Missing Middle Housing Transect Diagram

Sensible Infill Development Blocked by Zoning in Minneapolis

My bike commute sometimes takes me past the corner of 38th Street and Park Avenue. 38th, a growing commercial corridor witnessing a huge renaissance, can shoulder more housing density for our growing city.

Missing Middle Housing Transect Diagram

Missing Middle Housing in the Transect, from Opticos Design

Earlier this year, there was a house fire on the northwest corner of this intersection that destroyed a single family home. It is now a vacant lot. This seems like a prime opportunity for some “missing middle housing” that our city hasn’t seen much of, right? Especially since it’s 300 feet from a high-frequency Route 5 bus on Chicago, and right on the Route 23 (Future Route 38 if we get our way). A four- or six-plex oriented to 38th Street would work great, and maybe there could even be a storefront worked in.

3748 Park Ave Zoning

Zoning around 38th and Park. From “How Minneapolis is Zoned” by Alan Palazzolo/MinnPost

Unfortunately, this parcel is zoned R1A. The opposite corner is C1, and there are over four blocks of R4/R5 east of Portland. This parcel is zoned R1A because there was already a single family home on a 40 foot lot, not because we thought about what type of land use we ought to allow by right on such an important corner.

And the previous use wasn’t even allowed, by right, on the property. Per City records and news accounts, there were actually two dwellings on the parcel.

There’s a real estate sign on the vacant lot as of this morning. The lot has recently been listed for $37,500, but a sale has not been registered with the county. And the MLS listing boasts, “Come build your dream home in the heart of south Minneapolis!” Probably because a single family home, less dense than what existed prior to this fire, is all that can be built by right.

We need to see significant reform of our use-baked-in-amber-based zoning code if we want to see Minneapolis develop into a place that can accommodate everyone who wants to live here. We’ve made great progress–parking reform, accessory dwelling legalization, and so on–but there’s still more work to do. Let’s overhaul our comprehensive plan before it strangles our future.

Matt Steele

About Matt Steele

Matt's passion is fostering resiliency in local transportation and land use decisions. He's at @matthewsteele.