Chart of the Day: New Housing Permits, Minneapolis versus Saint Paul

Via Scott Shaffer’s Twitter, here’s a chart showing new housing permits pulled in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. If you’re a fan of new housing in Saint Paul, the chart is a bit depressing.

Shaffer made the chart in response to the recent news that a proposal for new apartment building on Grand Avenue has been shelved. The three or four-story mixed-use building would have gone where the Dixie’s on Grand building and surface parking lot currently sit.

Here’s the nut graph:

Less than 24 hours after floating plans for a 3- or 4-level housing and retail building to Grand Avenue neighbors, the longtime managing partner of the real estate group behind the Dixie’s on Grand and Saji-Ya restaurants has decided to drop the proposal.

“Peter Kenefick has reached out to let us know the property owners have determined that their expansion plans do not coincide with the desires of many of their nearby residents,” reads a letter posted Wednesday to the website of the Summit Hill Association.

Why the huge difference between the two cities? There are probably a dozen reasons, but it’s clear that there’s been very little market-rate construction in Saint Paul outside of downtown and the West Midway.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, construction cranes galore.

10 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: New Housing Permits, Minneapolis versus Saint Paul

  1. Karen

    If it wasn’t for apartments going up along Green Line and some W 7th stuff….St. Paul would be way worse off.

    I guess we can see why rents have gone up so much in St. Paul.

    Is St. Paul really that much harder to build in than Minneapolis?

    1. Aoeu

      I doubt it. We just don’t like the ugly buildings going up in Minneapolis. Give us something that meshes nicely, and we will welcome it.

  2. DerekThompson

    I can’t think of anything that makes more sense than taking a one story building/parking lot, in one of the most dense parts of the city, and converting it into a 4 story mixed use building. What is going to take for things to change in St Paul? Are the zoning laws that much stricter in St Paul or are NIMBY groups just stronger? It does make me wonder how serious the Grand proposal was if he was willing to back out so easily.

    I know all cities have their NIMBYs but it’s especially frustrating when you have a booming city right next door.

  3. David MarkleDavid Markle

    And it seems to me that those new apartments along the (western St. Paul) Green Line have more to do with Minneapolis (U of MN main campus) than economic activity in St. Paul.

  4. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    Neither Minneapolis nor St. Paul are seeing housing being built across the city. In the case of both cities, the development is highly concentrated. For Minneapolis, there are just more of these places. So that’s part of the story.

    But St. Paul has a whole host of issues on its own. The city has completely failed to permit adequate housing near its colleges and universities. It has failed to attract development to the Sibley Park area north of Lowertown, and struggled to create its own Uptown on West 7th. The truly deranged neighborhood battle against density and parking meters along Grand Avenue is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Both cities would benefit by making a lot more development by-right, but St. Paul especially.

  5. Andrew

    I’d like to weigh in, if I may. I was born and raised in Saint Paul and lived there for a quarter of a century before moving away, so I think I can bring some perspective.

    You have to first understand the historical rivalry between Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It’s not nearly as intense as it once was (and I didn’t know about it growing up and love both cities), but I know it’s generational. Minneapolis is the big city (and acts like it overall, especially compared to Saint Paul), and Saint Paul is the small town. It’s bullshit, of course, as Saint Paul is the second largest city in Minnesota, and it hasn’t been a small town for over a century. It’s had over a 100,000 people for that time, and a 100,000 people does not a small town make. Still, it’s a fantasy that many there are in love with.

    There are also a lot of people who’ve lived there since Moses was born. They’ve gotten very used to things the way they are. For many decades, no much changed as everyone was going to the suburbs. It gave Saint Paul, and many cities in America in general, a long period of relative stability in physical form. Not every city declined as precipitously as St. Louis or Cleveland. Saint Paul did okay, better than Minneapolis in many regards. I’m sure that made Saint Paulites pleased. I think it gives many a sense of entitlement to keep things as they are. Many people forget just how much cities used to change. It was a given in the old days that things would change as the cities were fast growing. The trend was bucked for several decades, and now it’s picking up again.

    I want to return now to the small town angle. Saint Paul has often been called a suburb of Minneapolis. A can’t help but bristle at that somewhat, but it is true to a large extent. I have to owe up to that. It’s just the right size to get away with it: it’s low density enough that it’s easy to drive around and park (except Grand Ave sometimes), yet it’s dense enough to obviously be a city and not a suburb. That way, the people of Saint Paul can enjoy a largely suburban lifestyle while patting themselves on the back for being city people and not lame, timid suburbanites.

    Mind you, many are still afraid of black and brown people and won’t go to certain parts of town, and most wouldn’t be caught dead riding the bus. If it sounds like I’m implying that the default Saint Paulite is white, then you’re paying attention (yes, I know what the actual percentages are, and that Saint Paul is relatively diverse). The role of segregation is quite real in much of the town, though it started really changing when I came up. White kids were only 11% of the student body in my high school, and for most of my childhood I thought that was normal!

    If you want to really pretend to be urban, you can chance Grand Avenue and have to hoof it a few blocks from a free spot in the neighborhoods around it. There’s also Downtown, but there aren’t as many reasons to go there. It’s mostly for those odd souls who happen to have their jobs located there. Thankfully that is beginning to change somewhat, but Downtown has been pretty dead most of my life.

    You have to also consider that where development is largely being proposed is in largely nice white neighborhoods with money, though the Green line is helping there, though I think it has more to do with linking to Minneapolis than growing Saint Paul. This city does not have quality arterial streets that are also good commercial zones, the main exceptions being Grand Avenue and parts of University. Overall, most corridors are only partly developed. They’re not as strong as those in Minneapolis. Why not try focusing growth, say, on Rice, or E 7th, Dale St., Payne, Arcade, George, Smith, Annapolis, Stryker, Robert? The North Side is ignored, the East Side is shunned, and people still confuse the West Side (Wes’siiiide, y’all!) with the suburb of West St. Paul, which isn’t entirely disconnected from the West Side neighborhood, to be perfectly pair. Cherokee Heights Elementary is only blocks from the border!

    Most of these neighborhoods are either poor or mostly working class, and many contain large numbers of the city’s non-white residents. They are in physically, demographically, and geographically distant from Merriam Park, Highland Park, or the areas along Grand and Summit. Even Selby has really turned around. When I was a kid going to Webster (not Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary), the nearby intersection of Dale & Selby had been known as a place people avoided. Now white families and old people go the restaurants there after church on Sundays! I should know, because I went to Redeemer Lutheran blocks away in the later part of my childhood after Holy Trinity Lutheran on the West Side (by Bidwell & Stevens streets) changed due to a divisive pastor.

    I know this has been long and a bit rambling, but I hope I got enough across to shed some light. Saint Paul is rather insular, but it is also very charming in its ways. People certainly don’t want to loose that charm, and modern architecture is very incompatible with the nicest parts of the city. Overly restrictive zoning doesn’t help, nor a lack of cohesive main streets in many parts, Downtown being totally isolated by freeways and some big ass streets, the Capital needlessly gobbling up way too much land for lawns that are dead half the year, and the population is more than 100,000 smaller than Minneapolis. As a former resident, I think the mindset it the biggest impediment, followed by zoning issue and overall NIMBYism. If you’ve ever read the neighborhood paper The Villager, do so. It’s mainly a litany bellyaching and bitching, but it’s indicative of much of the mindset in the parts of the city that developers want to get into. Just take some alka seltzer or weed before reading. It makes it easier.

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