“I’m Not Opposed To Development”


Last Wednesday I found myself in a nearly empty meeting room, observing the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) at work. This has been an all-too-frequent circumstance for me in recent months, as I work the Wedge-beat for a fake news organization called @WedgeLIVE. I was there to watch the proposed development known as Frank-Lyn inch its way closer to the finish line. Supporters of the development achieved a sort of moral victory in hostile territory, falling just one vote short (4-3) in a bid for LHENA’s largely symbolic approval (on its way to meeting the approval of the City Planning Commission late Monday, as I write this).

Now, I don’t mean to overstate LHENA’s relevance to the process–I’m just using them as a stand-in for the typical knee-jerk opposition to new development. But as I listened to statements of disapproval from four board members, I picked up on a familiar talking point (italics mine):

  • “I would not support the project in it’s current form. I do support a development there. I’m not opposed to development.” –Sue Bode
  • “I do not support it as it is right now, but I do support development.” –Sara Romanishan
  • “I do not support it as it is now. I very much support development there.” –Bill Newmann

It’s possible they’re concerned that people have gotten the wrong impression. Luckily, they have a chance to prove the doubters wrong. We’ve got a new project, with a familiar address, coming to the Wedge. 2320 Colfax is slated for months of meetings, special meetings, emergency meetings, reams of anonymous flyers distributed house-to-house, and perhaps a neighborhood vote or two.

Or maybe this time it’s less of a dog-fight. Because there’s a lot to be excited (or at least not apoplectic) about in the project proposed for 2320 Colfax. I’m eager to hear the developer’s full presentation this Wednesday at LHENA, but last month I had a chance to speak with a few of the people working on this project. Some of the possibilities discussed: private, on-site bike-share and car-share; abundant, convenient, and secure bike storage options; bike maintenance facilities; flexible car stalls, ready for conversion to other uses (looking to a future with fewer cars); and transit passes included with rent.

With enough support, this could be a building full of transportation options for its residents. And I think it addresses many of the recurring complaints of those who’ve opposed some recent development proposals. For those with concerns about affordability: a building that heavily incentivizes foregoing car ownership means hundreds of dollars per month in savings for residents. Additionally, rents will be cheaper than any new construction in the area (including Frank-Lyn). If traffic and parking are your issue, consider the upside of welcoming transit-riding, bike-commuting, licensed pedestrians to your block. And it’s a pretty nice looking building; certainly unlike much of what’s been built or proposed for the neighborhood recently.

The possibilities this project presents hinge on an almost always controversial issue: parking. Building homes for cars is something that makes building homes for people significantly more expensive. So the developer plans to use the money saved from reducing the parking requirement ($500,000 is the number I’ve been told), and funnel it back into the building, for things like the transportation amenities listed above.

It’s time we demanded less parking, not more. Let’s have a constructive dialogue about making the 2320 Colfax development better. I hope the basis for this conversation can be: What should be done with the extra money and space that isn’t devoted to parking? I encourage you to come to Wednesday’s LHENA meeting and help answer that question.

What: Presentation of proposed 2320 Colfax development to LHENA.
When: Wednesday, August 13 at 6:30 PM.
Where: VFW, 2916 Lyndale Ave S.