Free Idea: Developers, Just Always Propose More Than You Actually Want

Hello, capitalists. Good to see you here, I guess. My little brother and also the economy says things are going well for you. I’m doing okay. People used to work in factories screwing caps onto bottles of toothpaste, I hear, so pushing pixels seems easier and less dangerous than, say, being a longshoreman or coal miner.

2320 Colfax

One thing that I have been thinking about lately is that it is allegedly kind of hard to build new things in Minneapolis, sometimes. And I do not know that that is generally the case! We in the “urbanist” camp are at times a bit dramatic about “NIMBYs,” a term that we recently discovered and should never say again.

That said, the parochialism of any given neighborhood meeting can at times be emotionally overwhelming, even if it’s not necessarily politically relevant in this particular cycle.

“You want to build a six story building? In the literal center of a major American metropolitan area? Blasphemy! I would prefer that the surface parking lot stay. I will continue to drive my Prius three blocks to the co-op.”

It is crazy because, given the makeup of a city like Minneapolis or even St. Paul, the people are generally very liberal, and will in the abstract support things like density and not dying in a resource war in twenty years. But people do not like change. A natural reaction! Everyone hates change.

So here is a crazy idea: Maybe just always propose a little bit more than you actually want and then settle for what you actually want?

(And you could not tell anyone that that is the game! Obviously.)

Franklin and Lyndale DevelopmentBut, you know, it seems like six stories is kind of the norm around here, considering the fire code and the economics of building a given half-block sized apartment building in Minnesota in 2015 and providing all the things that you want. So maybe propose eight stories? Regardless of what you propose, it will certainly “not be right for the neighborhood.”

If you are trying to build a building in an area that is for sure going to raise hell about your despicable destruction of the parking lots of their community, maybe you could just have your architect sketch up the exact same thing you want to do except add like…two stories. More for certain areas. Go to a neighborhood meeting and let some people yell at you, then send an email to the neighborhood group with the exact same thing but two stories shorter.

They will have won a victory in their minds, where this debate is actually taking place.

Hopefully no one reads this post.


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17 Responses to Free Idea: Developers, Just Always Propose More Than You Actually Want

  1. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller May 1, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    Corollary: always initially propose to tear down the nearest historic church, farmhouse, foundry or capital building so that you can “compromise” by agreeing to preserve it.

  2. Julie Kosbab May 1, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    Nick: The voice of the bourgeoisie.

  3. Ben May 1, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    Asking for more than you want is Sales 101 / Negotiations 101. The Met Council is pulling this in Brooklyn Park right now. Starting with turning a residential road into a 176′ wide “stroad” or whatever name it is. Then after those of us who like our homes the way they are were finally informed and voiced our objections, the next set of drawings choked traffic flow down to one lane in each direction which is almost worse. The 3rd set of drawings was only 143′ wide and had two lanes in each direction. But knocked the speed limit down 10 to 15 mph, and added 12 stop lights in a 3 mile stretch of road. Meanwhile the actual community members were not asked nor allowed to give input as to where the location of LRT would best serve the community. Even the majority of LRT suporters in the community agree that the rout is wrong. In the private sector, before bringing goods or services to market you conduct voice of the customer research and proof of concept so a lot of money and time is not wasted. Engage the community before setting the route and policy. Prove the concept with bus routs. Inform the community that if they support a project such as LRT on their residential street, use the busses on the proposed route. And if it makes sense, build it. If the community is engaged rather than bullied, you would have far less, as some like to call us, NIMBY’s. And be honest, would you want the LRT 70′ from the foundation of your single family dwelling As one of our residents is facing? Oh, and the resident in question lost her last house to the LRT that went into Minneapolis. Watch the Brooklyn Park city council meeting on line from April 28th section 8.1 if you would like to hear her speak.

  4. Zach May 1, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    I’m not sure how zoning variances work but it seems like there is a 56′ height limit in much of the city. Can a developer even propose something higher than that? Or if there are no variances needed, can they just build without having to go through that public approval process?

  5. Diane Lindgren May 1, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    “People do not like change….everyone hates change” hasn’t this become a cliched response to refute any opposition. I always wonder where’s the data, site the research, add a little depth to that glib response.

    • Travis May 1, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

      Diane, if you haven’t noticed, this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek. You didn’t seriously expect a properly cited study to be referenced here did you?

  6. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg May 1, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    Spot on – in fact, today’s Strib reports the latest apartment proposal – by Oppidan in St. Louis Park) is scaling back from six stories to five due after neighbors spoke out against height – http://www.startribune.com/local/west/301978771.html

  7. Kyle May 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Doesn’t Minneapolis limit most mixed-use zones to six stories?

  8. Obvious Oscar May 1, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    “Density”, when treated in a vacuum as you do, is not in itself progressive. While some Minneapolitans might be grumpy old car-owners trying to preserve their property values while confusing regressive knee-jerk nostalgia with some kind of profound anti-establishment revolution, many just hate to see poorly designed boxes full of shitty rich people invade their neighborhood.

    If you’d ever leave your Loring Park/Uptown tunnel-vision life, you’d realize that Minneapolis’ brand of progressivism has a lot more to do with trying to help out the lower-income, displacement-prone family downstairs than it does with drooling over visions of dishonest, overstylized housing for white people with shitty taste and high-paying jobs moving into the empty lot across the street. Instead, the local kids play over there. But you probably don’t ever see children in their home life because you live downtown.

    • Obvious Oscar May 1, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

      Minneapolis is in a forest. People here like buildings that the trees can grow to be taller than. Stop pursuing this vision of a “real city” somewhere else that you wish Minneapolis was. When you are regularly insulting your fellow citizens in your blog posts, and giving DEVELOPERS advice on how to be sketchy (not that they need any help with that), you might stop and reconsider your hobbies.

      • Nick Magrino
        Nick Magrino May 1, 2015 at 11:31 pm #

        I’ll think about it, Wyatt!

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke May 3, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

          I think Wyatt’s point is quite well reasoned and that Nick should re-consider his hobbies. The Loring Park Shuffleboard Club is conveniently located by his house, and will begin its annual season soon.

  9. Eric W. May 1, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

    I don’t know if this lines up with the liberal-conservative political spectrum, but I have noticed that people often lack imagination when it comes to land use; there is a very narrow range of ideas that always seem to come up. One example: after the Rainbow Foods at Lake St. and Minnehaha Ave. closed, there was a conversation on a neighborhood discussion forum about what should be done with that space. Two of the popular choices were a farmer’s market or a park.

    Of course farmer’s markets are very popular. But not so popular that we need to put another one less than 1,500 feet from the established Midtown Farmer’s Market at Lake and Hiawatha.

    Parks are great, too. Within a mile of the former Rainbow are Powderhorn, Longfellow, Brackett, and Matthews parks, along with several smaller parks, the Midtown Greenway, and the Mississippi River/W. River Parkway. That fact doesn’t preclude putting in another park, but this new park would be bordered by two busy streets, a sea of Target and Cub Foods parking, a Wendy’s (or if they removed that, an Autozone), and a “polymer solutions and precision metal components” manufacturing business in a nondescript industrial building.

    Who’s up for a picnic?

    • Rosa May 3, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      I thought the reason people were wanting a farmer’s market was that the Midtown was looking at maybe having to move? Is that no longer up in the air?

      But it would be nice to see more people advocating the kind of mixed retail/apartments that seem to be doing so well just west of there.

      • Peter Bajurny May 4, 2015 at 11:46 am #

        I’m not sure if the Midtown Market was ever planning to move. The development of the MPS site includes a public plaza on the North East corner of the block that’s being designed specifically to cater to the market. Basically in the same spot where the market is this season. And if there was every a possibility of moving, I’m sure we would have talked about it on the forums. We discussed such options as a Home Depot or putting some damn housing there, because, you know, we actually need that.

  10. Archiapolis May 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    A major problem (imho) is that the city’s goals/vision do NOT appear to align with the neighborhood groups.

    When developers and/or architects are presenting a project and a few vocal and time-rich people freak out (which, in general, they do) nobody from the city is present.

    When the developers/architects get DESTROYED by the neighborhood groups and condemned as greedy, uncaring jerks, nobody from the city is there to provide clarity. When it is pointed out that a proposal actually fits the city’s comprehensive plan or works towards the city’s density/population goals, developers/architects are condemned as liars. I am sorry to report that the neighborhood group meetings are viewed as a very painful hoop that must be jumped through and then patience/resolve to get through the voting.

    There are countless examples of projects that are vilified at neighborhood meetings but pass with big majorities in Planning Commission meetings. Curious. It is only at the City Council meetings where the vote tightens as political pressure is exerted on individual CMs.

    I am glad that citizens get a voice (I live in a Minneapolis SFH). However, the neighborhood meeting process is beyond broken when a very loud minority (or even single party) can disrupt an entire process when that minority/single party has an opinion which is completely antithetical to the city’s stated goals.

    Closed Circuit to Obvious Oscar:
    You should propose some affordable housing in your neighborhood. It sounds like you are a big advocate. Please report back on the happy reception that you receive in your neighborhood meeting.