Dinkytown Will Be Saved… From Ugly Parking Lots

The votes are in!

At this morning’s Minneapolis City Council meeting, the desk voted 9-4 to deny the recommendation of the Zoning & Planning Committee, which was to not allow the rezoning of the plat of land from C1 – Neighborhood Commercial District to C3A – Community Activity Center District. In other words, the zoning change will be allowed, the very appropriate mixed-use development now taking up 70% surface parking lot will be built, and Dinkytown will be enhanced for the better.

House of Hanson site

In the nerdiest of Urbanist banter, this debate on zoning change was enthralling. Council Members fought back and forth, with concealed vocal weapons in possession. The slick lining of emotions drained from the council and public alike, as they look upon the many signs held in the audience.

Here is a summary what went down:

  • Gary Schiff called the Z&P role, opening up this project for discussion. He notes the many recommendations for approval from the Planning Commission, and states that this area was cited by city’s plans for growth as an activity center.

  • Diane Hofstede makes remarks in opposition of the change, citing the Marcy-Holmes plan made in 2003 as a main reference. She also cites the City Attorney’s claims of opposing the zoning change, which Robert Liligren questions.

  • Meg Tuthill opens discussion, claiming that the Dinkytown small area plan should be completed first. She makes references to an Ackerberg development in Uptown (I am assuming she was talking about Mozaic), and how it didn’t address the street well.

  • Elizabeth Glidden comments in favor of the zoning change, and cites the many emails she received that spoke in support of the project.

  • Kevin Reich also speaks in support of the project, citing that building in Dinkytown will help preserve the single-family orientation of the SE Como neighborhood.

  • Hofstede comments again, now with an ounce more hysteria, claiming she wants density, but that this development in Dinkytown should not occur, and that many units have already been built in the area.

  • Robert Liligren battles back, stating that “This is what we need to grow our city.”

  • Cam Gordon supports his Z&P claim and speaks in opposition of the project, albeit with hesitation. He claims that density is good and should occur, but that the small area plan should be completed first.

  • Barb Johnson pulls out an interesting “mom” card (Thanks to UrbanMSP user twincitizen for that reference), talking about how the dwellings near campus are dangerous, and that a code-violated house killed three students in a fire about ten years ago. She voices her support for the project with the backing of safer accommodations and cites the “wave of the future of living” in urban areas.

  • Schiff swoops in with the dagger statement, using more objective reports, stories, and backed claims to make the development look favorable. He cites a report on Big Ten schools from a decade ago and how the U of M had one of the lowest graduation rates. Much of the report focused on how the U was designed as a commuter campus, with students coming in from the outer suburbs and not forming a sense of community close to college. He also states that the Marcy-Holmes Historic Neighborhood voiced their support for the project, and ended by boldly saying “Students living near campus just makes sense.”

  • The clerk called roll, nine people said “nay” on the Z&P recommendation, and as soon as the audience left Room 317, the urbanist party hats and balloons were revealed.


Save Dinkytown put up a really good fight, and at the least, brought attention to the expanded amount of housing that is currently being built around the University. In my opinion, the Small Area Plan for Dinkytown should still be completed, with emphasis on keeping retail rents at least at base market level. The SAP should still encourage development in and around Dinkytown, and can then be used as a base for the next project. Form-based zoning for the area has been suggested, and I couldn’t agree more – as long as the aesthetics of Dinkytown are not impacted significantly, the area can grow responsibly. This could easily be included in the language of the SAP. Ugly surface parking lots are still present in the area, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tried bargaining with McDonald’s about the lot near the corner of 15th Avenue and 5th Street.

And as a reminder, Al’s is not going away any time soon.

As for now, I would like to make a sweeping claim that August 2nd, 2013, is the day that Minneapolis decided it wanted to be a real city.

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.