Acme Comedy Club Threatens to Leave Minneapolis Over Parking

When people drive to the iconic comedy venue, Acme Comedy Co., in the North Loop they have the option to park in one of two surface parking lots across the street. This may look like one giant block-wide surface lot, but it’s actually two. One 156 stall lot is owned by Acme’s landlord, Schafer Richardson, and the other 120 stall lot is owned by developer Curt Gunsbury and is dedicated to tenants of his Itasca V building across the street and nearby office workers. Gunsbury is planning to develop his portion of the lot, located at 721 N 1st Street, into an apartment complex, and now Acme is threatening to relocate to the suburbs.

acme comedyAcme has been located in the North Loop for 25 years. When the warehouse district was mostly warehouses, there was no shortage of parking. But now the North Loop is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city, which means there’s more vitality and interest–but less parking. There are plenty of theaters and venues in downtown Minneapolis that manage to thrive despite the difficulty finding cheap parking nearby. Acme’s hyperbolic response to this minor change in the status quo may reflect more on proprietor Louis Lee’s existing feelings about parking rather the specific impacts of this new development project.

The Lot and Development

Gunsbury’s lot–the lot that’s being developed–includes fewer than half of all the parking spaces that currently exist across the street from Acme. This lot is leased on a contract basis to tenants and nearby office workers, including one overnight legal business that may have up to 200 contract workers at a time. While Acme customers can use this lot for hourly event parking in the evening, there is no guarantee of regular access to these spaces. It is unclear how much actual parking Acme customers would be losing under this plan. The adjacent parking lot, owned by Acme’s landlord, is not being developed.

721 N 1st Street

Proposed 124 unit apartment building

The new apartments being built at 721 N 1st Street would have dedicated parking. Gunsbury asked for a variance for this new building to exceed the city’s parking maximum. Due to the fact that Bassett Creek runs underneath this area of the North Loop, parking cannot be built under the entire site. The complex at 721 would have 222 parking spaces in and under the building, and in a small surface lot on the southwest side of the site. Of these, 152 spaces would be for residents and guests, and 70 spaces would be available for the current office tenant contracts. As the developer’s representative stated at the City Planning Commission, the fact that there may be extra spaces available in the evening would be a “great opportunity” for Acme customers to access the lot. An agreement like this would be similar to Acme’s existing informal arrangement with Gunsbury’s parking lot, though with fewer spaces available.

Some of the argument against this development from Lee states that his landlord, Schafer Richardson, has not “set aside” any parking spaces for Acme to use during the duration of construction. This makes sense to me. Why should that lot set aside spots for Acme’s use only, when there are other reasons people in the area would want access to a surface lot. That lot is still going to be there, but Acme patrons will access it on a first-come first-served basis, just like everyone else.

City Planning Commission

Acme created an event to encourage supporters to turn up at the Minneapolis City Planning Commission (CPC) on June 27th. The room was packed with comedians and lovers of comedy. There wasn’t, however, a representative from Acme itself to give background or data or to be held responsible for some of the claims they’re disseminating to loyal supporters through high-profile comedians on social media. It was also clear that the folks in the room did not understand the full scope of the project, the role of the CPC, or what a parking variance is. That’s okay, I didn’t know many of those things when I showed up.

It was strange to hear impassioned pleas from comedy-lovers about the lack of parking, only to have them ask the commission to deny a variance to add more parking. Their strategy was to ask the CPC to deny all variances in the hope that this would prevent the development project from moving forward. The CPC could not legally do what the speakers wanted. As Commissioner Luepke-Pier stated, the variances being asked for were fairly minor and even if the commission opposed them, the development project could still move forward with minor variations. The CPC does not have the power to stop a development project for the reasons brought up at the CPC meeting without risking being sued by the developer.

721 N 1st Street Parking Lot

Current parking lot

Parking vs. Density

When I showed up at the CPC meeting, I spoke to a few people milling around outside the room. I asked them why they were there and we started chatting about Acme. They accused me of supporting a ‘rich developer’ over a local comedy club. I said that I was there to support density and building housing in a city with a housing shortage. Both online and in person, people have asked how the building of luxury apartments will address the housing shortage. Today’s luxury apartments are 2040’s middle-class housing. We need to have housing stock for people to live in, and as this housing stock ages it will become less luxurious and therefore more affordable. Additionally, when higher end apartments are available, this prevents rich people from renting, buying, and renovating cheaper housing which keeps those units available for the people who need them.

At the CPC meeting, speakers said that parking needs to be prioritized otherwise businesses will die. Speakers talked about how people from the suburbs will stop coming to the city if there isn’t abundant parking, and without these patrons businesses will close. They said that without parking, eventually the city will be full of apartments for people to live and nowhere for them to eat or be entertained. This is just wrong. As more people live in Minneapolis, there becomes more demand for restaurants, entertainment, and stores. We don’t have the speculate, these things are already happening. The people who live here support the businesses they need. Mixed density areas, like the North Loop, are particularly healthy and good for residents and business owners alike. We should build neighborhoods for the people who live in them, and not just to prioritize easy access for people who don’t live there. If the resulting vitality of the neighborhood attracts people from other neighborhoods and suburbs, that is a benefit and not the primary purpose.

It is true that the North Loop is dense and parking can be hard to find sometimes. I believe that the additional people and activity that come with being located in a dense and lively environment more than make up for the downside. There are more places to eat and better access to public transit at this location than others. It’s easily walkable for folks who live nearby and it’s ideally located for arriving by bike, being central in the city and near the river trail and Cedar Lake Trail. There are other options for arriving at this location besides driving.

It’s clear many people care deeply about Acme. The outpouring of support through the petition, on social media, and at the CPC meeting showed how much this venue means to the neighborhood and the city. The actual impact of the 721 N 1st Street development project is likely to have a minor, if any, impact on parking availability at Acme. If Acme wants easy and abundant parking, they can choose to move to the suburbs or make an arrangement with another parking provider.

No one is forcing Acme to leave Minneapolis. They have a choice to make. They can choose to stay in their historic venue in an urban, evolving, North Loop and risk losing certain customers who are swayed by the parking argument. Or they can uproot themselves at high cost, move to a more parking-friendly area, and risk losing folks who live and work in Minneapolis, and those who enjoy visiting the city for its culture and vitality. Acme has been framing this argument as if the developer and city government are forcing them to leave. This is not true. It’s Acme’s right to make whatever choice they make, but they need to take responsibility for the fact that this is their choice, and their choice alone.

This post originally appeared on Biking in Mpls


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72 Responses to Acme Comedy Club Threatens to Leave Minneapolis Over Parking

  1. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman June 29, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    I have to disagree with Acme on this one. Unlike the Cleveland bicycle lanes where it’s the city taking away parking, in this case it’s another person’s private property to do with as they like, so there’s no point in even having a discussion. I get the idea that most of Acme’s customers are not from the area, and Acme was thriving when the rest of the area was a empty and desolate after dark, so moving to a St. Louis Park strip mall shouldn’t hurt them. Myth seems to be doing well in the middle of the suburbs.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini June 29, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

      Since this comment section will mostly be an echo chamber… I’m legitimately interested in your thoughts comparing the statement above to this comment from a few months back.

      From my perspective, the takes are kind of in conflict. I don’t think anyone here would go so far as to say losing this surface lot won’t have at least some negative impact on Acme. Even if we believe parking isn’t so bad in the North Loop right now, for Acme customers it definitely will be a bit more difficult. People will have to carpool, or walk farther, or pay more, or bike/take transit – all things that may turn some people away. Acme may have to spend time and effort (even if minor) working with that ramp that closes early or other parking to secure some spaces. They may have to provide escorts for individuals who don’t feel comfortable walking alone at 11 PM. These things may not be super costly or difficult, but they do change things for Acme.

      You made the point that a building going up next door to a single family home will adversely affect it, whether in property values or daily quality of life (or, potentially both). You agree the city should strongly regulate what goes where in residential to limit fiscal or personal impacts, but disagree the city should stop someone from replacing what amounts to a somewhat important part of Acme’s business model (even though they don’t own it)? How is that different than saying “if you like the privacy of your back yard, you should have bought the lot next door”?

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman June 29, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

        I guess the difference is what is a reasonable expectation when you buy a property.

        ACME bought a property in a commercial neighborhood full of tall buildings with a parking lot that was zoned to allow an 8 story luxury apartment building. It’s not a reasonable expectation that it would be kept a parking lot forever. Either he had a completely unreasonable expectation or this is yet another reason to think this is all a cover for an owner wanting to escape gentrification.

        My house is zoned for single family residential and so is the neighbors property. It’s was reasonable expectation when I chose to purchase the house that an 8 story luxury apartment building will not be built next to me

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary June 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

          But to be fair, neighbors get pretty bent out of shape when a 1200 sq ft Cape Cod next door gets replaced with a 5000 sq ft teardown replacement — even though that’s the same use, allowed by right on the land.

          Yes, that’s something that was allowed when they bought their home, but it’s not necessarily something they expected. Acme could not have expected the North Loop housing boom when they set up here. However, I don’t think the changing times — that have by and large benefitted them — justify the threats and impediments to progress.

        • Alex Cecchini
          Alex Cecchini June 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

          You’re using the existence of zoning to justify the existence of zoning. Back in the 1920s when land use controls were weak to non-existent, property owners had no legal expectation of what their neighboring property owner could and couldn’t do, that didn’t stop cities from rolling out usage and intensity regulations. We moved the goal posts further in most cities in the 1960s when developers found ways around original zoning codes (in Minneapolis, parking minimums were added, etc). A fellow writer also pointed out how the 70s saw more of this goalpost moving. And as Sean notes, even in the last few years people moved the goal post even further because single family home restrictions weren’t enough for them.

          Your argument seems to be that planners are near 100% accurate in the overlays we’ve assigned to every parcel. It’s okay for the parking lot owner to develop on it because it’s zoned for dense development, but not for a developer to put something bigger on a parcel with single family zoning – regardless of the actual impact in either case. I think this is misguided, we should manage impacts (noise, on-street parking) and regulate based on performance standards (runoff, etc).

          • Nathanael July 10, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

            If you want control over what your neighbor can do… buy an easement. Easements have existed for thousands of years and are ironclad property rights. It’s difficult even for *government* to remove them.

            If you don’t have an easement, shut up and deal with the situation as you find it. That’s my opinion. Zoning is a cheat, a scam.

  2. Matty Lang
    Matty Lang June 29, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    Sounds like Acme would prefer to be in Saint Paul where the new Downtown Council president ran on a platform of providing abundant car parking. The Macy’s building is about to be redeveloped into even more car parking and I think there’s probably a vacancy available for a comedy club.

  3. Trey Johnson June 29, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    I could not agree more with the author of this article. The North Loop is a culturally rich and diverse neighborhood that was just announced as one of the “Coolest” neighborhoods in the country. It is important to increase density in the area and allow for the continued growth that it is experiencing. I believe that Acme’s threats to leave are a bunch of smoke and mirrors because they are more likely to loose their clientele if they move into the suburbs. Even if they do I guarantee that their space would be quickly filled with a company that is smart enough to see the value of the location. This project does much more good for Minneapolis and Minneapolitans than a surface parking lot. Maybe one day they will understand that.

    • Rosa June 29, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      in my experience trying to get family to visit venues in the city, people who won’t come because parking is a block away already don’t want to come because they also hate paying for parking. The subset that don’t mind paying for parking but do mind having to walk half a block or circle the block to find parking for a city outing seems like it’s vanishingly small.

      On the other hand whenever we go to Acme (not often, once every couple years) we bike or bus. Because I also hate paying for parking, I want to have a drink, and we have other options. They would definitely lose us as occasional customers if they relocated farther away. Most of the reason we don’t go on outings to the suburbs if we can help it is I want to drink when I go out in the evening.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke June 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

        That’s about it, Rosa!

        • Rosa June 30, 2016 at 7:36 am #

          And now that I’m thinking about it – who goes to a comedy club alone? It’s usually at least a date, if not a group outing. So when the weather’s bad or someone’s unable to walk far or the parking is really far away (because some of us really, really, REALLY don’t like paying for parking. We are from the Midwest where parking is free!) some poor schmuck usually drops everyone else off at the door, parks, and walks back. Just like some poor schmuck has to be the designated driver and not drink.

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 7:57 am #

            That’s what we do at the state fair. Stepfather’s to cheap to pay for parking even when it’s available so he drops us off and walks a mile or two from the nearest free street parking.

            I don’t want to get into a discussion about whether Minneapolis is safe or not after dark (and I walked several blocks to the streets fundraiser), but the point it there’s the perception it is not in the suburbs. Parking across the street is one thing but walking several blocks to parking, or even farther to the light rail station might keep away more customers than if it were a walk across a mall parking lot in the day.

            • Rosa June 30, 2016 at 11:02 am #

              That perception of unsafety is why it always ends up being Dad’s job to drop everyone off.

              But there’s an inverse relationship to the availability of parking and the safety of the streets, usually. The North Loop is way, safer feeling than it used to be partly because there are so many more people around and it has gentrified so much, and that is why parking is less available (if it even is and Acme’s not just having a hissy fit over nothing.)

              • Tim June 30, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

                Yeah, I remember driving in to go to shows at Theatre de la Jeune Leune in the 90’s, and just sort of wondering where all the street activity was. It was an empty-feeling neighborhood back then.

  4. Anton Schieffer
    Anton Schieffer June 29, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Really great article on this, thanks. I’m surprised no one from Acme bothered to show up, especially after they worked their supporters into a frenzy by threatening to close.

    This city needs more housing and this location is a great place to put 124 new units. It’s a very desirable neighborhood, and people want to live there, so building there should be a slam dunk. And while I’m sympathetic to a long-standing institution like Acme, the reality is that they don’t own this particular parking lot, and if their business requires a sea of asphalt like the Kmart on Nicollet, maybe the downtown core just isn’t a good location anyway. I have a feeling this development and Acme will co-exist just fine.

    Either way, I’m looking forward to this project making a small dent in our current housing shortage. I’d love to see more projects like this and fewer parking lots, especially downtown.

  5. Matthew Steele June 29, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Maybe Acme would be better suited for the Downtown St. Paul Ex-Macy’s Parkingscape, where the city is using tax dollars to fund a doubling of square footage devoted to the subsidized storage of cars.

    In reality, it looks like Acme was already looking at how to exit the neighborhood, and they could swing this neighborhood improvement as a) an excuse to justify leaving their neighborhood and potentially upsetting their existing clientele and/or b) a way to get their name in the news and ride out a self-generated nostalgia-wave similar to what Nye’s did for a year.

    As for me, I will never go to Acme again over how anti-housing and anti-neighborhood they have become.

  6. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman June 29, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    If Robbinsdale would rather have the Terrace theater building than a Hy-Vee maybe Acme could buy and renovate that. With Rainbow closed and no one interested in the existing space, plenty of parking there.

    I do suspect you’re onto something that they want to get out of Dodge. Besides parking problems for their suburban clientele there’s getting to be too many other places around besides them to buy food and drink and their property taxes are probably going up.

    • Matthew Steele June 29, 2016 at 11:55 am #

      My guess is they’d leave, then quickly realize the mistake they made. I wonder if they’ve even bothered to do actual analysis on mode share or origin cities for their clientele. Probably not. Same vein of Parking Paranoia and superstitious ideas about traffic that plagued Steve Cramer and the Downtown Council on the 3rd Ave redesign.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller June 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

        On the one hand, they are enough of a regional draw that maybe they would be okay moving away from such an appealing spot. If so, then it’s weird that they’d be concerned about people not being willing to walk a few blocks from their car.

        On the other hand, dinner at, for example, Bar La Grassa followed by comedy sounds a lot more appealing than dinner at the comedy club, so maybe they would regret a move. And of, course, dinner at one of the neighborhood’s appealing restaurants plus a show almost certainly involves a few blocks of walking.

        And come to think of it, the last Acme-booked comedy show we saw was at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis, which has exactly no nearby off-street parking open to the public.

        • Tim June 30, 2016 at 8:20 am #

          They don’t really have much competition in the Twin Cities, so they might lose some of the casual fans who would substitute something else for going there, but they’re probably established enough that people will come to them wherever they are. I guess there is still Comedy Sportz and BNW in Minneapolis, but the only other true comedy clubs I know of — Joke Joint and House of Comedy — are in the suburbs anyway.

  7. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke June 29, 2016 at 11:19 am #

    They’d be idiots to leave the North Loop. There are a hundred ways to park a car. Businesses that play chicken little when some parking disappears really shoot themselves in the foot by creating the narrative that it’s “impossible to park” near their business. Really, they should be offering people alternatives, making it sound like it’s easy to park, which it is if you’re willing to walk a bit more or pay a bit more, which most people are if the destination is worthwhile.

    • Justin June 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

      I work in the North Loop and parking is not that difficult. I don’t understand why a world-renowned, destination club with marquee talent would lose any business. Even for smaller shows people will still make the effort to get there if they really want to.

      Does First Ave suffer because of parking?

      • Tim June 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

        First Ave has a massive parking ramp less than a block away, so I don’t think it’s a similar situation. That said, I don’t agree with Acme either.

  8. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary June 29, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    Well done, Lindsey. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of watching various cities’ politics, “I’m going to move my business somewhere else if I don’t get exactly what I want!” is a childish threat that almost always leads to unproductive demands. A business should be supported as is reasonable, but cities should not give in to those petulant threats.

    “The CPC does not have the power to stop a development project for the reasons brought up at the CPC meeting without risking being sued by the developer.”

    This is a fundamental thing many people don’t seem to realize. Of course, it’s good people show up and express their opinion, and it shouldn’t be discounted simply because they haven’t had a lot of experience with the process. But they often become extremely agitated because the Planning Commission/City Council/etc didn’t exercise improper authority to stop a project they don’t like.

  9. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary June 29, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    And, for what it’s worth: I’ve been to Acme Comedy Club a number of times, and every time, I have gotten free parking on the street, because shows are after the meters end enforcement at 6:00pm.

    If Acme is concerned about North Loop parking, they should start by advocating to extend the meters until 10pm or so.

  10. Justin June 29, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    I really like the argument for current market rate/luxury housing becoming the affordable housing of tomorrow. Too many people don’t realize that.

    • Anton Schieffer
      Anton Schieffer June 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

      I agree. Wonder why we don’t have more affordable housing now? We stopped building new housing in the city around 1975 and didn’t really start again until after the recession of 2008. The current luxury and market-rate boom is trying to make up for 30 years of inactivity.

      • Tim June 29, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

        The problem with this theory, which we’re seeing play out right now, is that it will always be less expensive to rehab the older affordable units, effectively turning them into new market-rate or luxury housing, than it will be to build new housing. That’s why Hennepin County is working with the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund to buy affordable housing properties outright so that this doesn’t happen — growth and new housing by themselves are not going to solve this problem.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke June 29, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

          Good point.But in this area, both things are happening, and mostly new construction because there weren’t that many housing units here in the first place.

          • Anton Schieffer
            Anton Schieffer June 29, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

            Right, plus rehabbing old units doesn’t add anything to our existing housing stock. Minneapolis gained 30,000 residents between 2010 and 2015, and new construction is needed to accommodate our growing population.

        • Rosa June 30, 2016 at 7:25 am #

          but in the current market, rehabbed older units will still charge high rents because there’s no cheaper competition. Landlords charge what they can get, not what it cost them.

          That’s why we need some nonprofit/publicly owned housing, if we want to have affordable housing. The rest is market rate regardless of what it cost to build, rehab, or maintain.

        • Nathanael July 10, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

          Um, no. In most of the country, *if you don’t have difficult zoning restrictions*, it is much cheaper to build new luxury housing than to attempt to rehab old run-down housing into luxury housing.

          This is *actually one of the major causes of sprawl*, and is also the major cause of teardowns.

          Growth and new housing by themselves do everything which is possible to solve a housing shortage, which some like to call an “affordable housing shortage”.

          If you have enough housing that you don’t have a housing shortage (you’re nowhere *close*), rents will drop, eventually until they equal the landlord’s costs.

          If you have still have an “affordable housing shortage” after that, which you might that means that your problem is actually a problem with people not being paid a living wage. Nothing to do with housing at all.

    • Andrew A June 29, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

      I agree, I was framing the issue in the current state of things mindset that didn’t recognize that the apartment stock isn’t going to be static forever. I would like to think that middle class rate units would be the future of a high end building but I also would suggest that local pressures would potentially keep unit rates from lowering in certain areas (the downtown for example).

  11. GlowBoy June 29, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    I’m guessing the real threat to Acme is not the difficulty of their patrons finding parking (other cities have comedy clubs in urban areas with tight parking that do just fine) but that their rent will continue to go up as the area becomes more desirable.

    In other words, development of a nearby parking lot is probably just a symptom of the bigger problem facing the club. But that’s what happens as areas develop and become desirable. Some businesses find that being in a “hot” location is good for them, and worth the higher cost. Other businesses find that’s not the case, and move somewhere else.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 8:03 am #

      And being in a hot neighborhood means they can buy dinner and drinks before coming to your show.

  12. JD June 29, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

    Why not have an uber/lyft/taxi dropoff point in front of the comedy club? Plus make sure nearby bus stops are clean and well-lighted? Give patrons a discount on uber rides or taxis, for example. Pedicabs. Motorcycle and scooter priority parking. The modern world doesn’t have to depend on people driving private cars into interesting parts of a central city anymore. That’s for the ‘burbs.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman June 29, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

      How many people are going to pay $40 for a round trip Uber ride from say Burnsville?

      How many people that own cars use Uber at all?

      How many fewer people would buy tickets if they raise prices on everyone not arriving in Uber to give a discount on those that do?

      • Peter Bajurny June 29, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

        So then you support stores no longer offering free parking, and lowering prices?

        • Monte Castleman
          Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 7:49 am #

          If that’s what they choose to do with their own private property, yes. For that matter they can charge for the customer opening the ice cream freezer too long or whatever else they want to do to be like the airliners. But I don’t think any are going to do that and take the huge loss of customers they’d have just like I don’t think Acme is going to raise ticket prices to cover Uber susbsidies.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary June 30, 2016 at 9:24 am #

          I’ve seen this argument many times — also that apartment buildings without parking will be more affordable. And intuitively, it makes sense. But aligned with bid-rent, something gets seriously lost in translation.

          For the average consumer, the correlation ends up exactly the opposite of the claim: downtown-area apartments, stores, etc have much higher prices, and usually no free parking. Suburban and exurban locations offer free parking and lower prices.

          Obviously parking is a cost that has to get paid for somehow. But since you don’t see a lot of Best Buys bold enough not to offer free parking in Apple Valley, the only time we get the “no free parking” hypothesis tested is in dense, expensive urban areas. Even then, we see chains that offer free parking for customers downtown — and match the suburban prices (Whole Foods and Target, for example). If the theory is correct, they’re presumably taking a bigger hit to offer those same prices downtown.

          So: honestly — besides intuition, is there proof of the cost of parking getting passed onto consumers?

          • Matthew Steele June 30, 2016 at 10:18 am #

            “Is there proof of the cost of parking getting passed onto consumers?”
            Is there any other entity which would be paying for that parking?

            • Monte Castleman
              Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 10:40 am #

              We don’t live in an ideal world where if say Bloomington Target decided to forgo the powerful psychological incentives for free parking and decided to charge a non-zero amount for it, whether a dime or twenty bucks, that everyone that drive there would continue to do so, Instead a substantial amount would decide do got to Bloomington Walmart instead, and Target would have to raise prices due to the reduced volume. Would this increase in price passed on to non-car customers be more than their share of the parking they’re not using? I don’t know.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex Cecchini June 30, 2016 at 10:58 am #

            The cost is definitely being passed onto consumers. The problem is, for first-cycle suburban development, that cost is basically zero. We’re seeing strip malls and big malls realize massive profits developing outlot sites (Southdalebeing the obvious example, but other ones people don’t think about are fast food sites going in at the corners of parking lots, like the Chik-fil-A in the Apple Valley Cub lot). That parking lot represented an opportunity cost for the landlord to provide free parking. Obviously, they’re still able to provide free parking now showing they over-built in the first place, but relative to the psychological factor of paying even a quarter per hour to park, the mall owners were willing to deal with that opportunity cost for years.

            And Monte has a fair point that retailers choose to provide things to every customer free of charge and bake it into their prices. Air conditioning in stores was a big selling point back in the 50s and beyond compared to small convenience stores that didn’t have it (or it was barely useful when installed). The difference between any amenity a store or restaurant or even apartment chooses to provide their customers for free and parking is that we heavily regulated parking post-WWII. And we had other zoning requirements that made putting at-grade parking on-site the natural choice anyway. Nobody was going to fight a parking variance in addition to FAR, setback, etc requirements. So yeah, just build it and give it away for free at that point, everyone else is required to as well, especially since cornfields were pretty cheap to buy anyway. And, since many, many places people frequent are regional or national chains, of course they’ll just subsidize the parking for the 5% of their stores in urban environments to keep their pricing, marketing, etc systems consistent.

            Now, 60 years on, of course nobody in Bloomington is going to charge for their parking. Monte’s point relies on the fact that everyone is choosing to drive and demands free parking, both assumptions that would maybe not be true in an alternate world where housing and businesses were allowed to grow with less regulation and the government actually provided quality infrastructure for people to walk or bike or take transit.

            Despite all this, there are actually places in the suburbs that do charge to park. Valleyfair is nearly inaccessible by anything but a car, but charges per vehicle for parking above and beyond the ticket price. I have no doubt patron’s behavior is modified by this – families carpool to shave a few bucks to spend in the park instead.

            So yeah, the first step is obviously to reduce/eliminate parking minimums, upzone, and then we’ll need to wait another 50 years for places to evolve enough that some non-zero number of people in a suburb demand not to own a vehicle in their apartment because they want to walk to their job half a mile away, and rely on autonomous car sharing or transit or whatever for the infrequent longer trips.

            • Monte Castleman
              Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

              My observation is that the average car at Valleyfair is either packed with teenagers or a family in a minivan as opposed to someone like me that drives there alone. But, Valleyfair charging for parking isn’t the same as if the Shakopee Walmart decided to. If you don’t want to pay for parking at Valleyfair it’s not like you’re going to drive to the Burnsville amusement park.

              There are a few points about Valleyfair:
              1) Quite a few of the guests are teenagers, which are less likely to own a car than the average person that say drivers to Acme.

              2) I see very people using a standard pass that doesn’t include parking, even everyone in a group that have obviously arrived together. The way Valleyfair prices it it’s only $20 more to have parking included, and that also included admission to the Halloween Haunt, which is massively popular. Flexibility in who drives doesn’t factor into this because they don’t care who has a parking pass as long as one person in the car does; they don’t have to be the driver or even the owner of the car.

              3) There are probably a lot of people driving from say Maple Grove, which would encourage carpooling because of the distance involved even if parking were free.

              • Alex Cecchini
                Alex Cecchini June 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

                “If you don’t want to pay for parking at Valleyfair it’s not like you’re going to drive to the Burnsville amusement park.”

                No, not Burnsville. But there’s an indoor amusement in a big Bloomington mall with free parking I hear is quite popular. People even drive separately and meet up there as a result. People with teenagers who can’t drive themselves, even.

                Either way, you’re trying to explain away the patterns of people loading up in a vehicle for Valleyfair that are definitely different than other entertainment destinations. The price of parking has something to do with it. Same with the Minnesota Zoo, or how many regional parks used to charge for parking (before Three Rivers dropped that, IIRC). It’s rare, but it is there, and even with poor transit/bike access, these places do see people shift their transportation behavior as a result.

                • Monte Castleman
                  Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

                  Despite the spat over the Peanuts branding I disagree that the Nick Universe and Valleyfair really compete with each other (unless your a family with kids that would carpool anyway) the same way a Walmart and a Target would.

                • Bill Lindeke
                  Bill Lindeke June 30, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

                  Yeah they are not comparable. And I don’t even like roller coasters much.

          • Nathanael July 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

            ” is there proof of the cost of parking getting passed onto consumers?”
            Who are the consumers? It definitely gets passed on to the renters.

            In residential apartments, absolutely, yes. Rents *are* raised to cover the cost of excess city-zoning-required parking.

            In commercial buildings, the cost gets passed (in the form of higher rent) to the business owners. They usually can’t pass it on. So mandatory parking minimums are bad for small businesses….

            You have to compare apples-to-apples, however. Downtown locations are inherently better for retail and for restaurants. So you have to compare downtown retail rents with parking with downtown retail rents without parking to see what’s going on.

            You could also compare suburban retail rents with parking with suburban retail rents without parking, but the latter does not exist.

      • Johnny Truant June 30, 2016 at 10:04 am #

        How come we have to care about the bad choice someone made to live in Burnsville? Why do we have to make it easier for them to get to stuff far away from where they chose to live? If they are all about going into the city for entertainment they maybe shouldn’t have decided to live in Burnsville.

        • Monte Castleman
          Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 10:28 am #

          Because we’re not having a discussion on macro social policy. The discussion is that Acme alleges that it’s vital to their business that it’s easy for these people to park near them in the city.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke June 30, 2016 at 10:35 am #

          in defense of the business owner and others in that position, the vast majority of metro-area wealth is located in the suburbs.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary June 30, 2016 at 10:40 am #

          How come we have to care about the bad choice somebody made to live in Minneapolis? If they are going to the 494 strip for buying cars, REI goods, hardware, or IKEA, maybe they shouldn’t have decided to live so far away from all of that.

          We live in a region, with different types of destinations in different areas. And different ranges of auto-orientation (ranging from maybe 75% to 100%, unfortunately). Downtown Minneapolis is fortunate to have many of the region’s cultural destinations — the fact that people drive there is a reality of the fact that it is very difficult to live without a car in the vast majority of our region.

          If that is to change, it needs to happen over the whole region, not in one gentrified urban neighborhood turning up its nose at everyone else.

          • Johnny Truant June 30, 2016 at 11:25 am #

            Nobody bothers actually making it easy for city dwellers without cars to get to suburban locations, so that direction is already taken care of. But the city is expected to constantly cater to the suburbanites with their cars despite a complete lack of reciprocity. I’m a little over it. Regionalism just means suburban auto-focus.

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary June 30, 2016 at 11:38 am #

              This attitude is self-fulfilling, because while there are improvements for going to the suburbs from the city, they’re easily dismissed as only serving suburbanites. There is a lot of investment in transit to the suburbs, and it’s decried as a waste when those dollars should be serving the central cities. In fact, if you live car-free and wanted to access suburban destinations, improvements like the Red Line would serve you. In fact, being able to access suburban destinations — employment centers — was one of the most explicit reasons for the SW LRT going all the way to Eden Prairie.

              Similarly, there’s a quick dismissal of the fact that the highways and auto infrastructure go both ways. For Minneapolis who do drive a car (which I believe is a solid majority), freeways serve as access to suburban destinations as well. TH 12 in particular seems to have a strong “reverse commute” from Minneapolis to the employment centers in SLP and Minnetonka.

              • Adam Miller
                Adam Miller June 30, 2016 at 11:56 am #

                “For Minneapolis who do drive a car (which I believe is a solid majority), freeways serve as access to suburban destinations as well.”

                Well, sort of. Usually, we wouldn’t need anywhere near the same capacity of roadway to serve the city-dwellers for their trips to the suburbs.

                • Alex Cecchini
                  Alex Cecchini June 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

                  Not to mention how many of those jobs, many of which are office, hospitality, retail, or health related (and thus don’t require certain footprints or layouts the way manufacturing or warehousing does) could be located in the core cities or first-ring suburbs with better transit (or bike infrastructure). The share of Minneapolis residents working “in the suburbs” but owning fewer cars than adults, and not driving to work (or even shopping) could be substantially higher as a result

                  It’s 2016 and the Red Line still doesn’t go all the way into Minneapolis with stops along a freeway connected by local routes (meaning that for most Minneapolis residents, using the Red Line means a minimum of 2 transfers and likely a very long ride and an uncomfortable walk at the end). The Orange Line hasn’t broken ground yet. Meanwhile, the freeways they run/would run on have been in place for decades.

                  I think the share of SWLRT riders reverse commuting is likely overblown by proponents, but if that were as big a goal as you state then we would have spent extra money to run it where a significant chunk of people already live or are within an easy bike ride or single transfer to access it (an Uptown-ish routing would have meant people along the 2, 4, 6, 17, 18, and 21 would have had a 1-transfer ride to those job locations).

              • Johnny Truant June 30, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

                SWLRT is just a way to prop up bad business decisions by companies that built huge HQs out in the SW burbs and now can’t attract young talent to them. If they cared about moving people they’d have run it through Uptown and Whittier.

                And living car free means I don’t really want to access suburban locations because they’re hostile to anyone who doesn’t arrive by car. Why would I put myself through that if I can get the same products delivered that I would buy there? If a car free person can find similar jobs in the city proper they prefer those by a large margin. The suburbs literally have nothing to offer me other than a few stores the city doesn’t have but I can get products delivered to my home from anyway. So I don’t particularly care anymore because the world has moved on and made the suburban experience optional again. People go into the city for things they can’t get in the suburbs, but there’s nothing the suburbs can offer that you can’t already get in the city one way or another.

                • Monte Castleman
                  Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

                  The city experience is optional for those out here too. Quite a few people here want jobs out here rather than to go into the city, and there’s plenty of employers. The only thing I buy in the city is used books, and ultimately I could get those of Amazon or on my trips to Stillwater if I wanted to.

                  That the experience is optional is why Acme wants to make it as easy as possible to get there, assuming this isn’t cover for a move out to the suburbs.

                  • Johnny Truant June 30, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

                    Well if they need to cater to suburbanites for that much of their business they need to move anyway. Expecting others to make accommodations for them because they don’t want to pony up for parking or can’t afford to is dumb.

                    Let’s go our separate ways and pay for our own stuff. I think I know who’s going to come out on top there.

                    • Sean Hayford Oleary
                      Sean Hayford Oleary June 30, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

                      Alternative approach: we not be needlessly cantankerous, and we learn to appreciate the amenities that exist in various parts of the region, and not needlessly degrade the value and livability of either suburb, exurb, or central city.

                      Keeping a lifeless, blighted surface lot rather than an apartment building would be needlessly degrading the livability of the North Loop. I agree on that. It is the owner of a long-time central city business who needs to come ’round. Finding ways to address their concerns seems more productive than suggesting the business ought to just leave altogether.

      • Rosa June 30, 2016 at 10:57 am #

        I don’t know about Uber, but I know lots and lots of families that own one car and use bikes, taxis, car2go, and the bus system. I would expect Uber would be very similar. Especially when parking costs money (like to go downtown for an event) that shifts the per-trip cost toward things like “drive to a park and ride” or “take a taxi”. You can see it in the vast number of people who only take the light rail to Target Field. I would expect Uber would be the same.

        And a $40 Uber ride from Burnsville (assuming that’s the cost, I have no idea.) is a lot cheaper than a drunk driving ticket or a tow if you’re bad at reading parking signs.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 7:53 am #

      It’s probably both. The neighborhood no longer wanting to accommodate private cars driven from the suburbs was just the final straw after the neighborhood getting less suitable in other ways.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini June 30, 2016 at 9:10 am #

        To be clear, the neighborhood isn’t voting to/not to accommodate private cars from the suburbs. There’ll still be many cars in the neighborhood, and a good chunk of them from the suburbs. As the post notes, the remaining lots have contracts for the office building nearby and may very well accommodate Acme parking. There is still meter pricing for private cars.

        Nobody is trying to banish cars.

        • Monte Castleman
          Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 9:23 am #

          1) As of now the other owners of contract lots have chosen not to accommodate cars from the suburbs at night

          2) As of now the owner of the surface lot has chosen to build an apartment building rather than accommodate cars from the suburbs at night

          There’s also a significant number of people that from the suburbs that can’t be accommodated by meter parking because they don’t know how to parallel park. Things could change, but this is where things are now.

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary June 30, 2016 at 9:26 am #

            “There’s also a significant number of people that from the suburbs that can’t be accommodated by meter parking because they don’t know how to parallel park.”

            Really? Since metered spots are a prescribed, fairly generous width — between the meters/posts — it seems pretty easy for even someone unaccustomed to parallel park there. Even if you never left modern suburbia, you’re still likely to parallel park when visiting friends, etc and parking on the street.

            • Monte Castleman
              Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 10:44 am #

              Might be true for areas closer in like Richfield, but from what I’ve noticed usually if you have a situation where you’re visiting friends, I’ve noticed that people tend to park on the end of the long line of cars, not at a vacant space closer in where they’d have to parallel park. These spaces don’t get used until several cars in a row have left and it’s easy to get into, and there’s so much vacant space on the street it’s not an issue if you just want to park in front of your house for a day.

            • Monte Castleman
              Monte Castleman June 30, 2016 at 10:47 am #

              13 states have actually dropped the parallel parking requirement from the drivers test. Too many people were failing and having to retake it multiple times and causing administrative burden and it wasn’t seen as the primary purpose of the test: whether you could operate a car safely on a public street. And like driving a stick it’s generally avoidable if you don’t like or don’t want to do it.

              • Johnny Truant June 30, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

                “People can’t figure out how to drive? Let’s lower the bar!”

                That explains why drivers are so atrociously bad and unsafe these days.

                • Nathanael July 10, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

                  Yes, it does. Drivers licensing is a good idea, and we don’t do it at all — we give any incompetent a driver’s license.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex Cecchini June 30, 2016 at 11:12 am #

            Okay, my first reply misspoke. The lot *being developed* is the one contracted to the office across the street, and it offers hourly parking when available to Acme patrons. The remaining surface lot is owned by the landlord of Acme’s building. So what surface parking remains will continue to be available to Acme patrons (yes, from the suburbs) or anyone else. I assume Acme could work out a deal with their landlord to reserve spaces for their shows, but either way, they are accommodating cars. Still.

            The apartment development will still have spaces (just fewer) available to contract to the office across the street. Like today, some of them may be available to Acme patrons if office workers aren’t there overnight working.

            Maybe this is just a miscommunication between us. To me, “accommodate” means that Acme patrons *may* use surface parking. To you, “accommodate” means “dedicated to Acme patrons.”

            And, regardless of whether 13 states have rid themselves of parallel parking in the driver’s test (this is a minority of states), Minnesota still requires it. People may be uncomfortable, but it’s not on the city to provide not only parking, but parking that every level of driving and parking skill/comfort can do. If you just don’t like parallel parking, tough. Park farther away and walk. And, I’d say the ability to quickly and effectively parallel park on a city street is a matter of public safety.

  13. Johnny Truant June 30, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    “At the CPC meeting, speakers said that parking needs to be prioritized otherwise businesses will die. Speakers talked about how people from the suburbs will stop coming to the city if there isn’t abundant parking, and without these patrons businesses will close. They said that without parking, eventually the city will be full of apartments for people to live …”

    Yeah I think if more people are living nearby you probably don’t need the business of the suburban drivers anymore when you’ve got more walk-up business.