The 2040 Comprehensive Plan: Completing Minneapolis’ Neighborhoods

Town Hall Tap, 4810 Chicago Ave. (Photo: Max Hailperin)

Minneapolis is a city of neighborhoods, 72 to be exact. They are the places we live, learn, and play. While we all live in a neighborhood, most of us don’t live in a complete neighborhood. Instead, for too many of us, neighborhoods are the places we leave nearly every day. Nine out of ten trips in Minneapolis are by car, often times for necessities that just aren’t found in enough neighborhoods. Reducing driving is difficult when it is a necessity, even for those who wish they didn’t need to drive. One of the goals of the 2040 comprehensive plan is to create more complete neighborhoods, that have the necessities and amenities that we want and need.

Our city gets some things geographically right. Almost all of us (97%) are within a 10 minute walk to a city park. Libraries and schools are similarly accessible. We’ve collectively decided that everyone in the city has the right to accessible places to learn and play. A park, a school, and a library are a great building blocks of a neighborhood. However, a complete neighborhood needs at least a grocery store, a pharmacy and a day care center. Most of us would probably like to live near a hardware store, a restaurant, and a coffee shop as well. Most neighborhoods don’t have these amenities, let alone the delis, butcher shops, florists, gift shops, dentists, barber shops, and salons that come to mind when we think of neighborhood businesses.

All a complete neighborhood needs is space for businesses to operate and enough customers with a short walk away, which allows for a great diversity of necessity-filled neighborhoods. The neighborhoods that make up Uptown are complete, as are the North Loop and Near-North East. A complete neighborhood doesn’t have to mean big apartment buildings or busy streets. Linden Hills doesn’t have any tall buildings, but 40% of its housing units are in multi-family buildings allowing its plethora of shops, restaurants, and small businesses to thrive, and support a dense enough population for bus service every 15 minutes. Wealth isn’t enough to complete a neighborhood. It is the density that makes all of its amenities possible. Lynnhurst, whose median household income actually exceeds Linden Hills by $27,000, has neither the density (11% of housing units are in multi-family buildings) or the space for businesses to operate (Penn Avenue, Lyndale Avenue, 50th Street, and 54th Street are all predominantly single family homes). In terms of walkability, and transit access, Lynnhurst is hardly thriving. Meanwhile, neighborhoods like Whittier and Seward, in which multi-family housing isn’t an anomaly, but wealth is, have nearly everything you need within a short walk away.

Because there are relatively few complete neighborhoods in Minneapolis, they are in demand with ever increasing housing prices. In a city where wealth and race are so closely linked, it is worth questioning whether a neighborhood can really be complete when its population doesn’t reflect the city as a whole. By allowing more commercial space, and more people to live near that commercial space, we’ll likely have more neighborhoods that work like Linden Hills, except that actually reflect the diversity of our city.

22 thoughts on “The 2040 Comprehensive Plan: Completing Minneapolis’ Neighborhoods

  1. Christa MChris Moseng

    Thanks for emphasizing this goal of the Plan. It’s clearly necessary to meaningfully make progress on our City’s effects on climate and transportation.

  2. Mark

    Have you decided which single family homes in neighborhoods like Lynnhurst should be bulldozed to make room for grocery stores?

  3. Christa MChris Moseng

    The question is why do the people of Lynnhurst need government regulations restricting what owners do with their property to protect them from groceries? Or are Single Family Homes more important than people now?

    The cool thing about grocery stores is that people can live above them, so it can be done with a net gain to housing units. SCARY

    1. Jonathan Foster Post author

      54th and Penn is underutilized space, thanks to the 1 story retail. Under the comp plan, there could be 4 story condo/apartment buildings. There would definitely be space for a neighborhood scale grocery store on the first floor. With the added customer base from the apartments and a few 2-4 plexes (that might even be smaller than some of the monster houses in other parts of the neighborhood), a good chunk of Lynnhurst and Armatage could sustain a walkable grocery store.

      1. Mike Hess

        Actually there is no limit to building size in the comp plan for that intersection. All of 50th and Penn are Corridor 4, which is 1-4 stories “or higher” if you can show you are addressing comp plan goals. The way the plan is written there are only economic or technical reasons to limit building size, no zoning hard limits. Heather Worthington in a question about thIs gap said they wanted That language in there for leverage with developers….. a hard limit of 4 stories in these neighborhoods would be less of a jar than what’s written now. These are the blocks of single family homes thr author would like to replace with amenities like grocery stores where even 4 stories will tower over neighbors (cue plan fans to insist 4 stories is great, shade is great and no one has ever been disappointed to have their neighbors house replaced by a 4 story retail/housing development).

          1. Mike hess

            Your know zoning follows this work. The plan calls out that zoning changes will follow and will be based on this plan.

            The fact is the work and the comments by staff make it clear they don’t want a 4 story hard limit. Connect the dots to what follows the plan and there are some obvious next steps.

            The whole “don’t sweat the details it’s not zoning” argument is disengenuous. Do you really expect the city council to argue for zoning that prevents The plan they approve?

            1. Jonathan Foster

              I expect the city to refine and specify the comprehensive plan through rezoning which is what they do. The funny thing is that the new comprehend plan will actually provide limits on height. The current comprehend plan doesn’t. You could have a 50 story building next door to you under the current comp plan with the right permits. The city is actually presenting a compromise with the comp plan. More density in more areas throughout the city, but caps on height.

    1. Jonathan Foster Post author

      I never meant to suggest that Lynnhurst has the worst food scarcity in the city. Though, if we have designed our neighborhoods in a way even the wealthiest are food deserts, that is a significant problem.

  4. Ben

    Not a food desert.

    Lynnhurst has Kowalski’s at 54th and Lyndale. It also has a small corner grocery store, Guse Green Grocer at 46th and Bryant.

    I’d prefer an Aldi’s, Fresh Thyme, or another discounter in Lynnhurst since Kowalski’s prices are extremely high and it’s painful to buy more than just a couple items there due to markups on everything in the store.

    My observation from attending Lynnhurst neighborhood association meetings, meetings hosted by CW, Linea Palmisano, and reading Nextdoor, people in Lynnhurst are extremely scared of any change to the suburban feel of this area of Minneapolis and care very much about parking, traffic flow, and housing values. Also, there’s a strong anti bike rhetoric in the neighborhood association despite having some of the best bike trails in the city (Minnehaha Bike Trail).

    I moved to the neighborhood expecting amenities and more density to magically appear out of the ground; instead we’ve gotten more long term care facilities, single-story commercial with parking lots, auto parts stores, and an empty pits near 54th and Lyndale where Beeks Pizza burned down 4 years ago.


    1. Mike hess

      I can’t believe the beeks spot has been vacant for ; years. For a city that claims to need more housing and more amenities ……supposedly the owner has had some issues and false starts to get work going but at what point don’t you just sell to someone who can execute.

      1. Matty LangMatty Lang

        Isn’t there a scary tall 4 story building just down the street from the vacant lot? What would be your idea of the highest and best use of that vacant lot?

        1. Mike hess

          Isn’t it all a commercial block?. Grocery store, converted movie theater, liquor store, 4 story building, there are no low rise homes on that part of Lyndale. A 4 story would make sense to me, more housing like in the other building.

          But i think It’s corridor 6 on that block – so not sure 4 story will cut it when it could be 6 stories, “or higher…..”

            1. Mike Hess

              Right that’s why i said More housing “like in the other building”. It’s a really appealing area for that type of development.

    2. Justin

      I go to the 54th and Lyndale area several times a week to run errands and I’m always amazed at how hostile to bikes and peds it is. Tons of cars and aggressive drivers.

      Those center medians in the middle of Lyndale are nice but they need mid-block crosswalks and pedestrian refuges, crossing Lyndale at the lights is a pain since the lights are so long. Also there’s no reason why Lyndale can’t have a bike lane through here.

  5. Jonathan Foster

    I expect the city to refine and specify the comprehensive plan through rezoning which is what they do. The funny thing is that the new comprehend plan will actually provide limits on height. The current comprehend plan doesn’t. You could have a 50 story building next door to you under the current comp plan with the right permits. The city is actually presenting a compromise with the comp plan. More density in more areas throughout the city, but caps on height.

    1. Mike Hess

      That’s good to know, where in the plan is the strategy on height caps described? I didnt See anything beyond the language in the build form descriptions. A pointer would be great, thanks.

      This blurb for corridor 4 is what bothers me, it’s the same for corridor 6 just sub 6 for 4.

      “Building heights should be 1 to 4 stories. Requests to exceed 4 stories will be evaluated on the basis of whether or not a taller building is a reasonable means for further achieving Comprehensive Plan goals”

  6. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    One of my favorite articles on this site. I think the way of framing this issue is really wonderful.

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