Fighting Traffic, Battling for Parking
There are those in Lowry Hill East, and every Minneapolis neighborhood, who value wide open streets and abundant, free car storage above all other amenities. And if that’s you, we’ve spent a half-century creating, with the help of perverse transportation policies, many such places for you to live. I’d rather not stoop to saying Off with you! To the suburbs! So I won’t. Then again, I kinda just did (my parenthetical apologies to you, dear neighbor).
But if you stay–and please do–the new building on Franklin & Lyndale won’t be the source of your traffic and parking woes. Around 30,000 cars were crossing that intersection on weekdays as of 2011. Considering the economic growth in the intervening years, let’s assume that number has crept steadily up.
It’s difficult to wrap my head around the suggestion that adding 89 apartments, while also accommodating a theater and a restaurant–both of which are already located at that intersection–would add more than a tiny drop in a very large bucket of traffic. And that’s assuming all residents are full-time drivers and avid parkers.
For residents who own a vehicle, they’ll store it in the included parking structure, not on the street. How many will climb into their cars to drive across the street for groceries? (And while we’re on the topic of shopping, maybe we should ask The Wedge Co-op whether this new apartment building will be good for local businesses).
Lowry Hill East is no longer a sleepy neighborhood with great views of a brand new IDS Center; it’s a growing part of an expanding urban core. Yearning for the past won’t bring it back, but we can work together to ensure a better transportation future that takes advantage of this area’s potential for growth.
Our new and soon-to-be neighbors have different transportation priorities from previous generations. The corner of Franklin and Lyndale seems perfectly suited to those new priorities. Three bus lines–4, 2, and 6–are all a very short walk from this corner (and in a more just world, we’d have LRT or BRT). The new building will provide secure, indoor bike storage for residents. The neighborhood is a cyclist’s paradise. It’s very near the Loring Greenway heading downtown; and the world-class Midtown Greenway is a short handful of blocks to the south, via the Bryant Ave bike boulevard. The neighborhood is flush with car2go vehicles, HOURCAR hubs, and Nice Ride stations.
I have a hard time entertaining the notion that someone would choose this building–in this neighborhood–if they had designs on a heavily car-dependent lifestyle, clogging our roads and sopping up all the city-provided street parking. From a transportation perspective, The Wedge can handle the growth; it’s crying out for it.
And despite the above-listed transportation options, there were demands put on the developer to have parking bundled with rent–a requirement to purchase a parking space. Want to live in our neighborhood without a car? OK, but pay for it anyway. Perhaps this is a terribly misguided solution to a parking concern; or another example of the oppose everything attitude from some anti-development folks; or just an inability to conceive of people making the exotic lifestyle choice to not own a car.
A Rooftop Hoover-ville
Crime comes up routinely as a reason to oppose new development. But the arguments are made so halfheartedly that I suspect those making them haven’t even convinced themselves. Are you safer in a deserted parking lot or a bustling street? If crime prevention is important to you, invite more people into your neighborhood, not fewer. You should want more pedestrian activity, more cyclists rolling by, and more people coming in and out of local businesses.
Safety in numbers is more than a cliche. Most people look out for each other. The more eyeballs, the better when it comes to street crime. The assumption that a building full of new neighbors will cause a crime wave, belies common sense and plenty of real evidence.
The since-discarded public park was one design element that some suggested would become a crime-magnet–a sort of rooftop Hoover-ville–full of dangerous transients (and by transients, I don’t mean renters). Public parks are a typical developer sop to worthy concerns about green space. And knee-jerk opposition demands the removal of anything a developer proposes. Since the developer doesn’t care one way or the other, it’s a simple thing to remove it. This rooftop park was a small detail–nothing worth quibbling over–but it reinforces the idea that some in the opposition are prepared to object to everything.
Affordability, and Other Nonsense
It should be easy to dismiss the oft-raised concerns about the effect of new development on housing affordability. Restricting the supply of a thing that many people wish to buy does not lower its price. Instead, restricting supply raises the cost of housing. For everything else in life, people seem to understand that a shortage implies a price increase; but when it comes to housing, logic fails us. We can’t afford to be San Francisco:
[T]he city did not allow its housing supply to keep up with demand. San Francisco was down-zoned (that is, the density of housing or permitted expansion of construction was reduced) to protect the “character” that people loved. It created the most byzantine planning process of any major city in the country. Many outspoken citizens did—and continue to do—everything possible to fight new high-density development or, as they saw it, protecting the city from undesirable change.
Even if the newly built housing is above your pay-grade, you can rest easy in knowing that your affluent new neighbors are taking up residence in a former parking lot rather than your upgraded former apartment. Absent new supply, older housing in desirable neighborhoods can always be renovated–making it more upscale. It’s also important to remember that the amenity-laden building of today is the older, affordable housing of two or three decades from now.
Restricting supply does, however, benefit owners at the expense of buyers and renters. This is a rational reason for current owners to oppose new development, but it damages the interests of the vast majority living in our city.
And finally, perhaps the most ridiculous of all–the concerns of those who might suffer the loss of a view. Where there was once a grand vision of the downtown Minneapolis skyline, there might soon be the backside of an apartment building. This amounts to the loss of an accidental, though fortunate, circumstance–on par with having the cable company turn off the free HBO you received by mistake, years after moving into a home.
Every spring I lose my downtown view to the greening of the trees across the street; yet, as I do not own those trees, I can’t chop them down. I can see why this might cause legitimate personal distress, but I’m less able to comprehend the boldness to organize an anti-development movement around it.
Let Minneapolis Be a City
A home should be more than a castle; for me, home is a neighborhood. Our neighbors are more than an obstacle on the road, standing between a vehicle and a destination; they’re more than mere rivals for a prime parking spot. Our attachment to a neighborhood should extend beyond four walls and a front door. It should extend to the people on the sidewalks; the businesses; the cyclists on the street; our neighbors–the homeowner and the renter. The people around us make our lives and our neighborhoods better, expanding the universe of what’s possible in a city.
All of which is to say, let our city be a city. Let’s set aside a sanctuary for the pedestrian, the bicycle, the bus, and the train. Let’s embrace community, and looking out for one another. Let’s be pro transit, and at least give ourselves the choice to opt-out of traffic and the rat race for parking. Let’s embrace density because it means being happier, healthier, more prosperous people.