Slate decries NIMBYism in Mpls, calls for council to approve 6-story Dinkytown project

dinkytown560.jpg
Dinkytown needs more density, Slate argues.
This morning, Slate's Matthew Yglesias put the Minneapolis City Council's zoning and planning committee on blast for voting against a proposed six-floor retail and apartment building in the heart of Dinkytown yesterday.

SEE ALSO: Slate says: "You should move to Minneapolis"

In a short piece entitled, "Minneapolis NIMBYs Threatening What Makes The City Great," Yglesias argues that in order for Minneapolis to be able to market itself as one of the premier cities in the country, officials need to allow more density in the urban core.

First, for some context, here's an excerpt from the Star Tribune's report about the zoning committee's 3-2 vote against the project (Council members Lisa Goodman, Cam Gordon, and Meg Tuthill voted against the proposal, with Gary Schiff and and Kevin Reich voting in favor), which was recommended for approval by city staff:
The project has spurred an aggressive campaign called "Save Dinkytown" to resist what some neighbors view as a threat to the small-business fabric of the neighborhood...

Council members expressed concerns about the potential high price of retail space in the new development and long-term implications that denser zoning would have in the area. [Including possible redevelopment of the iconic Al's Breakfast, which is just one property away from the proposed development]...

The decision and the preceding campaign to stop the project illustrate the fine line that city leaders must walk as they pursue more density outside of downtown, a key facet of City Hall's quest to grow Minneapolis' population.
And here's Yglesias's take on that vote:
[T]he last time I was in Minneapolis I had a good time hanging out at a couple of bars in Dinkytown. Dinkytown not only has a hilarious name but it's located adjacent to the University of Minnesota and across the river from downtown Minneapolis. That's a great location for an urban revival. Most people in the Minneapolis - St Paul area are going to want to live in the suburbs, which is where most people live in every American metropolitan area. But a thriving urban core is a great amenity for any metro area, and a centrally-located neighborhood like Dinkytown should be at the thriving core of your thriving core. So it's no surprise that there's interest in doing things like building a new six-story mixed-use apartment and retail structure in Dinkytown. Sadly, though, the proposed building has been blocked by local NIMBY types.

The Minneapolis area has great housing affordability compared to the major coastal metro areas since it's Midwestern location allows its suburbs to sprawl out and out quite easily. But Minnesota is very cold and in the long term it's hard to see how Minneapolis is going to compete on the basis of pure sprawliness with, say, Dallas. There's no reason MSP should ever become a particularly dense city by global standards (plenty of cheap land around) but Minneapolis does have the bones for a dense urban core around the CBD and the university and that should be a source of advantage. But it only works if you let people move in!
The zoning committee's vote is only a recommendation, and the Opus Development Dinkytown project will go before the full City Council next week for a vote that could shape the future of Dinkytown.

In the meantime, you might want to enjoy Al's flapjacks while you still can. It's the price of progress, Yglesias would say.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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31 comments
JordanWasaN
JordanWasaN

1. Dinkytown has already changed - the 60s/70s are over, Bob Dylan isn't moving back, and the demographics of Marcy Holmes have changed. Neighborhoods evolve. Some businesses die, some thrive, some move into a neighborhood, and some leave. The opponents of this project may win this battle, but they've already lost their war. If 1301 University (built with the 4 core blocks) and Sydney Hall didn't permanently alter the concept of density in the area, the UTEC Project (317 units and 41,000 sq ft of retail, including a supermarket) will. The old Dinkytown is dead; long live Dinkytown.

2. Housing units in unsubsidized housing projects are going to be more expensive than units in already established buildings: you'll need to pay down the cost of constructing the buildings. It's unfortunate that some sort of subsidy is required to provide affordable housing in many new buildings and areas, but as these buildings age, the cost of renting a unit will decrease (comparatively, if not absolutely).

There is a large demand for housing in Dinkytown and the surrounding blocks. The units being constructed and proposed for this area are meeting this demand (although I will grant imperfectly). If this demand continues without being met by a growing supply of housing, you'll see people being priced out anyway.

3. I'll admit my biggest concern about the increasing density of Dinkytown (and Marcy-Holmes in general) is transit - more transit, please. Short term, this could be alleviated by increasing the frequency of the 2 and 6, but a solid long term solution will be required for an area whose density could double in the next decade or two. Perhaps replace part of the 6-line with streetcar?

4. This particular project appears to be thoughtfully geared to Dinkytown and is less cookie-cutter than the projects appearing in Stadium Village: the setbacks are quite appreciated. There is plenty of space for new retail, and it's untrue that only chains can afford to rent spaces in newer constructions (Purple Onion in 1301 University, Baldy's BBQ and Chilly Billy's in Sydney Hall are area specific examples). The city could always try to craft policy to encourage locally owned business to settle in Dinkytown (although this could prove to be another host of troubles) or displaced businesses could be encouraged to resettle in the newly constructed project (which is the intention for the Sally's project in Stadium Village). There's nothing to guarantee the Opus project won't have chains in it, but that's still better than a parking lot.

5.  There are many buildings in Dinkytown that the city should protect - Kitty Cat/Annie's, Varsity, Dinkydale, pretty much any brownstone in the area. But some of the buildings in the area vary between nothing special and hideous. Does anyone really care about the building with Verizon in it, or the building with Potbelly and Qdoba, or the Library?

6. Al's isn't going away unless and until the owner decides to close or sell. NO ONE would allow for it to be displaced.


MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

If that eyesore in the photo is what's going to replaced by the new project, how could anyone complain? More apartments being built keeps rent prices in check and right now, the city needs a lot more units built.

DarkerMarker
DarkerMarker

ask any of the people actually living in Dinkytown and they are all going to say the same thing. we don't want this. our neighborhood is just the way we like it.

Brad Conley
Brad Conley

Expanding the tax base concerns more than just people, but demographics. The city is targeting a pretty specific demographic with high-end rentals and condos. Any guesses? And we do have the need for transit with the current population, and I do believe without certain recent agreements we could afford to build what we need.

Brad Conley
Brad Conley

Neil, out on the bike right now. Check MPR from maybe Dec/Jan for an interview on the mortgage/rental debate. We are 45th in the country for home prices and 2nd for rental. It's cheaper to buy a house than rent in Mpls. Also, ex

Neil Christianson
Neil Christianson

Any stats/studies you can show on the rental costs? Not arguing, just curious.

njorgenson
njorgenson

Hey City Pages, let's not be fear mongers, OK? Al's breakfast is not on the chopping block, and never has been. This development created more street front retail, as well as a high density mixed use building. Creating a more sustainable neighborhood. These kinds of developments will make Dinkytown more walkable and more bikable. Allowing less students to have to get in their car and drive to places like The Quarry. That means less emissions, less car congestion, more healthy fit people...

Jesse James Johnson
Jesse James Johnson

Catch 22 then? Because I suspect it would be argued we would need to expand the tax base before we could afford better transit.

Brad Conley
Brad Conley

And the answer to your post is an adamant "no".

Brad Conley
Brad Conley

Out of town hack who knows very little to nothing about the city. Low housing cost? Rental costs are the second highest in the country second only to NY, and this Opus project is a perfect example of the gentrification that the city has permitted. Yesterday's vote was the right thing to do, as any rational person would attest through simply the strength of the arguments form both sides.

Matthew Anderson
Matthew Anderson

Apparently Mr. Yglesias' theory is that urban areas can only succeed by adopting the strategy of sprawling suburbia, i.e. they all need to be planned and developed in exactly the same way regardless of local history, culture, or concerns. Every city will therefore be mostly the same, both inside the mall and out. Brilliant.

Paul Walker
Paul Walker

MPLS is not growing and falling behind because of "neighborhood" groups are againsteverything.

Bennett Hartz
Bennett Hartz

This is so funny because I intensely dislike Matt Yglesias for so many other reasons and then he writes a dipshit throw-away article about my backyard and I intensely dislike it too.

Jake Benecasa
Jake Benecasa

The proposition of the new Dinkytown developments are just plain pissing me off. I don't want some big, bulky, ugly building in the middle of town. Everything about it just exudes poor decision making.

ZeeMickCee
ZeeMickCee

The issue isn't density, it's gentrification. SE Minneapolis isn't trying to obstruct progress. What their trying to obstruct is the development of another cookie-cutter, half-filled "luxury apartment" complex with rent prices $500-$700 above the neighborhood's previous rates. 

If developers were serious about raising density in the area, they'd realize that housing in the "urban core" sometimes means allowing urban people to live there. Sure, low-and-middle income apartment complexes don't rake in as much dough, but it sure would be a nice gesture of good faith that the land-grant institution they share space with isn't trying to price the city folk out of the neighborhood. 

Neil Christianson
Neil Christianson

"I had a good time hanging out at a couple of bars in Dinkytown. Dinkytown not only has a hilarious name but it's located adjacent to the University of Minnesota and across the river from downtown Minneapolis." This person knows nothing about Dinkytown.

Shorty Aka-Jon The-Baptist
Shorty Aka-Jon The-Baptist

High Density Housing = LOTS AND LOTS of PROPERTY TAXES in a small footprint. Maximize Taxes. That's their plan.

poiu
poiu

@DarkerMarker "Our" neighborhood? Fuck that collectivist noise. You don't own the whole goddamn area. I'd love to see some revitalization down there. There's room for more if people are willing to have it, and besides a few loudmouths who think they can tell other people what to do with their property, I'm willing to bet the area will support it. If there wasn't interest no one would be trying to build here.

Onan
Onan

@njorgenson  - CP isn't "fear-mongering" considering the "Al's Breakfast" comment was mentioned by a City Council member and reported by the StarTribune. CP was just passing on the information.

So far as this development plan goes, i agree with those who are against having a 6 story, cookie-cutter monstrosity in the middle of Dinkytown. It would just be yet another out-of-place "modern" eyesore.

spenceragnew
spenceragnew

@Matthew Anderson The proposed development is mixed-use, higher density, and pedestrian-oriented design. Pretty much the exact opposite of "sprawling suburbia." 

Onan
Onan

@Paul Walker  - Minneapolis isn't growing? It grew by 9500 people over the past couple years and leads the Twin Cities area in population growth. 

poiu
poiu

@Bennett Hartz Really? Your "backyard" is a privately owned building? So you own the building(s) to be sold and redeveloped? Please tell me why you want to sell it then. Or is that not what you meant? 

poiu
poiu

@Jake Benecasa So move, dipshit. There's plenty of room out in the country.

Didier
Didier

@Jake Benecasa You apparently won't like what is already half-built across the street, then.

poiu
poiu

@ZeeMickCee "SE Minneapolis" isn't an entity with agency. "It" isn't trying to do anything. Developers who believe they can make a profit on a specific type of development are the only people gentrifying neighborhoods. And this only possible because there is a market for it (meaning there are people who can afford it!). That generally is good because it means the neighborhood isn't decaying.  And please, explain to me the difference between these REAL "city folk" and other people who live in the city. I'm sure you have lots of really smart reasoning for coming up with that little bit.

njorgenson
njorgenson

@Shorty Aka-Jon The-Baptist That is obviously not their plan, because the commission (city) voted against it... The city is who stands to get the taxes, not the developer. Let's talk about things we know we're talking about ok?

njorgenson
njorgenson

@Onan @njorgenson Except that that has never been on the table, so why bring up (from any source) an icon that isn't endangered except to misinform?

Onan
Onan

@njorgenson @Onan  - As I already mentioned, the one who brought it up was a Council member, not CP.

josh.dibley
josh.dibley

@Onan @njorgenson It's the job of "The Press" to report the correct facts - and to hold people accountable when they spread misinformation, not to repeat falsehoods.

njorgenson
njorgenson

@Onan @njorgenson You don't think saying something like "Al's COULD be next" is fear mongering? I think you should look it up...

Onan
Onan

@njorgenson @Onan  - Ask Council Member Lisa Goodman that question.

"
“If this gets rezoned, Al’s could be next,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, referring to the revered hole-in-the-wall breakfast establishment Al’s Breakfast, which is separated from the project by one property."

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