“I’m Not Opposed To Development”

2320

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.

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16 Responses to “I’m Not Opposed To Development”

  1. Nick August 12, 2014 at 6:44 am #

    I don’t oppose development, just every development project that is proposed.

  2. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell August 12, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    It’s a lot easier in the ‘burbs where nobody really cares much what developers do and where developers promise to donate lots of stroads to the city that the city won’t be able to afford to take care of.

  3. Steven Prince August 12, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    The snark of the present post is duly noted.

    The LHENA Board has supported lots of development projects over the years, walk around the area bound by the Greenway and Lake Street between Hennepin and Lyndale, an area LHENA fought to make high density residential years ago when the planners supported developer plans to convert the area to big box retail.

    So yes, LHENA opposed the original plans and got the City and neighborhood something infinitely better. A long standing meme of working to make development improve the community.

    The question at Franklin and Lyndale is whether the project fits into the fabric of the neighborhood and will improve the community, not whether the development should take place.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele August 12, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      That’s a useless question until we define what is “the fabric of the neighborhood” and what constitutes “improvement to the community.”

      The proposal clearly fits with the fabric of the neighborhood and will improve the community.

      But many on LHENA NIMBYs see the fabric of the neighborhood as SFHs only, all views and “open air” preserved, with maybe a few businesses with abundant free parking, and everything with as little density as possible to ensure no congestion on streets like Lyndale. That’s their vision. But it’s not the community vision.

      • Steven Prince August 12, 2014 at 11:17 am #

        Matt,

        The first and second sentence of your post cannot be logically reconciled unless you believe you are the sole arbiter of what is best for LHENA and the City.

        The rest of your post is just ad hominem attack (and inaccurate).

        • Matt Steele
          Matt Steele August 12, 2014 at 11:23 am #

          I speak as if my opinion is truth. It is much more convincing. And if you think my characterization of LHENA NIMBYs is inaccurate, you should watch the Channel 79 videos of the testimony on recent projects.

    • John Edwards
      John Edwards August 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      C’mon Steven! I’m just trying to get people out to this Colfax meeting. Let all my snark be in the past.

      A portion of the LHENA board gets replaced every year at the annual meeting/election. So it’s not hard to imagine the LHENA of today being different from the one of 10, 5, or even 1 year ago. They way I hear the Greenway buildings talked about at the meetings, it sounds like some have rescinded their approval. Now, I can envision a more constructive LHENA that’s not dominated by “NIMBYs” (Matt’s words, not mine; I would never), but that’s not a simple thing to achieve in a world replete with “better things to do.”

      “Fabric of the community” gets tossed around in a way that makes it feel like a euphemism for shorter buildings.

      • Ryan Johnson
        Ryan Johnson August 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

        Similarly, it seems like the greenway development is now being used as a passive threat: “Just look at what _could_ happen in your back yard if this development happens in its current form.”

        If you listen to the current board, you’d assume all of the Wedge will be converted into a post-apocalyptic checkerboard of expensive and extensively secured rental units for single people, each with its own crime-ridden surface lot where no one is even safe to park.

  4. Janne Flisrand
    Janne August 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    John, or anyone, why would the developer want to get into the business of “private, on-site bike-share and car-share” when there are fantastically-run private-but-open-to-the-public options available. It’s especially confusing, because a lot of what makes those systems appealing is their network. Sponsoring an HOURCAR on site makes a lot of sense, creating a new car-sharing business for one building strikes me as foolish.

    What am I missing?

    • John Edwards
      John Edwards August 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

      I tend to agree with you on the car-share. I asked them which company they were going to use for car-share, because I assumed something like HOURCAR, and they said it’d be for residents only.

      I suggested Nice Ride as a possibility, a station or subsidized membership. They seemed very receptive to the idea. But I can also see the advantage of having a fleet of bikes available to residents for all-day use, or to travel to locations outside of Nice Ride’s system.

      I don’t think they’re wedded to any specific way of implementing this stuff. So it’s worth it for people to bring some good ideas.

      • John Edwards
        John Edwards August 12, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

        Another idea for car-share could be just to subsidize Car2go membership and usage fees up to a certain level every month.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell August 13, 2014 at 6:42 am #

        SW Transit has their own lease program for bicycles. I quite dislike the bikes they’ve chosen, but maybe they’ll expand the options to something more transport-like in the future.

      • Cameron Conway
        Cameron Conway August 13, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

        Hm… considering the rest of their model, you’d think they would want to capitalize on the existing infrastructure of a company like HOURCAR. Maybe this is just a reflection of car-sharing’s infancy? In any case, I have to give them immense kudos for managing a business model that ends up being progressive on multiple fronts. I don’t see relative affordability and high quality density at the same time all that often :/

      • Cedar August 13, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

        If I were a prospective resident, I’d rather have an HOURCAR located there, rather than a private car, as it provides more options for users (and an HOURCAR location on-site would be a real plus!). For the bikes, I agree that there could be benefits to having some all-day options available. As far as including bus passes with the rent, that seems like a bad idea; some lucky people have access to highly subsidized bus passes through school or work, and won’t need or want it bundled in with rent. Or don’t use public transportation to justify springing for a pass; people who walk or bike to work even a few days a week, or who work at home, might not be too thrilled about having to pay more for rent to receive amenities that aren’t useful. I assume some of these ideas are just being thrown out there by the developers to drive home the concept that this is not a car-oriented development but really, good bike parking (for both residents and guests), maybe a car-share hub, and the nature of the location itself are all that’s needed.

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