune ran a story outlining city officials' quest to get more higher-density housing built in Minneapolis. 

Several major projects underway illustrate a trend toward tightly packed, urban living that is playing out in cities across the United States, giving Minneapolis planners hope of recapturing population the city lost starting in the 1950s. More apartments and condominiums got the green light in Minneapolis this year than any in recent history -- about 2,800 in 22 new buildings so far.

"If we're going to compete in the 21st century as a competitive global city, we have to attract people who want to live in cities. And cities are dense, urban environments," said the city's director of community planning and economic development, Jeremy Hanson Willis.

Some important concerns are driving that, the Strib's Eric Roper reported: school district and city property tax receipts would go up, and apartment-dwellers would likely see rents stabilize or drop as the vacancy rate drops from its current, obscenely tight rate of 1.6 percent.

Eric Roper's piece, though, made it sound a bit like a condo tower could be coming soon to a neighborhood near you. As people involved in 2012's bruising development fights discovered, there are a lot of tools residents can use to stave off developers in an election year. Furthermore, city staff and a few neighborhoods have spent a long time pondering where to encourage growth, eventually producing the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan and a litany of so-called small area plans that productively help delineate the kinds of buildings and uses for a particular corner of the city.

These plans do more to guide developers' energies than establish lines in the sand which development cannot cross. The City Council can always rewrite a particular parcel's zoning if it really, really wants a certain project to go forward.

In Southwest Minneapolis, there is only one spot tailor-made for a surge in development: South Lyndale Avenue. In 2006, the neighborhoods abutting the stretch of Lyndale Avenue south of Minnehaha Creek got together to map out what they wanted to see happen, and get their vision adopted by city planners. The result was the South Lyndale Master Plan (PDF copy posted above), which envisioned the creation of something akin to 50th and France—a pedestrian-friendly "activity center"—serving Southwest Minneapolis and Richfield. With the zoning changes that came out of that process, a brand-new bridge and roadway, immediate highway access, and a lot of businesses that don't match what the city's driving for, it could be that Windom and Kenny will see one or more large-ish condo or apartment buildings in their future.

Sean Hayford Oleary January 25, 2013 at 05:56 AM
Between Lowry Hill and the Minnesota River, the junction of TH 121 (Lyndale Freeway spur) and Lyndale is by far the biggest roadblock toward seeing Lyndale as a continuous street. 121 must be disconnected from Lyndale, as shown in the master plan, for anything south of 56th to be well-connected to the commercial nodes just south of Minnehaha Creek. There has been development of mixed quality near Lyndale between 66th and Crosstown Hwy; creating a continuous commercial district from 66th up to Minnehaha Pkwy is possible, but it starts with re-aligning 121.

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