Preserving Rental Affordability in the Infill Era

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Despite seeing some healthy growth over the last few years, 2014 is turning out to be a rough development year for the Wedge’s renters. While renters currently comprise ~77% of the neighborhood, their voices are being drowned out. The neighborhood’s last few proposed rental projects have seen heavy opposition or have been blocked entirely. The winnings are clear: Historical preservation (however minute), private views and local traffic  are taking priority over expanding housing supply in one of the city’s most in-demand neighborhoods.

On a visceral level, it’s very difficult not to empathize with the protectiveness that the anti-development folks feel for their neighborhood. We’re all delightfully zealous about our communities. Modern development has also thrown some sizable wild cards our way; I can understand opposing demolition for development when virtually no modern developments meet the architectural and urban design standards of their early 20th century equivalents. In this context, it’s understandable to view opposition to development as merely neighborhood pride personified. After all, the sprawl era gave us a long reprieve from the pressures of infill development, with most new housing popping up on the ever-expanding urban fringe. Attempts to cap development weren’t seen as contributing to gentrification; Our newly implemented freeway system allowed that demand to be easily sent downstream to budding suburban communities. This era also gave us history’s biggest deviations from traditional planning, possibly the longest period in history in which ‘anti-change’ stayed relatively consistent with ‘pro-urban.’

Blame traffic, ironic millenials, or empty nesters; urban neighborhoods are the new hotspot and the suburban fringe just isn’t the demand-absorbing behemoth it used to be. Flush folks are returning to the city and know it or not, our city’s young, middle income renters are now in a race to establish a development-receptive culture in the Twin Cities’ innermost neighborhoods, or risk long term displacement. Several US cities have gentrified beyond the pace of Minneapolis and have given us a sneak peek of what could be in store. Washington, DC, sporting a conservative height limit, heavily active neighborhood associations and a voracious real estate market, has seen $268,900 of value added to the average home or condo in a decade and a half. Average wages haven’t kept up and now DC is inching towards the SF/NY echelon of priced out middle classes. This is just what happens when you don’t supply well-heeled demand.

sunset

While same phenomenon is starting to take shape  in Minneapolis, there are a few factors that make our metro uniquely able to better accommodate a huge increase of walkable housing demand. We make good money on average and don’t have an exorbitant cost of living. In other words, we have the inertia to develop now, without the backlog in housing demand faced by many other high-wage cities. We have a ton of parking lots in most of our neighborhoods, allowing ample room to grow without as much neighborhood resistance. We’ve also just finished a fantastic downtown-linking light rail line with enormous redevelopment potential. As today’s development is tomorrow’s affordable housing, we’re actually in a position to develop now and ensure relative affordability well beyond many American metros. The opportunities we have today shouldn’t be wasted.

This is why the relative non-presence of renters at these kinds of neighborhood meetings is a real problem. Assuming a looming energy crisis is in the cards, we need as much housing flexibility as possible. Our central, walkable neighborhoods could get very expensive, very quickly. By establishing today’s development policy, we’re also determining renters’ quality of life for decades to come. Not only do urban forward thinkers need to be engaging their neighborhood associations and representing the interests of future Minneapolis renters, we need to find ways of organizing renters in a way that counters the momentum of more conservative preservationist groups. It may be inherently more difficult to inspire community activism with newcomers than with established homeowners. However, if Minneapolis is to stay accessible to middle income renters, we need to up the ante sooner than later.

I helped establish Seattle’s Transit Riders Union in the face of 17% service cuts. Who is to say that a similar kind of renter’s advocacy isn’t equally necessary here?

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86 Responses to Preserving Rental Affordability in the Infill Era

  1. Morgan March 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    IDK.

    I thought that DC wasn’t appreciating as quickly as SF and NY because A LOT more units per capita have been built. WDC builds a lot of units, the height restriction and neighborhood groups probably haven’t stopped that many. Also, home and condos prices are just asset markets that are prone to all kinds of bubbles and swings. The only measure of affordability of housing is rent per square foot I think. Seattle has seen rents go down even as single occupant prices have continued to appreciate. There are a lot of units in the pipeline in Minneapolis. I think that it will affect rents.

    With regards to renters showing up at meetings, community organizing is a very difficult and under valued profession, but going to meetings certainly fits a certain lifestyle. You want to build an app for that?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam March 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

      The height restriction may not stop many proposed developments (it’s there, after all, so why propose something), but it certain makes them less dense.

      And home and condo prices may be influenced by public policy to a degree unique to assets markets.

      • Matt Steele March 24, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

        A great parallel example in DC relates to the commercial real estate market…. the height restrictions have led to a density that is much more level than cities such as Minneapolis or Dallas, block by block, but prices spike significantly higher than even the nicest A space here in our core.

        • Cameron Conway
          Cameron Conway March 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

          I’ll admit, DC’s height limit has far more to do with limiting commercial development downtown than with housing development in other parts of the city. It still makes it really difficult to incentivize building housing downtown, which is a sizable and desirable part of the city.

          • Cameron Conway
            Cameron Conway March 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

            plays far more of a role in*

          • Adam Miller
            Adam March 25, 2014 at 10:37 am #

            Legend has it the Cairo, an 1894 apartment tower on Q St, was the motivation for the height limit.

            • Morgan March 25, 2014 at 11:18 am #

              This is the truth.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam March 25, 2014 at 10:35 am #

          Surprise! Restricting supply leads to higher prices.

          • Cameron Conway
            Cameron Conway March 25, 2014 at 11:14 am #

            Which is hilarious, considering how gorgeous that building is!

            • Adam Miller
              Adam March 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

              Apparently not as gorgeous to the eyes of the DC residents of the time as it is to us. Which is probably something else that needs to be kept in mind when people are complaining about their dislike of current architectural trends.

              I think I was in the Cairo only once, looking at a condo unit that did not impress me. Due to it’s age, the building had some strange aspects due to modern retrofitting of an elevator and other modern conveniences, if I recall.

  2. Morgan March 24, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Also,

    The Pew study shows that millennials are making more money than any other generation when they were that age. College educated millennials are doing even better. They are just willing to pay a lot for housing and a lot of the increase in asset prices in the past 15 years has been driven by falling interest rates. We are now entering an increasing interest rate environment for the first time since the late 70s and early 80s. Housing will certainly be affected.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/millennials/

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott Shaffer March 24, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      That’s an interesting chart! I believe it, but I’m surprised because the unemployment rate among Millennials is so much higher than the other generations when they were young. I am worried that when you say that college-educated Millennials are doing well, you aren’t taking into account the fact that tuition has risen over 1000% since the late ’70s.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-15/cost-of-college-degree-in-u-s-soars-12-fold-chart-of-the-day.html

      Lower interest rates might explain rising house prices, I’m really not sure. But houses and apartments in walkable neighborhoods are rising faster/falling slower than their unwalkable suburban counterparts. I’d have to chalk that up to changing tastes affecting demand. We have too many homes in the boondocks and not enough mid-rise apartment buildings near commercial corridors.

      • Morgan March 25, 2014 at 9:40 am #

        Good Comment.

        Yes, tuition has increased at a rate faster than inflation but there are a few important reasons for that.

        1) It is both capital intensive (facilities and technology) and requires skilled labor (academics and researchers). Talk about a crappy business!

        2) Public spending has been reduced, unlike medical, which might help to account for that discrepancy in the bloomberg chart.

        3) It is a domestic industry that has not benefited from the labor arbitrage of globalization like consumer goods, and to an extent food, has. It’s not so much that education is expensive but a little bit of how everything else is so much cheaper.

        4) Education is already a non-market good provided by nonprofits because it’s such a crappy business. Competition from new entrants therefore cannot drive prices down.

        5) Higher education institutions now have to do more, like find their graduates jobs, that adds overhead to the operation. This has more to do with a brutal labor market than higher education itself.

        Remember, only about 1/3 of students have any debt at all anyway. For 1/3 their parents pay and the other 1/3 gets scholarships.

        I am of the mind that we should build more walk-able neighborhoods as quickly as possible. This is a different view than let’s stuff basically the only walk-able neighborhood that we have to the gills.

  3. Matt Steele March 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Great article. Most people don’t understand the math behind housing prices, so they come up with the wrong conclusions. They think building new units will raise prices, but it will necessarily lower equilibrium rents compared to a control. Cities with growing housing stock but growing rents indicate that the increase in demand is outpacing the increase in supply. Yet people see this positive correlation, increasing supply and increasing rent, and think they are tied. But they miss the big unspoken factor – vastly increasing demand. But increasing demand is an awesome problem to have– it means people want to live in our city. Let’s let them have the chance.

  4. Steven Prince March 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Cameron,

    Your post suggests that Wedge residents are “anti-development” – a good political narrative if you want to discredit those residents who created the high amenity and desirable neighborhood that recent arrivals like so much in Uptown. It’s just not true.

    I’ve lived here for almost 30 years, most of the first decade as a renter. During that time it was the neighbors you now take to task who accomplished much of what makes the Wedge the desirable place it now is. I was personally involved in the following neighborhood initiatives:

    1) Opposed the construction of a 32 screen multiplex big box between Lake Street and the Greenway (which didn’t exist yet) as out of scale and inappropriate to an urban environment. City planners supported the project but we defeated it.

    2) Instead, the neighbors initiated a community based planning process (which Minneapolis planners opposed) resulting in a plan to rezone the area between Lake Street and the Greenway for high-density residential and create mixed-use residential and retail along Lake Street, all with limited or no surface parking. The plan was championed by our council member (Lisa McDonald) resulting in the assembly of land for the Urban Village between Aldrich and Dupont that became a model for redevelopment along the Greenway.

    3) Opposed removal of parking on Hennepin Avenue – both public works and planners were convinced this was the answer to traffic issues on Hennepin Avenue in the 1980s. Those of us who opposed this plan were labeled “anti-progress” when we argued traffic relief would be temporary and removing on-street traffic would kill local business on Hennepin Avenue.

    4) Studied neighborhood traffic and parking and opposed a City plan to make Dupont and Emerson one-way from Lake to Hennepin as a public works solution to increased uptown traffic. We successfully argued that a walkable residential neighborhood was not compatible with more one-ways in the Wedge.

    6) Created a neighborhood plan with a predicable zoning for redevelopment of appropriate properties in the neighborhood at high densities (but limited height) – while rezoning historic structures to encourage investment and renovation.

    7) Proposed street throating and crosswalk calming for street reconstruction in the Wedge that were first opposed and then partially adapted by public works.

    The neighbors you view with suspicion supported the creation of the Greenway and opposed reconstruction of Lyndale as a County Highway, instead supporting plans to create the present boulevard south of 31st Street; and championed SWLRT routing thorough the Greenway To serve high-density residential development. For years projects that added thousands of new residential units along Lyndale, Lake Street and the Greenway were supported by the neighborhood, with the only criticism made when heights interfered with existing development and consistent suggestions that buildings be built with less, not more, parking stalls.

    All of which brings me back to your post- advancing a tiresome narrative I hear a lot on this thread – if only those old-timers would get out of the way we could make this into a really desirable urban neighborhood.

    This is not a debate about 6 story development or no development at Franklin and Lyndale, it is a debate about how much of the increased demand for new housing in the area should be allowed to be squeezed onto one parcel for the purpose of maximizing a developer’s profits while lowering the value of homes on Aldrich.

    Does anyone believe the market supports tearing down every house and duplex in the Wedge and replacing them with 4-6 story apartment buildings? Of course not. There is a limit to demand in the neighborhood, so the real question is what is the appropriate scale at a particular location to fit into the existing fabric of the neighborhood.

    We asked the neighbors that question in 2004 at the conclusion of the neighborhood planning study and the hundreds of neighbors(including renters and landlords) who came to the public meetings had a very consistent message: change the zoning on the remaining historic structures to discourage teardown and encourage reinvestment; and limit apartment building heights to less than 40’ where new construction abuts existing homes.

    Those ideas still make sense, and allow for a very dense neighborhood. They are not, as you and others suggest, an attempt to limit density in the neighborhood.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini March 24, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      “it is a debate about how much of the increased demand for new housing in the area should be allowed to be squeezed onto one parcel for the purpose of maximizing a developer’s profits while lowering the value of homes on Aldrich.”

      “Does anyone believe the market supports tearing down every house and duplex in the Wedge and replacing them with 4-6 story apartment buildings? Of course not. There is a limit to demand in the neighborhood, so the real question is what is the appropriate scale at a particular location to fit into the existing fabric of the neighborhood.”

      The answer is as much demand as the market allows. The further answer is as much more demand as would be present if the state and federal governments weren’t continuing to subsidize more and more development on the fringes of society with freeways we can’t afford. The reality is that the Wedge is between 1 and 2 miles from the core of our states largest city, served by major bike infrastructure, lined by commercial, and within spitting distance of the (arguably) best public park system in the region (Chain of Lakes).

      This isn’t a discussion about profits. No one questions how much money homeowners make as a percent of the house value, their annual income, or anything else when they sell their home after 10 years. Indeed, the federal government allows us all to exclude a large portion of this capital gain from taxes. No one questions how much renovation expert TV stars or their financiers make when they renovate properties. The developer’s profits (which are typically quite slim margins) represent the desire for more people to live in the neighborhood. And by the thousands, they’re proving that the bucolic detached structures aren’t exactly why the area is so desirable (hint: it’s the proximity to all the “stuff” they like). So let’s stop accusing people of greed or acting like they’re actions have only negatives to the status quo who have a different view of what makes a place desirable.

      I honestly applaud the things the neighborhood activists have done over the past 40 years to keep areas like the Wedge from deteriorating more toward a Detroit-like hellscape. But that doesn’t mean the job is done. You can’t just say “we supported and implemented the underpinnings for good urbanism, so now the neighborhood is ‘done’ and the scale and fabric can’t be changed because we think we got it right.” There are so many lovely, livable places in this country and world with so much higher land-use intensities, heights above 40′, diminished views, high levels of shading, and housing more people than the Wedge does per acre. Don’t convince yourself that the people of the next 50 years will value the things you do. They may value the ability to buy a 12′ wide 3 BR, 2 BA row home with a garden apartment to rent out and a 12×12 backyard with no parking for the equivalent of $250k in $2014, something you can’t find today. They may want a 15t floor penthouse 2BR 2BA condo with views of downtown and the lakes. I don’t know. But I want it to be available if they want it, at as low a price as the market will bear, otherwise more neighborhoods within Minneapolis become more expensive, continuing to push people to the exurbs (most likely low income folks).

    • Cameron Conway
      Cameron Conway March 25, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. I’m not needlessly suspicious of Wedge residents or homeowners. Many of the items you mention are great accomplishments, I’m really not trying to disrespect folks who have done great work for the neighborhood. It’s pretty obvious that you all have had to weather a number of attempts to autocentrize the neighborhood. I know I’m pretty lucky to be a pro-walkability person now, rather than twenty years ago.

      The neighbors I do view with suspicion are those who advocate for individual priorities like private views and ‘context’ issues over public amenities. Both are enormously subjective and in cases, conveniently arbitrary. After all, the Wedge is already a delightful hodgepodge of ‘out of place’ architectural styles and land uses. This is one reason why we love it. Also, outside of property tax, homeowners are protected from the cost changes associated with fluctuating rental demand. In many cases, rising real estate values can be a direct incentive to oppose increasing supply in the neighborhood. You may say that you oppose a development because the Colfax Healy house is just so great, or it could be to get the biggest return on your real estate investment, at the expense of your renter neighbor’s affordability. It could also be to keep the neighborhood as income-homogenous as possible. Renters will still be the ones getting the raw deal.

      Development brings public goods when done right (more transit ridership/incentive for improvements, more customers for local businesses, more political will for walkable improvements, more physical retail spaces, demand stabilization bla bla). As a result, I support development more often than not. Considering the potential for abuse, I’m skeptical of people who oppose otherwise great projects.

      • Cameron Conway
        Cameron Conway March 25, 2014 at 10:00 am #

        Also, I’m super stoked on how much development has happened in the Greenway area recently! It’s amazing, and it’ll keep that area affordable! Even with that, the area will continue to grow in desirability and it’s important that renters advocate for their ability to afford the neighborhood.

    • Jeff Klein March 25, 2014 at 10:10 am #

      There’s a lot of cases being made that because neighborhood residents rightfully opposed terrible development in the past, they’re right in opposing development indefinitely. Each new set of ideas has to be taken on its merits. The attitude towards urban development has changed for the better.

      It’s equally frustrating that we were able to bulldoze five square miles of city to run a freeway through it, and now people, knowing how terrible this was, won’t rip down a single falling-apart house to make room for light rail. Yes, mistakes were made.

      I’m glad people opposed a lot of these things. I don’t know how much it is relevent to the topic at hand.

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott Shaffer March 25, 2014 at 10:17 am #

      “This is not a debate about 6 story development or no development at Franklin and Lyndale, it is a debate about how much of the increased demand for new housing in the area should be allowed to be squeezed onto one parcel for the purpose of maximizing a developer’s profits while lowering the value of homes on Aldrich.”

      You ignore the interests of renters. We’re seeing increased demand to rent in the Wedge. Without increased supply, the price of the existing rental housing stock will increase. If this project is blocked, the upper-middle-income folks who would’ve rented at FrankLyn will bid up the prices of nearby apartments. The newly-displaced middle-income folks will cascade down to the next level of housing in the area, out-bidding any low-income folks left. Meanwhile, the prices of homes in the area will rise above their current $400,000 level.

      This is a debate about how many low-income renters we’re OK with displacing, just to prevent existing homeowners from suffering a few more minutes of shade each day.

      • Steven Prince March 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

        Scott,

        You say I am ignoring the interest of renters. I could more accurately say you are ignoring the interests of homeowners by mis-framing this debate as for or against density.

        I don’t know anyone who lives in the Wedge who opposes density, but I know lots of frustrated neighbors who want redevelopment to preserve the mix of land uses and be appropriate to existing massing and scale.

        You can call that subjective, but I would suggest you cannot be for mixed land-use in the Wedge and be for the project at Lyndale and Franklin in its present proposed form. We can achieve very high neighborhood densities without abandoning the investment in duplexes and single family homes that some seem eager to accomplish.

        I repeat my challenge to go walk the impacted block of Aldrich and then argue for the building as presently proposed.

        It is interesting that we are only talking about development in the Wedge, not Uptown. Could the election of a new council person who supported the tear-down at 24th and Colfax before the election (and consistently opines publicly for maximum density for every development) have encouraged proposals in the Wedge that developers would not attempt in the 7th Ward across Hennepin Avenue?

        Where is the outrage that the Tryg development has been scaled back from 175 to 155 units on Lake Street (while moving from 11 to 6 stories)? Why isn’t anyone asking why the gas station at 27th and Hennepin was replaced with a brand new one story building? If there is so much demand for new housing, why wasn’t that built as a a multistory mixed use building?

        Why is the desire to preserve a mix of housing types and protect neighborhood investment only suspect in the Wedge?

        Because an irrational zoning map and City policies encourage disinvestment in existing housing stock, making tear-downs in the Wedge attractive speculative opportunities that don’t exist in other Uptown neighborhoods.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam March 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

          I don’t follow how being for a mixed use project is inconsistent with being for mixed use in the Wedge, especially where the project in question is bringing housing to a corner that’s directly adjacent to existing retail that can supply essentially all basic personal needs.

          There has been no investment in duplexes and single family homes on that parcel, and preserving private value for a handful of neighbors who presently enjoy a positive externality of empty space next to them at the expense of the public value of redeveloping that plot sounds like pretty horrid public policy.

          But I accept your challenge. I will walk that block today.

          • Steven Prince March 26, 2014 at 10:03 am #

            Adam,

            You will need to sneak into some back yards. Note there are no alleys in this part of the Wedge, so yards go right up to the lot-line with the Lyndale parcels.

            Mixed use means a built environment where each property owner is encouraged to reinvest in the existing structures. Turn of the century homes look great, but they are very expensive to maintain. A six story project that abuts single family homes is not (in my view) consistent with encouraging reinvestment in the existing single families and duplexes on Aldrich.

            I like the proposed development on the corner of Franklin and Lyndale, but as I posted earlier, I think the parking ramp should be only 3 stories above ground (with the rest underground), and the building should step from 6 stories at the north to 3.5 at the south.

            That would be an exciting project that increases density while respecting the existing urban fabric.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam March 26, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

              I guess we have different notions of mixed use. Individual single family homes are not mixed use by definition. That they already exist is a big factor in their favor, but that doesn’t make them contain more than just residential housing.

              • Steven Prince March 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

                So under your definition of mixed use we look only at the individual zoning parcel, not different uses in a block?

                A block that has retail, single family, duplex and apartment buildings is, in my view, mixed use. That describes perfectly the block between Lyndale and Aldrich south of Franklin.

        • Matt Brillhart March 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

          Steven,

          Why no outrage over the Tryg’s development being scaled back? I think some people are disappointed that the taller, more slender version was scrapped, but that was also pretty predictable considering past behavior and influence that neighborhood board’s Z&P committee chair holds. It is also possible the 11-story version was a decoy to deflect neighborhood anger and make folks feel like they “won” when it was scaled down to 6. I’m mostly disappointed in the loss of the public park that would have gone in behind the 11-story version. If the Loop Calhoun condo owners chalk up the scaling back to 6-stories as a victory and the development proceeds without any more major conflict, I’m alright with that. It’s still a good use of that site, ridiculous complaints about height aside, considering the surroundings.

          Those of us who were present at the LHENA zoning & planning committee meetings a year ago know exactly why there is no housing above the new retail building at 2700 Hennepin. A covenant in the deed, put there by the previous gas station owner specifically forbid residential. There were some serious underground contamination issues from decades of use as a service station. Any residential would have required going underground for parking, so it just wasn’t meant to be. Obviously everyone would have preferred a mixed-use project there.

          Preserve a mix of housing types? Regarding what exactly? Do you think we ought to be building new single family homes in the Wedge instead of apartments? 24th & Colfax is the only development proposal in recent memory that proposes to tear down existing residential units. All other recent developments are taking place on former industrial land, vacant parcels, and surface parking lots. No residential units would be displaced by any of the projects currently under consideration, except for 2320 Colfax.

          • Steven Prince March 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

            Matt,

            Have you seen the zoning plan (or map) approved by LHENA in 2004? It spells out the mixed use issue very clearly and proposes a systematic way to modify the existing spot-zoning of R6 and R2 parcels ( proposing a set of rules that downzoned “critical properties” to R2B while up zoning other R2B parcels to R4).

            I am not proposing building new single family homes in the Wedge. Land values are too high. But my recent memory is longer than yours, since I can recall proposals in the last decade to tear down duplexes in the 2500 block of Aldrich and the duplex on 24th between Colfax and Dupont to build multistory apartment buildings. When we did the zoning study other neighbors told us they were receiving solicitations from developers interested in buying duplexes for tear-down.

            Since over 110 single-family or duplexes in the Wedge are zoned R6 the neighborhood will see more of these proposals. The problem in zoning100+ year-old homes as R6 is you encourage disinvestment, which means properties become substandard. This then becomes the argument for tear-down and redevelopment (see the posts about 24th and Colfax). Redevelopment that may or may not be compatible with other 100+ buildings nearby.

            Are you saying we should allow the teardown of all single family homes in the neighborhood for replacement with apartment buildings? I suspect you are not, and while if you did I would disagree, I could respect that as an intellectually defensible position (it was the City’s official planning position in the 60s and early 70s).

            If you believe some single family homes or duplexes should stay, or if you concede that the market will not support apartment building on every lot in the Wedge, what do you see as the role of planning or land-use regulation in encouraging the remaining homes and duplexes to be well maintained? That is the nuanced issue that seems to be lost in many of the posts I see labeling every critic of a redevelopment proposal as anti urban or anti-growth. These buildings have an impact on their neighbors; the question is how to balance these competing interests.

  5. David March 24, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    The slant that you have given this article is that the Wedge residents and preservationists are pushing against more rental units and are in some way lacking and “coservative” for that. Perhaps you didn’t live here at the time, but in the past few years the Wedge has approved thousands of new rental units. Thousands. They are pushing back against a gargantuan proposal that does not fit current zoning at Franklin and Lyndale; ok with a development happening but not ok with the variances requested due to the gargantuan size, lack of sufficient setbacks, and excessive pay parking in the structure to help it serve as a park and ride for suburbanites going downtown. If downtown needs more parking, build it downtown, not in the neighborhoods. New development isn’t good by definition alone…in fact most of it is low quality and poor design. Every developer says they will provide affordable housing but unless they sign a contract it is unlikely to happen. If only people had pushed a little harder against the Lake St Kmart! Of course, you would accuse them of the worn out accusation of NIMBY and push for unconditional approval as with the Wedge developments. All that does is make a wealthy developer more wealthy. I am fine with profits being made, but the neighborhood needs to get a project that is healthy for the neighborhood in the process.

    • Cameron Conway
      Cameron Conway March 25, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      I really wasn’t trying to make this article about the Wedge at all, I just noticed that neighborhood as a site of unequal representation at neighborhood meetings. In no way is this article about letting any and all development through, but the last few blocked projects have been pretty stellar. I’m pretty hugely in favor of that Franklin/Lyndale project, although I’d agree that it doesn’t need as much parking as requested. Is that project being actively marketed as a suburban park and ride? Doesn’t make a ton of sense to park in an expensive parking structure/bus in when such a huge amount of cheap surface parking exists downtown. In any case, I’m just adding another factor for neighborhood preservationists to keep in mind. One man’s character preservation is another’s gentrification.

      • Steven Prince March 25, 2014 at 10:37 am #

        Cameron,

        You say you are “hugely in favor” of the proposal at Lyndale and Franklin. Have you walked around the 2000 – 2200 block of Aldrich? Have you stood in any of those backyards and imagined what the 6 story parking ramp will look like? Imagined what it will do the property values on that block, with some of the best maintained homes in the neighborhood?

        If you haven’t, why not? Why does the developer have the right to maximize profit by diminishing the property value of those neighbors?

        I think the proposal needs work. Step the building down from 6 stories at the corner (where the properties to the west are already existing apartment buildings) to 40′ at the south end of the project (where the properties to the west are single family homes and the grade difference is less); put 2 levels of the proposed parking structure underground (making it 3 stories above ground) and the building provides a great gateway while transitioning to the existing neighborhood housing.

        • Cameron Conway
          Cameron Conway March 25, 2014 at 11:59 am #

          Is there actually any consistent data that says that houses such as the ones in question would lose value? I mean, do they currently gain value by have their backyards in full view of Lyndale? Those parking lots are hardly less ugly than a parking garage. I gave up my apartment in the trees for a duplex equally close to a similar building, and I did so to be adjacent to amenities. I’m certainly not the only one who would gladly trade.

          Why do homeowners get to diminish the public benefit that development provides? The landowner of the developed property is hardly the only beneficiary.

          I would definitely agree with putting the parking underground, tho. No one wants to see that.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke March 25, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

            The parking lot there. Not much to see, but if you imagine yourself a visitor, somebody who isn’t familiar with these autos and such. Someone with a fresh perspective. That’s what is is, Cameron. Because if you can see beauty reaching into the world… It sounds to me like you’re looking at the world through tired eyes. Things aren’t so bad. Look at the parking lot, Cameron.

          • Steven Prince March 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

            Cameron,
            The homes on Aldrich don’t view the existing surface lot (which is below the grade of their lots), they have sunlight and downtown views. Of course trading those existing views for the wall of a six story parking ramp will diminish those property values. Do you really deny that?

            As for the claimed public benefit to the new building – that assumes the units lost by lowering the building height will not get built elsewhere.

            Once that assumption is swept away it becomes clear that the developer (and property owner) get to capture increased speculative value created by the community (a positive externality), and do do it at the expense of their neighbors (a negative externality).

            Why wouldn’t we encourage additional development that does not include such negative externalities?

            • Cameron Conway
              cameron conway March 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

              Well, yeah I think I’ll deny that. Just check the values of neighboring properties, the ones with sunset views are completely consistent with the rest of the neighborhood. http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/Lowry-Hill-East-Minneapolis-MN/270132_rid/44.962576,-93.286572,44.959361,-93.293541_rect/17_zm/1_fr/

              Plus, those views surely didn’t exist when the properties were initially constructed, and there was an actual two story building on Lyndale (a la Steeple People, only in what is now Rudolph’s parking). So as soon as those neighbors get an accidental amenity, they’re guaranteed it into perpetuity? I don’t buy it.

              And yes, I’m sure that density will be built somewhere, eventually. But people are moving into the Wedge now, and demand is rising now. There’s no incentive for renters to be in the waiting game just so people can keep their accidental private views. It’s not as if the neighborhood is supporting public views in the same location http://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2014/03/lyndale-franklin-new-hope-neglected-intersection

              • Steven Prince March 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

                Adam,

                Looking at present values is non-responsive to what happens to those home values when they are suddenly backed up by a six-story parking ramp/apartment building wall. If you went and looked a the site you would realize that even when there were 2-story building on Lyndale those structures did not block views on Aldrich, which is up the hill.

                FYI, Zillow may be a fair representation of home values in the suburbs, but it notoriously unreliable in Minneapolis. The algorithms compare sales based on distance, the low number of single family homes in the Wedge means values jump all over depending on whether the latest “comparable” is in Whittier or Lowry Hill.

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam March 26, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

                  I don’t think we can say with any certainty what the influence of the proposed development will be on the value of the houses on Alrich.

                  On the one hand, they will lose some amount of view, which I think we should be able to agree is a detrimental change to their value, although of undeterminable size. On the other hand, they will no longer be neighbors to a surface parking lot and they will be next to an attractive new mixed use development, which will bring more people and perhaps more business and services, which could be big advantages to their property value. Those people also may bring increased transit investment and potential additional renovation and redevelopment in that area, also potential significant additions to their property value.

                  But moreover, what visiting the area left me thinking is that the dilapidated apartment buildings on the corner with Franklin, and the unattractive but seemingly better maintained ones across the street, are much bigger detriments to the value of these properties than building a shiny, new, appealing development on the underused land next door. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how this new project may significantly increase the incentives to renovate and restore the former.

                  • Steven Prince March 26, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

                    Adam,
                    Totally agree. I represented a tenant in one of those buildings a decade ago in a pro bono case and was shocked at how a once beautiful building had been completely neglected. Enforcement of standards and rules has been a huge problem and livability issue in Minneapolis for decades. I would argue the moratorium in SW has more to do with this failing than anything else.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam March 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

          Let me get this straight. In the middle of a discussion of whether renters’ voices are adequately represented in redevelopment discussions, you’re going to tell us you’re fine with blocking the views of renters but not property owners? Okay.

          Those renters have exactly the same property interest in the space on the lot next to them, the emptiness of which affords them views: none. That you want to privilege one group but not the other pretty much makes Cameron’s point.

          And speaking of those views, I went and walked the block. As far as I can tell from the sidewalk (i.e., without trespassing), there are exactly two houses that do not currently face a wall, garage or other building from their backyard. Every other home on the block already cannot see the downtown skyline, or can only see part of it, from their yard. Perhaps they can from their upper floors, but the situation is not as you described. One property even features a relatively new-looking opaque wooden fence that seems to suggest that the owner values privacy from passers by on Lyndale more than the view.

          And several of the houses along the block appeared not to be in particularly good repair.

          So, yeah, walking down the street did not magically make me think that the private interests of a handful of homeowners should trump an opportunity to significantly improve the neighborhood and our city.

          All that said, I’m always in favor of putting the parking underground.

    • Matt Brillhart March 25, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      “excessive pay parking in the structure to help it serve as a park and ride for suburbanites going downtown.”

      Just wow. I can’t even imagine the mental gymnastics you had to perform to arrive at that conclusion, David.

      Why in the world would someone drive all the way to Lyndale & Franklin, pay for hourly parking, then pay for a full bus fare? It just doesn’t make sense. In reality, your hypothetical commuter would either A. park at a suburban P&R for free, B. just drive all the way downtown.

      District Parking:
      The extra 60 parking spaces (above the minimum required for the residential and retail/restaurant tenants) are proposed to create a district parking solution that could be used by businesses at all 4 corners of the intersection. We all know that the other corners are going to be redeveloped (eventually, I hope) and getting this district parking in place creates some certainty for future investments in the area. Keep in mind that Minneapolis already has pretty low parking minimums, and this is just 60 spaces over the minimum. Parking for non-residential users will likely be charged by the hour. In addition, there are many existing condos and apartment buildings that are under-parked (including those directly to the west, most vehemently opposed to this proposal). Residents of nearby buildings could seek a monthly parking contact in this development, reducing the strain on street parking. Personally, if I lived through this winter having to rely only on street parking, I would absolutely pony up the $75-100/month for a covered space in a parking garage nearby.

      • Steven Prince March 25, 2014 at 10:47 am #

        Matt,
        I agree with the district parking concept, that is what the Wedge proposed years ago for development between the Greenway and Lake Street, it is the way to go.

  6. Janne Flisrand
    Janne March 24, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    I have lived at 22nd and Dupont for 17 years. My spouse has lived at 26th and Bryant for 20 years. We both want more density and more apartments. While we are showing up to public meetings, OUR voices are being shouted over by people who holler more loudly than we do. It is my experience that while the loud anti-development voices are easily heard, they are not representative of many, many neighborhood residents.

    As someone who has a career in affordable housing, married to someone who teaches economics, I can say that we are both thankful for someone raising the supply/demand issue around the cost of housing. It’s a great place to live, and we’re thankful for the hard work many residents have been putting in to make the neighborhoods great starting 10-20 years before we arrived. I hope that our decades of dedication to our neighborhood won’t be erased by loud, (even) older voices, and that we’ll make sure this great place to live has space for many thousands more people — people just starting out their lives in a first apartment, to young families settling in, and to people looking for a great place to grow old.

    Let’s not slam the door closed behind us, now that we’re here. Let’s welcome more people to share our riches — and accept their help making these neighborhoods even better.

  7. Joe Scott
    Joe March 25, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    “…virtually no modern developments meet the architectural and urban design standards of their early 20th century equivalents.” If one believes this, what is the argument for advocating current proposals be built, rather than opposing them and trying for better proposals? Just pragmatic urgency?

    • Cameron Conway
      Cameron Conway March 25, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Well, that would assume that the only benefit to developing dense housing is their architectural contribution. I’ll tolerate poor architecture for more demand for transit, more customers for local businesses, more political will for walkable improvements, more physical retail spaces (in the case of Lyndale&Franklin), etc. I’d argue that demanding setbacks and height caps actually keep architects from making compelling projects. In any case, I just understand whoever might claim that ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to.’ We clearly need more ornamental stonemasons in our lives!

      • Joe Scott
        Joe March 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

        I didn’t intend to discount the benefits you’ve mentioned (transit demand, political will, mitigating gentrification) with my question. Those things would fall under pragmatic urgency, and I totally acknowledge their value. The reason I felt compelled to comment is the fact that your article addressed a question I think is underappreciated: which is why is the specific development we see today necessary or better now, as opposed to later? I’m just still not quite convinced…can you predict the future by chance?

        • Cameron Conway
          Cameron Conway March 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

          Sorry for the delay in response! And no, I cannot predict the future 🙂 My goal in all this is to restore Minneapolis to its pre-auto era greatness. That means redeveloping as many surface parking lots as possible, maximizing incentives for grade separated transit improvements and otherwise helping the city reduce its automobile dependence. Really, we need hundreds if not thousands of redevelopment projects in order to get close to accomplishing this goal. If vaguely affordable gasoline isn’t going to exist in 15-20 years, Minneapolis in its current form is NOT something I want to leave to the next generation.

          Like I mention in the article, another factor is demand appreciation. We need to be supplying new housing at a rate near to our annual increase in demand. We’re seeing Minneapolis rental and home values go up, which is great for some homeowners but is also inherently inequitable. Also, when our gasoline energy crisis hits, Minneapolis rents are going to absolutely skyrocket.

          So in short, pragmatic urgency 🙂 because I’m not sure we’ve had a time that has been as urgent as the present 🙁

  8. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke March 25, 2014 at 3:41 am #

    The debate on the thread here about density is interesting an all, but the real point of the post is that the Wedge is 70+% rental and community engagement and public involvement is probably the opposite of that.

    Even if you don’t like the Lyndale and Franklin proposal (or whatever), you should find that disparity be a problem.

  9. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell March 25, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    The midwest, including Minneapolis, is, I think, much more of a home ownership culture than either of the coasts (which are much more home ownership culture than Europe). In Europe, and to a large extent on both of our coasts, renters are often long-term multi-decade residents of their neighborhoods. They take a great deal of pride in their neighborhoods, work to keep them nice, and participate in neighborhood activities.

    I think that the view here, perhaps based on a lot of experience?, is that renters are short-term, aren’t really part of the neighborhood, and don’t really care about the neighborhood. They’re viewed as not invested in the neighborhood and so won’t be as committed to keeping it up. They’ll be more likely to cause problems of noise, litter, etc.

    Perhaps the question is how to change that perception?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 25, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      Is that how they view themselves, or how they’re viewed by others? Regardless, neighborhood groups should have an obligation to reflect the neighborhood they’re in, whether that disparity revolves around class, language, race, or home ownership. To do otherwise is a straight up injustice, even if you’re getting what you want.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke March 25, 2014 at 10:54 am #

        Ooh, I forgot gender for some reason. (Maybe because I don’t perceive that as as big a gap in the TC re: community involvement.) But women often do the vast majority of the childcare. Community meetings should be family friendly.

        Also I forgot age. What can we do to make community engagement more appealing to younger folks who use more online tools all the time? How many community groups have active websites? What is the average age of an e.democracy forum user?

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell March 26, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

        “Is that how they view themselves, or how they’re viewed by others?” I think that for many homeowners, it is certainly how renters are viewed by others. You raise a great point though about renters also viewing themselves that way. Feeling like they are not really a part of the community and so choose not to get involved. I think that in the midwest, renting is still viewed very much as a temporary stepping-stone place until you become a ‘real homeowner’. This is much less the case on the coasts, especially NYC/Boston, and very much less in much of Europe.

      • Cadillac Kolstad March 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

        Yes very good point. Neighborhood groups should do a better job of surveys and outreach to better serve all residents.

        • Janne Flisrand
          Janne March 26, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

          This comment thread about the supposed transience of renters doesn’t seem call into question whether mpls renters are or are not more transient than renters in Europe and on the coasts. Living on an almost entirely rental block, I see a lot of long term stability, stability which is dismissed by my neighborhood association and others.

          • Walker Angell
            Walker Angell March 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

            Whether they are or not, the perception seems to be there. Articles about problems with immature renters near the U probably don’t help much. I’d guess that over time as renters participate more in community stuff and owner residents see that renter residents can care just as much or more about the neighborhood, that this will change.

            • cdElle March 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

              Janne makes a great point, we need more information. Renter near the U and renters in the surrounding areas are completely different. I think part of the issue is, how do you distinguish renters from owners by sight? If you see someone walking down the street, not drunk, not shouting loudly at 2 am, and generally not putting on a scene, you might make some wrong assumptions about that person’s circumstances. Not all renters are frat boys.

  10. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    It is odd that this article seems to believe that historic preservation and affordability are misaligned and that affordability and new development is somehow aligned. Take 2320 Colfax for example. NOBODY is asking to restore the house to a pristine, single family mansion. It currently serves to provide very affordable housing for mostly older single men. There is a false narrative that snobby homeowners are somehow “against” this population and the man who has provided this housing to them for two decades. On the contrary, the organizers to save the Orth House would actually be quite pleased if it could continue in its current use and I have numerous times heard them speak of much respect that Mr. Crow has been closely involved, frequently onsite in providing this type housing for these men. We have a part of town where affordable housing is fast disappearing, if not pretty much gone already. We have developers moving in aggressively on any site they can build upon to build high end, expensive apartments. If the “historic resource” status of 2320 Colfax and requirement that adaptive reuse must be considered for any development to occur chases away the high end, for profit developers, that creates an opportunity for those working with subsidy, non profits, to have a point of opportunity to secure a site in a part of town where affordability is vanishing. This city has a big equity problem and we *supposedly* are going to seriously attack that problem. Well, guess what? We can’t just keep pumping high end apartments into SW and think the low income housing “belongs” in Phillips or North MInneapolis (which is where I live). Being on the side of a large, for profit developer who is in this to make big money while displacing low income residents to create efficiency apartments that rent for $1,000 a month is neither affordability or equity. But it is an easy narrative to follow if one is not thinking critically or creatively. Just blindly “believe” that old=bad, historic=expensive, homeowner=anti renter, and preservation=antidevelopment. Those are simply lazy assumptions. Think critically and look a little closer at this issue. Once you get past the “bait” you will find the nuance and possibilities of what are happening a lot more interesting than it appears on the surface.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam March 26, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

      Your comment fundamentally misunderstanding housing markets, the prices of which are simply not made cheaper by restricting housing supply.

      Not building new housing in an environment of high demand means less affordable housing.

  11. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    I actually do understand housing markets quite well. I am a Realtor as well as a house rehabber and professional painter. Contemplating housing issues is my lfie. Sometimes markets need intervention, which is the case if we are going to fit some truly affordable or even low income (gasp!) housing into Uptown. Market forces alone will lead to a further “siloing” of expensive, trendy apartments in Uptown and concentrations of low income housing in Phillips and North Minneapolis. There are reasons we see the disparities we do in this city and plans like this only further exasperate that. We are becoming increasingly two different cities due to these disparities. Developers are rushing in on any developable parcel in this part of town. Having a site where circumstances might keep for profit developers at bay creates one of the last opportunity points to use subsidy to do something different. As developable sites are maxed out, it will push the “wave” of development to other places. We have lots of places to fill up. Continuing to expand eastward down the Greenway, Build up Downtown East, fill up the vacant lots in North Minneapolis, etc. I am not sold on the idea that we must destroy a historic resource for the for profit gain of a developer who lives in England, while displacing low income residents, and build high end apartments that are not affordable and then claim some sort of moral high ground. The only thing I keep hearing is “density” but just in a very general way that everything and anything related to density is good. There are lots of different ways and places to create density and achieve population gain in this city. I don’t think a push for “density” should trump a rare opportunity to adaptively reuse a historic resource and take advantage of a rare opportunity to fit affordable housing into a part of town where this is quickly vanishing. I think we have some opportunity points to do something different with this site and those angles are being worked as we speak. I believe there is good intention behind those who oppose this issue, but I also believe it is misguided. It is aligned with the for profit interests of a large developer and exasperating the disparities of this city at the expense of trashing our history. There is a lot of potential here to take this in a much more creative and pro social direction than that.

    • Morgan March 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

      Exactly.

      Good post. All markets are guided by policy from the Federal Reserve on down. This is because pure market systems aren’t the best way to run almost any part of the economy. Obviously our city basically sucks compared to our peers (Portland, Seattle, Denver) because policy has been awful.

      We should be putting resources into expanding what the desirable map is for urban living in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities. Developers on their own won’t do this because it is riskier than building in the already established neighborhoods.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam March 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

        This is a strange thing to say about the Wedge. It does not have a long history of being particularly desirable, as reflected by the greatly varying state of the housing stock in the area. Indeed, the fact that an SRO boarding house is in what used to be a large, apparently fancy, house is a pretty good sign of where the neighborhood has been in the not so distant past.

        This type of project is absolutely expanding the map for desirable urban living.

        Beyond that, the way the map expands tends to be incremental around the edges (think of the more than decade long wave of redevelopment that is still spreading east across DC), not parachuted into otherwise unappealing neighborhoods. What’s happening in the Wedge is an extension of what’s already happened on the other side of Hennepin and farther south in Uptown. It absolutely raises questions about gentrification, segregation and affordable housing, which probably require more of a policy response that we’ve seen, but stopping the wave certainly does nothing to expand the map for desirable urban living.

        • Morgan March 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

          I don’t know but it’s my understanding that the greater “Uptown” area has been well established since the 80s. Sure, the real estate market wasn’t hopped up on low interest rate drugs and the general nationwide market change that we have seen making urban neighborhoods more desirable hadn’t fully developed yet, but 24th and Colfax is right across the street (hennepin) from the lakes which are the amenity that originally made the area desirable, and where Mary Tyler more lived in the 70s. That’s as “urban hip” as it gets.

          I am not saying that you are wrong, but it is the West of 35, south of downtown neighborhoods that are the most established in the city.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam March 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

            I’d recommend going for a walk in the neighborhood. It’s probably not fair to think you can read the story of a neighborhood from the sidewalk, but I think you can at least get an impression. The quality of the housing stock is starkly different than just across Hennepin in Lowry East. By my totally unscientific estimation, it feels about 20 years behind Uptown. I’d liken it to Logan Circle in the late ’90s/early 2000s. Both have everything going them but just haven’t made it yet.

            And while I don’t have personal memories of the neighborhood in the 1980s, my understand was that the area wasn’t exactly considered prosperous when the Replacements were pictured sitting on the roof of a house a few blocks from there for an album cover in 1984.

            My days shopping for real estate during the DC property bubble made me pretty sensitive to neighborhood names, so I’m always resistant to referring to this area as Uptown, although I realize that were intentionally it to mean a much broader area.

            • Morgan March 26, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

              I understand your hesitation about neighborhood names but I do think that their is an understanding of what “greater Uptown” is and that it includes the Wedge and even all of Whittier in some people’s minds. At least that’s what I think lots of people think even though it is technically wrong.

              What about all of the 80s era apartment buildings in “greater Uptown”? Aren’t they evidence that the neighborhood was established then?

              • Adam Miller
                Adam March 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

                I guess I’m not sure what “established” means. My understanding, which admittedly is not based on much, is that this area, the Wedge, was a relatively downscale area in the ’80s.

                • Steven Prince March 26, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

                  Adam and Morgan,
                  Look at a zoning map of the Wedge and look at a zoning map of Lowry Hill and Kenwood. Then you will understand why three neighborhoods with largely identical housing stock in the 1960s now look so different. In the 60s the Wedge was rezoned as R6, the other neighborhoods were not. I remember reading a City plan from the 60s that described the 100+ year old mansions of the Wedge “as worth less than the price to paint them.”

                  Houses in all three neighborhoods had been split up in the 20s, but the remodeling of those rooming houses back into single families (gentrification) happened much slower in the Wedge, and largely on blocks that got rezoned R2B by neighborhood activism in the early 70s.

                  The result in the Wedge of the R6 rezoning was tear-down of the many of the biggest and most beautiful mansions in the Wedge (they were on larger lots) and replacement with the 3-story walk-ups you now see throughout the neighborhood.

                  The question the neighborhood grapples with now is whether other historic homes should also be rezoned R2b (none of the properties above 24th St were rezoned R2B in the 70s). When the neighborhood studied this from 2003 -2004 a consensus emerged – the existing apartments were desirable, and zoning should encourage their continued presence and potential redevelopment, even in blocks with old homes. But out of respect to the existing streetscape the height of those apartment buildings should be limited (by zoning designation) to match the height and scaling of the existing buildings.

                  The neighborhood also agreed that the “critical properties” identified (zoned R6 but structures built as single family homes or duplexes a 100 years ago) should be rezoned R2b, R3 or R4 depending on the existing use, adjacent use, and size of the lot.

                • Morgan March 27, 2014 at 9:57 am #

                  When I worked closely with the city government while living in DC the city would place neighborhoods into four categories of residential investment: Established, Transitional, Emerging, and Distressed. They are a measure of how well real property appreciates when investments are made.

                  When have all heard John Q. Homeowner say something like “I would like to make this or that improvement to my home but I won’t get it back” meaning that the market will not reward them for the improvement.

                  In an established neighborhood the investment can be totally recouped. In a distressed one not at (that’s why houses in the ghetto deteriorate to pulp) and transitional and emerging are someplace in-between.

                  So when I say that I want large developers to be active in transitional and emerging communities what I mean is that I want the resources that they can bring to bear on a project to help move an entire neighborhood forward. A large development of 50 to 100 units can make an amenity like a coffee shop or a more high end restaurant all by itself. If those amenities are not already present then that is a huge deal for all of the other properties in the community.

                  • Steven Prince March 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

                    cdElle,

                    I did not go to the LHENA meeting, so I don’t know what was said about the soils issue.

                    The developer’s proposal shows a level below the street for the commercial/residential building, but not for the parking ramp. If they can put a theater in the basement I suspect they can put parking below grade as well.

                    Here’s the link to the drawings: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@cped/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-120072.pdf

                    • cdElle March 27, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

                      You can suspect, speculate, and assume all you’d like, it was CLEARLY stated at the meeting I attended: can’t put the parking underground. It’s one thing for the Theater to be located there, a whole other story to put all the parking underground.

                      The fact is underground parking is not possible at the site. Even, the people who are against the proposal didn’t argue the issue of underground parking not being possible during the meeting. One person, brought up the possibility and long time residents of the area along with the developer explained that the soil is the issue/history of the area, it’s just not possible at this specific site.

                      The link you referenced is the original proposal idea, the design has since changed. As it will continue to change as the developer continues to modify the design with all the public input he has received.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam March 26, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

      Building affordable housing helps provide affordable housing. Not building new housing does not.

      And the whole discussion about Colfax is whether there is a historic resource to be preserved. It seems to me that it was destroyed a long time ago.

      I have no idea why you think where the developer lives is in any way relevant. Nor why you can’t figure out how to use paragraph breaks.

      Your goals for the house are laudable. Unfortunately right now there are no plans for anyone to purchase the house and maintain it as affordable housing. There are merely efforts to stop the property’s owner from getting what value from it that he can. It is certainly time for the efforts you mention to propose something.

    • Cadillac Kolstad March 26, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

      Great points Brian on all of your follow ups to this post.
      Ditto.

    • Cameron Conway
      Cameron Conway March 27, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      So I think we’re looking at two different strategies towards the same end goal. I’d really love if we had a wider variety of redevelopment epicenters in this city, especially in traditionally undesirable neighborhoods (for the reasons Morgan mentions). I mean, how else does one actually create subsidy non-reliant new affordable housing, other than to do so on inexpensive land? Having it all end up in Dinkytown, Downtown and Uptown will invariably result in relatively expensive housing that does more to absorb ‘new urbanite’ demand from Eden Prairie than to proactively expand the housing market for middle and low income Minneapolitans. It will also both increase the desirability of these places and decrease the housing market constriction with existing affordable housing, so I’m not sure which side wins out there.

      One concrete factor that accompanies dense redevelopment is that it increases the number of people in our city and metro area who live in walkable areas. On a political level, this is still very valuable. Terrible Hennepin county decisions get made because urban dwellers comprise a small slice of their overall constituent pie. By shifting this, we can actually get infrastructure that prioritizes non-automobile transportation.

      I’d argue that developing ONLY in desirable and increasingly desirable neighborhoods segregates the city further, but that’s far from what I support. I’d honestly love to see subsidies go less towards individual projects and more towards non-profit housing developers. We need to find ways of improving our less desirable neighborhoods in ways that exclusively serve those existing populations, expanding their affordable housing supplies. I’d still argue that for-profit development in Uptown is still an amazingly quick way of re-establishing our long lost density and creating really fabulous public spaces.

      Also, I think that considering the benefits that density lends to expanding our housing supply in a transit and pedestrian oriented fashion, density is pretty great until proven not so. If that Healy house were a rarity on that block, I’d holler up and down to save it. Instead, we have no guarantee that it’ll ever return to it’s previous, unadulterated state as an actual historic resource. We have a developer who has an existing reputation for well-designed projects, and it’s quite affordable ($875 for a 1br) compared to Lime or anything else closer to Lake. I don’t think that this one, not uncommon property is worth giving up that kind of a project. As far as the unique affordable housing it provides, we need to make policy changes that cause this kind of affordable property to actually be legal to implement, as that is not the case today. This house shouldn’t be a rarity.

      Good post, tho! I love it when respectful people disagree with me 🙂

      • Adam Miller
        Adam March 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

        The projects that get talked about and become controversial seem to be in areas that are already desirable. But there are more than a few “new” housing and mixed used projects along the Hiawatha corridor, and room for a whole lot more. And several alone the Central corridor two, which you have to think will only accelerate as the rail line becomes operational.

        And one at Franklin & Portland (even if Joe isn’t sure he likes it).

      • Steven Prince March 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

        Adam,

        I agree with your sentiments, their are plenty of neighborhood where in-fill could create sufficient density for increased transit (and other amenities that allow a walkable community). The Wedge is not one of them.

        Perhaps someone can post a map of housing units or population per block in SW Minneapolis. I believe it would show the Wedge is already the densest neighborhood east of Lyndale and at densities sufficient to support mass transit at any intensity every likely to be built in Minneapolis. Neither project under discussion is going to impact that in any significant way.

        • Steven Prince March 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

          I meant to direct that to Cameron.

          • Cameron Conway
            Cameron Conway March 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

            So just because it’s one of the densest neighborhoods in an extraordinarily non-dense city, that means the Wedge has reached its apex for walkable amenities? See most Chicago neighborhoods for a compelling contrast. More density brings more customers which fills vacant storefronts, like the one just north of Lyndale and Franklin. The Wedge may be one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the city, but that doesn’t mean we should stop there and call it good.

            At this point, the only ‘mass transit ever likely to be built in Minneapolis’ depends far more upon whether or not former freight tracks go through the neighborhood, rather than whether the neighborhood is even dense at all. See the Bottineau and SW LRT LPA’s for great examples of that nonsense. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where Minneapolis is both dense enough to support great transit improvements as well as politically willing to make it happen.

  12. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    BTW, I am also a renter.

  13. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    1. The historic resource as not destroyed a long time ago. That is a false narrative that continues to be perpetuated by the developer’s self interest. Many misrepresentations have been made. Most of the house is intact, there are features not currently visible that are quite phenomenal, alterations made are easily reversible, and some do not need to be reversed at all. Not only is it not destroyed, but it IS a historic resource by vote of the HPC, Z&P, and full council. That is fact.

    2. Don’t be so certain there are not plans in the works that you are not aware of.

    3. Point taken on the paragraph breaks, but don’t be a jerk a put it. Hopefully we meet in person sometime and I think you would find I’m a nice guy you would get along with.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam March 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      The city preservation staff that researched the question concluded that there was not enough of the historic resource left. Very rarely am I going to be persuaded by the actions of non-staff bodies that are subject to political pressures. From the sidewalk, there doesn’t appear to be much remarkable about it and significant changes to the exterior and physical structure are obvious. Of course, that doesn’t speak at all to what’s inside and underneath.

      I’m not at all certain there aren’t plans. I’m saying if someone has a plan they should present it. If there is someone with the necessary resources to purchase and restore the building AND continue to operate it as affordable houses that would be phenomenal. But the clock should be ticking on bringing those plans to light.

      I have no doubt that you are a nice guy, and my apologies if that was too pointed.

      • Cadillac Kolstad March 26, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

        The city planning staff NOT preservation staff came to this conclusion. Please remember the planning staff have a long track record of being hired by developers after their time at city hall.

  14. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Sorry for the typos. Typing from a broken phone screen.

  15. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    The staff report is a recommendation that is a beginning point for conversation. I happen to be friends with this staff person, so we have a friendly understanding that we have opposite opinions on this matter. But that recommendation is the beginning point of discussion and was not supported by the HPC, Z&P, or the full council. So it did not become the city’s position. The city’s position is that this is a historic resource.

  16. Brian Finstad March 26, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    And thanks for the apology. I’m sure we have plenty of issues in the future that we wil be aligned with. For instance the removal of the only remaining stretch of West Broadway that is dense and pedestrian oriented for redevelopment when there are strip malls and vacant land galore. Good God, what a planning disaster that is!

    • Adam Miller
      Adam March 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

      I’ve not seen exactly what is proposed, but I saw enough to make me take a walk through the relevant stretch of West Broadway, and yeah, that’s more than a little baffling.

  17. Cadillac Kolstad March 26, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    What gives you the right to speak for all renters? Do you have a survey showing that all renters support massive projects? What evidence do you have that Historic preservation is bad for renters or perpetuates sprawl (as the discussion is so often framed on this site).
    Please look at the example of the Buzza Lofts Apartments. Historic Preservation and affordable housing in one proving these are not mutually exclusive.
    There is no evidence to support that building more housing in a desirable area will in and of itself preserve affordability, the evidence is to the contrary and is the same argument that proponents of building more roads use. “Building more roads reduces congestion” The opposite has been proved.
    And finally discussing the Colfax house as a historic resource it is available for financing and tax credits that could make this project feasible, as rooming house, micro housing or condo’s. The planning staff has glossed over this in their reports.

  18. Cadillac Kolstad March 26, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    The Buzza lofts are pictured at the beginning of this article with no explanation of what is pictured. A Historic resource preserved and providing affordable housing.

  19. Cadillac Kolstad March 26, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    In neighborhoods across the city (particularly near the greater uptown area) small property owners with existing buildings are being denied permits to add 1-3 units. In some cases when the unit has already existed for some time. The same planning department supporting these larger teardown redevelopments, is denying the permits for tru infil. Where are the Streets.MN bloggers when this is happening?

  20. cdElle March 27, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    I attended the last LHENA meeting about the Franklin-Lyndale proposal, the issue about placing parking underground came up. Th answer is parking can’t be placed underground. So please let’s take this off the table, it’s not an option due to the poor soil condition. So for this specific development let’s stop talking about it being an option.

    Advocating more participation from renters, since that is the make-up of the area is a positive thing. Creating more housing supply is good for all renters, the issue is when there is limited supply of available units.

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