Minneapolis Proposes to Eliminate Minimum Parking Requirements Near Transit

Parking: By now, you will have heard about it. It’s sort of an amorphous and complicated issue, where, in the words of Bill Lindeke, “logic seems to twist and transform like hallucinated dragons.” It can be very emotional–in the space of a couple minutes, you go from flying through your world at fifty miles an hour to suddenly circling a block seven times to find a space ten steps from your destination. Are those pedestrians looking at you? Have the patrons of the sidewalk cafe you’ve repeatedly passed noted your license plate number? It’s unclear.

What is clear, though, is that parking is very expensive to build. Often priced in manageable per-Twins game increments for the average consumer, developers and builders will tell you that it costs tens of thousands of dollars per spot. Circumstances will vary, but generally a structured parking space in an above ground parking podium or underground ramp is going to run somewhere from $20,000 to $55,000. The full costs of residential parking are often not completely paid through user fees–in a simple example, the monthly payment on a $40,000 parking space is a little under $300/month, if you get a 15 year loan at current interest rates. If the management company is charging $150/month per spot, the difference is passed on through the rent regardless of whether or not a tenant is using any of the spaces.


Loring Park Brownstone

Loring Park Brownstone

Since the 1960s, the City of Minneapolis has required off-street parking for new residential buildings. There are recently enacted exceptions in downtown and university area neighborhoods, but the current requirement across most of the city is one parking space per unit. A great deal of the city was built before the 1960s, and much of it is still there–that area is grandfathered in. You can’t build a neighborhood like Loring Park or Stevens Square anymore. Much of the current, subtle density of South Minneapolis would be unbuildable as of right.

Next week, the Minneapolis City Planning Commission will be considering a proposal from 10th Ward Councilmember Lisa Bender to reduce or eliminate off-street parking requirements for residential developments along bus and rail transit lines. The full text of the amendment is available here, and it is fairly easy to skim. Here are the basics laid out in a table:

Parking Minimum Chart

This proposal would eliminate all minimum off-street parking requirements for residential developments very close to high-frequency transit stops. Three hundred and fifty feet is a little bit longer than the short side of a long Minneapolis residential block, and a quarter mile is a bit longer than four short sides. Here’s a map to help you visualize the area this would impact.

(Source: City of Minneapolis)

(Source: City of Minneapolis)

So the light blue area would qualify for the 100% reduction for any type of building, and the yellow area would only get the 100% reduction in developments with less than 50 units. The area around the University of Minnesota has a separate parking overlay and is not included in the proposed change. Areas close to future rail transit stations are included. At present, about 30% of rental households in Minneapolis do not own a car. Given demographic trends and the increasing availability and accessibility of alternative means of transportation, it stands to reason that this percentage will continue to increase.

Possibilities and “the Missing Middle”

Since 2009, most of Downtown Minneapolis–an area including the central business district, the North Loop, and Downtown East–has had no residential parking requirement. Not too many developers have taken advantage of this (one in fact ran up against the downtown parking maximum in a proposal) though Village Green recently proposed a project at Marquette and 10th Avenues with 293 units and just 12 parking spaces. Down Marquette Avenue, a rehab of the Soo Line building converted that former office building into apartments, and added zero dedicated parking spaces. It’s hard to directly compare it to new construction, but the units in Soo Line were priced considerably lower than other new apartment projects downtown, and it leased up very quickly even without parking in the building.

Those are a couple large downtown developments with associated high land costs, but the more interesting part of this proposal is that it would allow three to fifty unit developments with no off-street parking in a pretty huge swath of the city. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for new types of residential infill.

Right now, we’ve got lots of tear downs in Southwest and lots of half and full-block projects in Uptown and Downtown. But there’s not much of the three or four story infill development many folks will tell you they’d be okay with when protesting a six story building at a neighborhood meeting. That so-called “missing middle” is hard to build–shimmying in parking on a small lot for a small, short building is generally going to be cost prohibitive.

Tossing some numbers around with a practicing architect last week, we thought a little bit about what it might cost to hypothetically build a typical older Minneapolis brownstone in 2015. So, a three or four story building with twenty to forty relatively spartan residential units and no structured parking. Numbers, of course, will vary from project to project and city to city, but generally when talking about a “luxury” apartment building in South Minneapolis, your costs are going to be about $100,000 per unit. Breaking down those costs–removing structured parking, granite countertops, and Mariah Carey’s former concierge–you can hypothetically get your costs down to about $65,000 or $70,000 per unit, keeping in mind that the buildings will have to be built to ADA standards in 2015.

So, that $1500/month one bedroom becomes a $1000/month one bedroom, if you’re willing to forgo that underground ramp and other frills. This is a real and tangible step we could take to improve the affordability of housing in Minneapolis.

Wedge Brownstone

Subtle density on Harriet Avenue in South Minneapolis


Reducing minimum off-street parking requirements along transit routes would test the market for buildings similar to what we have and already like all across the city. The proposed changes don’t compel anyone to build a project a certain way, they just give builders the option.

You can weigh in on the proposal at a public hearing before the Minneapolis City Planning Commission on Monday, June 15, 2015 at 4:30 PM. If you’re unable to make the hearing to testify in person, you can also submit written comments to Aaron Hanauer, Senior City Planner, at aaron.hanauer@minneapolismn.gov.

Nick Magrino

About Nick Magrino

Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.

30 thoughts on “Minneapolis Proposes to Eliminate Minimum Parking Requirements Near Transit

  1. Joey SenkyrJoey Senkyr

    This is why I’m in favor of the Village Green proposal, even though it replaces small retail bays on a busy downtown street with ill-advised townhomes. Developers (and their lenders) are understandably wary of being the first to risk doing something radical like new construction without parking, but once they have even a single comparable project that was able to make it work, I think it’ll become a lot more common.

  2. Andrew B

    I live in one of the proposed 100% reduction areas and I say DO IT! More people out walking to the train with me every day & potentially cheaper rents.

  3. Steven Prince

    This proposal will lead to more infill development, but not more affordable development in the desirable neighborhoods in Uptown.

    There are very few smaller lots available for infill, so you need to tear something down to build something new.

    In the Wedge apartments in century-old duplexes (some in vert tired shape) routinely rent (without parking) for over $1000 a month. That makes land costs high, so developers will develop new units with rents over market medians, not below.

    1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      Sounds like we need more Lander 2320 Colfax buildings charging rents at or below $1,000/mo (with some structured parking, even) to drive those century-old duplexes with crappy finishes and surface parking down into the $700/mo territory.

      I outlined in my small-scale infill post how it’s entirely reasonable to spend ~$200k on a structure (not crazy for a dilapidated Uptown duplex or SFR – look up sold homes on Zillow), tear it down, build a modest 2.5 story apartment building and rent out 1BR units for $900/mo, studios for $600/mo. New construction. If we’re cool with combining lots and bumping the height to 3.5 or 4 stories you’re sharing the fixed costs among more units. https://streets.mn/2015/03/11/the-barriers-to-small-scale-infill-development/

      To that point, if we’re judging policy like this on if it will create 3BR, new construction, market-rate units affordable to people below 50% AMI, that’s not exactly fair. If we build 50 units a year like this for 30 years, what would they rent for?

      The evidence is clear that developers will pass on most of the savings from not building so much parking on to their renters. Like anything proposed by city hall or folks on this site, no single policy is a silver bullet. And they’ll take time to make an impact.

      1. Steven Prince

        The only duplexes yo will find in the Wedge for $200k are probably subject to condemnation or code compliance orders. Which is consistent with my earlier posts elsewhere that wholesale changes in zoning that up zone single family homes and duplexes for apartment buildings will lead to further disinvestment. I agree there are plenty of sub-par old buildings in the hood. That’s in large part a function of zoning and lax enforcement.

        All that said, I support this proposal, I’d just like to see it coupled with some principled and rational zoning that matches redevelopment opportunities to the existing built environment in the Wedge.

        By the way, if you what to get 50-100 more units a year, how about requiring two floors of housing over new retail construction? Look at all the 1-story stuff built along Hennepin int he last few years……

        1. Peter Bajurny

          Well since in this thought experiment the $200k duplex is going to be torn down anyway, who cares what condition the building is in. It’s the land that matters.

        2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini


          This was linked in my post.

          Do you have any actual evidence of a mismatch between the zoning district and existing built form impacting disinvestment? Not anecdotal. If using anecdotes, there are plenty of houses in R1 zones across the city (and region) in terrible repair.

          Besides, this doesn’t just apply to the one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. There are actually neighborhoods across Minneapolis where parking-lite development would still make sense given transit service and lower land costs. As far as rational zoning goes, I’d say R5 or R6 is plenty good for places like the Wedge. As written today, they’re the only residential-only districts that allow 3-story infill by-right (if you assume these parking changes).

  4. GlowBoy

    Do it! This is a good step. There’s a balance to be struck (across Portland, where I recently located from, almost all of the new apartment development is no-parking, which may be taking it too far). But current policy appears to concentrate development in a small number of high-land-price areas, which means that new apartments are expensive.

    This change would encourage more apartment development in places where density is currently low (but decent transit is available) and land prices are more reasonable. New apartments in these developments should be somewhat less expensive to rent as a result.

  5. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    I’m disappointed that my neighborhood transit corridors aren’t covered by this amendment, so I am less likely to see empty parking lots being replaced by new neighbors and new neighborhood amenities.

    That said, this is a great start.

  6. Alex

    I’m confused about how they came up with the specific distance measurement provisions – why in the world of GIS would they use as-the-crow-flies distance for what is so clearly connected to walking distance? And where does the 350′ (6.6% of a mile or 134.6 average human steps) distance come from? Assuming the average transit user walks a mile in 20 minutes, 350′ means a bit over a minute walk to the transit stop. I’m supportive of the amendment, of course, but curious about how they came to this definition and a bit worried about the response of neighbors when a developer proposes an 80 unit parking-free building on, say, Aldrich because it’s within 350′ of a bus stop on Lyndale.

    1. Steven Prince

      Alex, its the lawsuits.

      “As the crow flies” is about as objective as it gets. I recall a lawsuit in Minneapolis that went on for year and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees about how far one business was from another: did you measure from the corner, the door (which one), the parking lot, the sidewalk?

      1. Peter Bajurny

        Since they’re clearly describing bus stops as 1 dimensional points, I wonder where they’re placing those points.

      2. Alex

        Feet along the centerline are just as objective and measurable. Metes-and-bounds platting has been around for hundreds of years. You can sue anyone about anything, what matters is whether you win.

    2. Steven Prince

      Alex, I don’t think the map included is correct insofar as it suggests this new ordinance applies only to the edges of the Wedge, I think the entire neighborhood is covered (or will be with planned upgrades in bus service on Hennepin).

  7. Archiapolis

    This would be very welcome news for small-time developers. The “middle” is missing indeed…

  8. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    I’d still like to see it grow more. Include a stripe down France and on W44th, for instance.

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  10. David MarkleDavid Markle

    I fear a loosening of minimum requirements may cause problems for those who reside near commercial businesses that attract a lot of visitors. That may prove especially true for residents of older buildings that lack ample off-street parking.

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      There will.

      But there will also be a gradual sorting as people who have need to own and use a car will find residing near these zones troublesome and not worth the hassle and will search for residences with included parking or residences not near these zones. And people who are willing to tolerate the chance of the hassle or are living a car-free lifestyle will find residences near these zones preferable.

      People will work it out. And if this happens we end up with even greater choices.

      1. Monte Castleman

        Wonder if people that have absolutely no intention of going without a car will take the reduced cost of a place without parking and park for free on the street?

        1. Joey SenkyrJoey Senkyr

          Of course they will. And the choice to accept the greater hassle of parking for free on the street for the lower rent/mortgage that comes with living in a building without dedicated parking is one of the choices Eric is referring to.

          1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

            Or we could meter the street, etc.

            Otherwise I don’t think many people will build no parking, but this makes it such that if I were say, adding a unit to a building here, I wouldn’t need further variances. I highly doubt anyone will build a 50 unit market-rate building without any parking.

            1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

              In Portland quite a few buildings around 40+ units did have zero parking spaces provided after a few years of the policy changes https://streets.mn/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Portland_BldgPrkg_byBldgUnitSize.png

              But, most buildings will provide some parking. And yes Monte, many there did just park on the street. When it’s given away for free people tend to do that. The surveys shows it really didn’t take long for most people to find a spot within a 1-2 minute walk of their building, but if it does we can just meter as Joseph says.

        2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

          Parking on the street can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, which is why people complain about it. For some reason I had a car in NYC when I lived there, and amassed plenty of tickets. You have to move your car for street sweeping twice each week.

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