A view down the sidewalk of a wintery city scene in Minneapolis

Zoning Matters: A Tale of Two Corners

Author’s note: This article is part of the Neighbors for More Neighbors (N4MN) ongoing discussion around the current zoning changes due to the 2040 Plan implementation and our advocacy to allow More Uses in More Places in support of complete neighborhoods.

46th Street and Clinton Avenue, looking toward the Orange Line and Corridor 6 Built Form zoning on the first snow of the year. Photo taken by Brit Anbacht

I live near the corner of 4th Avenue and 46th Street. I like my area. It’s close to the creek, and I have good access to the number 11 bus, the 46 and the Orange Line. We have a 2-year-old who is obsessed with wheels of all types. Anything that spins is fascinating. Including car tires. 

46th and Clinton looking toward the Winner Gas station at 4th Avenue. Photo by Brit Anbacht

From my house, the closest place to get a gallon of milk is the 46th Street gas station, about a 3-minute walk. It requires crossing 46th just before where people are trying to get onto the highway. Very simple and easy to do, but stressful with a 2-year-old. It’s definitely challenging if I need to carry them and the gallon of milk at the same time so they don’t run into the street. Which is fine, because it’s only three minutes.

I like having two parks relatively nearby. McRae Park is a 12-minute walk and is also close to the businesses at 48th and Chicago. However, to get there I have to cross about seven alleys and as many streets — including the unusually wide Park and Portland, with few drivers paying attention to pedestrians or cyclists. Which can be very scary when walking with our toddler!

46th and Chicago bus stop across from McRae Park. Home of the new D Line!

When I visit the node at 48th and Chicago I can cash a check at the bank, or get a haircut at the barber, drop my kid off at a daycare, exercise at the sword club or get a flu shot at the doctor’s clinic. That’s because 48th and Chicago is zoned as “corridor mixed use,” which allows for commercial uses. It seems zoned this way to recognize business remnants from the 1910s to 1950s streetcar era, when businesses popped up around transfer stops.

The nearest place to get more groceries is 1.3 miles away, or a 30-minute walk over to the Lunds & Byerlys at Cedar and 47th, or up to the Seward Community Co-op Friendship Store, a 1.1-mile walk up to 38th Street and 4th Avenue. Both are relatively expensive options, so I usually drive to Cub. That’s 2 miles away (a 40-minute walk) along the very busy Nicollet where I do not feel safe biking. 

This is why I care about zoning. Because zoning determines where it is possible to get groceries. It determines that I can’t just walk.

The old business zones built up around the streetcar transit lines. Now, we have new transit lines like the Orange Line. Like 48th and Chicago, the area around the Orange Line is zoned “Corridor 6.” It allows up to six stories, but instead of “corridor mixed use” it’s zoned as “urban neighborhood.” The first draft of “urban neighborhood” has very limited uses. It bans anything other than residential and “institutional” uses like religious institutions, schools and community centers. A bodega would be illegal to build or operate at an Orange Line stop.

The city is evaluating what  amenities to allow in urban neighborhoods as they update the zoning codes. And I want to live in a complete neighborhood where I can get groceries, get my hair cut, get a teeth cleaning or stop at a café in the morning.

Everywhere with the same built form overlay should have the same allowed uses. Forty-eighth and Chicago and 46th and 2nd Avenue have the same built form: Corridor 6 for buildings up to 6 stories tall. What is the justification for banning the uses already present at 48th and Chicago? Minneapolis 2040 calls for complete neighborhoods.

What is the justification for allowing amenities only where they already exist? I’m a 3-minute walk from a Corridor 6 area, and I want the same convenience as neighbors 3 minutes from Chicago and 48th or Cedar and 47th. I want a safe and complete neighborhood where I can safely walk with my kiddo, and get a gallon of milk and some mac and cheese.

Take Action!

What can you do to support complete neighborhoods in Minneapolis?

  • Take Neighbors for More Neighbors’ complete neighborhoods survey!
  • Volunteer with the N4MN Minneapolis 2040 implementation task force!
  • Share your email to get action alerts on this project.
  • Talk with your neighbors and friends about what complete neighborhoods are and why they matter to you.
  • Sign up for the N4MN newsletter and watch for action alerts from the task force. They may include attending community meetings, testifying at hearings or sending emails.
Brit Anbacht

About Brit Anbacht

Brit Anbacht is a millenial policy wonk and general nerd. They work from home full time. Brit sometimes drives but ever more frequently takes the bus for errands. They live in south Minneapolis, and can be found occasionally on twitter @britvulcan.

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2 thoughts on “Zoning Matters: A Tale of Two Corners

  1. Thomas Mason

    Why is there a difference in zoning laws? You don’t need to agree with the logic, but someone thought this was a good idea. I’m much more interested in how these deficits came to be than I am in reading complaints about the environment. Even better would be a pragmatic vision for the area. Should the strip be allowed six stories? Or maybe eight? Can the existing strip support an upzoning since we’re talking about this? What about your crossing? Does it have a crosswalk? Would an island be nice? Are the entrance ramps the expansive ones with curves? Or is it a compact, intersection? Most of your readers aren’t local. A map or some pictures would be nice. As urbanists, aren’t we about solutions and vision as much as problems?

    Reply
  2. Janne Flisrand

    I was perplexed by the comment from Thomas above, as the questions seem irrelevant and the post includes maps. As a former board member, I know that most of streets.mn readers ARE in fact local. It’s a visionary solution, and an actionable, timely post addressing the City’s current work to update the land use guidelines in the Minneapolis zoning code.

    I googled the name hoping that would help me respond in a useful way. Thomas Mason appears to be past editor and publisher of Thinking Minnesota, the magazine published by Center of the American Experiment.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/tom-mason-0b3b138/

    Reply

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