Good Urbanism vs. Good Urbanism… Who Wins?

In a fight between good vs. good, who wins?

That is the current question at hand for the latest development near the University of Minnesota. CPM Development, the company that is currently building the Elysian and will build the WaHu Student Housing (hopefully only a working title) soon, has issued a request for a zoning change on the corner of 15th Avenue and 7th Street. In my opinion, their listed designs do a decent job of coordinating with the street life, even with the generous setbacks.

It’s a bird! It’s a crane! No! It’s another tax generating, city improving, density bringing construction project!

But not so fast, SuperPlan. There may be a Kryptonite to your proposal.

The problem about this site is that the current land use is quite good. There are a few run-down houses on the area, but most of it contains townhouse units that look like they were constructed in the 1990’s. These townhomes currently do a good job of addressing the street with doorway steps, large pseudo-covered porches and seasons rooms, a decent decades-old tree canopy, and 2-3 story height maximum.



It seems odd that the developer has occupied the nicest current non-apartment dwellings in Dinkytown – and a block that had a large number of original owners and stakeholders – instead of buying up the code-violating party shacks that students and alumni know and “love”.

The Planning Commission will be voting on this project ***TODAY***, and my guess is that they will approve the project with CPED recommendation. Still though, I can’t help but note the pros and cons of the proposal.

PRO: Density Increases, and more population arrives. As many on this blog have stated before, density in core urban areas like Dinkytown is the key to a sustaining population hold in the Twin Cities. This project increases that density ideally, with another 6-story platform containing 201 new dwelling units.

CON: Current townhouses add core neighborhood urbanity. These townhouses truly do give the neighborhood an urban feeling by nature. They remind me of the townhomes near St. Anthony Main and Loudres place in a way – laying an aesthetic of calm nature on a city block while interacting with the pavement appropriately. The new apartment reminds me of Bierman Place down one block, and while not necessarily horrible, it still doesn’t contribute as much as the townhomes do. The grassy setback with the proposal takes street life points away from the project while adding “privatized grassy recreation” points.

PRO: It matches the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood 15th Avenue Master Plan well. Instead of concentrating on other controversial projects, this does what the master plan wants – provides density on the 15th Avenue arterial. This takes potential strain off of businesses worried about losing lots and land in the commercial Dinkytown area.


Truly, this project is sort of a good vs. good conflict. In an Urban realm, It kind of reminds me of that scene in the Avengers where Iron Man and Thor duke it out until Captain America shatters the fun with his ridiculous shield. I’m thinking Captain America will be the Planning Commission in that contest. It will be interesting to see what the meeting responses will be today.


Anyways, I think the city has more important issues to tend to at the current moment from the weekend.

This isn't Disneyworld!

Those aren’t Disneyworld misters!

Chris Iverson

About Chris Iverson

Chris Iverson is a transportation engineer & planner for the City of Bellevue, WA and currently lives in Seattle. He holds degrees in both Civil Engineering & Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota, and worked on a myriad of transit & multimodal transportation projects in the Twin Cities. He is a former Minnesota Daily columnist, RAGBRAI participant, bad musician, marathon finisher, and an unabashed generalist.