Department Of Community Planning And Economic Development

What About Traffic and Parking

I think we can all mainly agree that the things that, correctly, cause us the most concern in the world are traffic and parking. Sure, there are other things that are minor issues (little things like war and human suffering), but none really give rise to the same level of existential dread as having to wonder whether your trip in a car will be slightly delayed or whether you may have to look somewhere other than immediately in front of your destination to park. Or worse, you could have to pay!

It is the acute and life-altering nature of these concerns that leads them to be the first response even the smallest of possible changes. Someone wants to build on an empty lot? Those with foresight immediately shout, “what about traffic and parking!”

With that sarcastic mini-rant out of the way, someone wants to build apartments over a grocery store down in our neck of South Minneapolis, on the 4700 block of Cedar Avenue. Neighbors have concerns. Can you guess what they might be?

Before we talk about what the proposal is, let’s first check out the current state of things:


Aerial shot of the 4700 block of Cedar Ave S., via Google Maps

Cedar Avenue is in the middle. The project site is proposed for the center of the block to the east on the right side of the image. What’s there right now? Mostly impervious, paved surface parking, but also a single story grocery store built in 1955. (The creamery and coffee to the south and the restaurant to the north are staying as is.)

Here’s what’s proposed to replace it:

Department Of Community Planning And Economic Development

Image from ESG Architects via the city (possibly mangled by me trying to get it in a usable format).

A new grocery store (the one that’s there will be closing) with 130 apartments over it. You can’t directly see it in the image, but behind where it says “Grocery” and on the level above the store is one indoor parking spot for each unit. The bit of the building on the left has enclosed and covered parking on the ground floor for the businesses .

So, about traffic. Cedar is pretty bad. Specifically on this block, traffic is also too fast, especially southbound, where drivers accelerate downhill from 46th street onto a roadway that is too wide and offers next to no side friction. We live quite near it and I hate it and mostly avoid it (unless I’m complaining about the pedestrian conditions over there) if I can.

It also has too many cars (thanks, freeway style connection to the south!).  Per 2016 Hennepin County traffic counts, Cedar had annual average daily traffic of 14,200 cars just a bit to the north at 43rd and 17,300 on the south side of Lake Nokomis. 35W construction has likely upped those numbers as people use our neighborhood street as an alternate route.

So, what will this project add to the traffic count? If I heard the traffic engineer correctly at a community meeting: 75 more cars. I’d wager that if the 35W construction ever ends, it will remove more cars from Cedar than that.

What sort of witchcraft is this then? How could new neighbors not lead to loads of new traffic? Well, I’m not traffic engineer and I don’t actually have much of a clue as to how traffic studies are done, but the somewhat obvious answer is that we’re talking about 130 households who will live above a grocery store, across a parking lot from a liquor store and a pizza restaurant, next door to a creamery and a coffee shop, across the street from another coffee shop, a popcorn shop, a boutique, and (still coming soon I think) dentist, a fancy Italian restaurant, a tailor, and a gas station. In short, there’s a whole lot that people who live there will be able to get without even leaving their block. That’s how you alleviate traffic. You let people live where they don’t need to drive for things.

How about parking? Let me start with an unpopular opinion: there’s way too much parking there right now. I’d wager that the available parking in the area is literally never full. Without even contemplating the evil of parking in front of someone’s house, there’s parking on the street on both sides of Cedar, which gets only sporadic use (more cars parked on Cedar would be a great help in slowing traffic). There’s parking available on both sides of Longfellow, which almost never gets any use. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car parked on the south side of 47th Street (although Google Streetview caught some). If parking was currently an issue, the surrounding street parking would be getting a lot more use than it currently does.

It doesn’t, because, again, the block is mostly surface parking and much of it goes unused. Sure, it gets close to full on weekend evenings when the pizza place is busy, but let me use an anecdote to demonstrate what “close” means: we’ve driven there from our house 2.5 blocks away in three vehicles (six adults and two toddlers). Early evening on a Friday.

If parking was an issue, we’d have walked or consolidated vehicles. We didn’t have to. There’s way more parking than needed for the businesses and there will be plenty when this project is done too.

Oh, some neighbors are also complaining about the height of the project too. It’s 72 feet to the top of the elevator shaft, which is definitely taller than the stuff that’s immediately nearby. We will likely be able to see it from our backyard, especially in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees (we can see the Speedway sign then too).

Maybe I’m just deficient or something, because I do not get where people get their height-judging powers. I do not know what “too tall” means, unless it means that it’s blocking views, shading neighbors or, maybe, dwarfing something significant nearby. This site bounded on one side by literal open space (golf course/park/park works yard) to the east. Nothing to shade or dwarf there. It’s bounded to the north south and west by other commercial properties and their respective parking lots. Nothing to worry about there either. No one’s yard or garden will be shaded. No one’s solar panels will have their light blocked. There’s simply no reason to worry about height here.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least briefly mention climate change. We, as a society, need to drive a lot less. (Frankly, for safety and space efficiency reasons in addition to climate change too). We can’t do that if we continue with our existing patterns of land use. We need to let people live closer to stuff, so they can shop closer to home and get to work without having to drive. We need developments like this.

Adam Miller

About Adam Miller

Adam Miller works downtown and lives in South Minneapolis. He's an avid user of the city's bike paths, sidewalks and skyways. He's not entirely certain he knows what the word "urbanist" means.