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Big Dinkytown project gets Council backing

I hope you didn’t bet against this one … . Eric Roper of the Strib reports: “Calling it a referendum on density throughout the city, the City Council approved a controversial development Friday in the University of Minnesota’s Dinkytown neighborhood over the objections of vocal activists. The Council took the rare step of overturning a committee vote against rezoning for the project, siding with density advocates over some neighbors who said it would destroy the small business character of Dinkytown. They approved rezoning on a 9-4 vote. The project, proposed by Opus Development Company, features 140 apartments and ground-level retail. It would be built at 5th Street SE between 13th and 14th Avenues, on a plot of land that is now about 70 percent surface parking lots. Neighborhood activists organized a ‘Save Dinkytown’ effort to oppose the project, appearing at many city political conventions this spring.”  

PiPress columnist Ruben Rosario is obviously a fan of Andy Luger, poised to become the next U.S. attorney: “Quite a few folks in the Twin Cities legal and law enforcement community believe the 54-year-old Cresskill, N.J., native and married father of two will do a similarly terrific job if he gets the state’s top federal prosecutorial post. B. Todd Jones — finally confirmed this week as director of the much-beleaguered federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after a protracted, intensely partisan confirmation debate — will soon vacate the post. Luger, who doesn’t want to jinx what appears to be a shoo-in Senate confirmation weeks or months from now, declined to comment on the recommendation. Others did the talking for him. ‘Andy has the brain of a prosecutor, the heart of a social worker, and the soul of a warrior’, said James Dorsey, a close friend, a former Marine and a top civil litigator.”

Streetcars … on Robert Street?  Marino Eccher of the PiPress says: “Rapid bus service or even a streetcar line could be in the cards for Robert Street in the coming decade, according to transit plans under consideration for the corridor. Ramsey and Dakota County planners, along with a handful of cities, have been eyeing ways to bolster mass transit between St. Paul and its neighbors to the immediate south. On Sunday, the joint group pared the list of possible routes to two: a bus or streetcar line from downtown St. Paul to Mendota Road in West St. Paul, or a bus rapid-transit line along U.S. 52 down to Inver Grove Heights. The project is in its early stages, and any construction or completed route is years away.”

Despite strong head winds, Teach for America has been granted licenses. Christopher Magan at the PiPress says: “More Teach for America members are heading to Twin Cities classrooms this fall after the Minnesota Board of Teaching approved their temporary license applications. The board considered applications one by one from members set to teach in metro charter schools like St. Paul’s Higher Ground Academy and in Minneapolis Public Schools. All 15 were approved.”

At MPR, Tim Post writes: “In previous year[s], Teach for America has easily obtained the variances. But the national organization is having a harder time in Minnesota this year. The state teachers union and others are questioning how well Teach for America prepares its trainees for the classroom. … Some education reform groups claim [Education Minnesota’s] dislike of Teach for America explains Gov. Mark Dayton’s decision to veto $1.5 million of funding for the group this spring. After his veto, Dayton explained his decision in a letter, noting that Teach for America in fiscal 2011 reported its revenues nationwide exceeded its expenses by more than $50 million. With those financial resources, Dayton said he did not understand why the program needed a state grant. Teach for America and its supporters, however, contend the governor did so as a favor to the union, one of his biggest supporters.

Here’s MPR’s Tom Scheck’s take on last night’s GOP gubernatorial “forum”: “It’s the first time Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, Orono businessman Scott Honour, state Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, and state Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, appeared on stage together. … the audience of several hundred Republicans, was focused on the issues important to them. They booed at the very mention of the Metropolitan Council, the federal health care law and funding for light rail transit. They also applauded when the candidates pledged to cut government spending. All four candidates said they would work to end or limit the Met Council’s authority, would not fund additional light rail projects and would work to repeal the MNsure – the state’s health insurance exchange.” That list of everything they won’t do, won’t fund and won’t build keeps getting longer and longer.

The GleanThe Kickstarter campaign for that 12-foot statue of Bob Dylan … kinda went nowhere. Dan Kraker of MPR says: “An effort to raise $159,000 to fund the completion of a giant bronze sculpture of Bob Dylan, to be placed in the songwriter’s hometown, has fallen well short of its goal. Tom Page, an artist from Cohasset, launched a campaign on the website Kickstarter on June 2. The plan was to create a 12 and a half foot tall version of the sculpture, with song titles and lyrics engraved on the coat. Page said he reached an agreement with the city of Duluth that if he raised the money, the city would commit to accepting the sculpture and finding a place to display it. But after two months on Kickstarter, the project only raised $15,425. Page said he’s not sure what he could have done differently.” Try losing the cape …

Also at MPR, Tim Nelson reports on a traffic plan for the Vikings new stadium: “MnDOT has released the very, very preliminary drawings of how they think they’re going to solve one of the traffic problems posed by the new Vikings stadium: how to get into Downtown East from westbound Interstate 94. … The plan is to change the freeway exit to bring traffic in on west bound, one-way 7th Street, where most motorists from the 5th Street exit wind up anyway. The city of Minneapolis also got $6.8 million in state Transportation Economic Development funds for the $9.7 million project. … The initial rendering has the I-94 freeway exit and the ramp from northbound Hiawatha Avenue/Highway 55 merging in midair over 35W before reaching the downtown street grid just north of Bethlehem Baptist Church.” … After which drivers perform a Triple Lutz …

Tommy Mischke is calling it quits. Nate Minor at MPR reports: “T.D. “Tommy” Mischke, the quirky and well-loved radio host, announced on his WCCO-AM show last night that he’s leaving the station. ‘This show tonight will be my last radio program,’ Mischke said near the beginning of his show. ‘I finally find myself coming to the end of what I can offer this medium. I suppose you can say I’ve reached the bottom of the tank creatively. And I have felt it coming for quite some time.’ Follow the link above to hear last night’s show. It’s the sound of a man who’s ready to move on. ‘It’s sad to some degree to come in and feel like your best shows are behind you,’ he said.” Tommy, do you have any idea how many people still on the air never had a “best show” in front of them?

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/02/2013 - 01:36 pm.

    “density advocates” ? Is that what we now call…

    …developers, their clients, their vendors, and the property sellers looking to cash in on a zoning change ?

    I guess it does present their motivations rather euphemistically, as though they were interested only in the public good.

    You know, those students able to pay higher rents deserve representation, too !!

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/02/2013 - 02:07 pm.

      Does this project displace

      lower rent student housing? It doesn’t appear to do so.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/02/2013 - 03:32 pm.

        No. But it doesn’t appear to create any either.

        Is anyone doing anything to create new low-cost student housing ?

        I’m not saying there are no projects like this underway, it’s just that I haven’t heard of any. There is a real need – far more of a need, IMO, than for upscale apts practically on the U of M campus.

        I don’t see any animated public hearings with advocates and opponents in heated debate and much media coverage about the lack of low-cost student housing. It’s all about how to turn admittedly poorly employed property in Dinkytown into a profit opportunity. This certainly has its place, but its place is not everywhere and at all times.

        • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 08/02/2013 - 04:17 pm.

          How to make inexpensive housing

          Cheapest house near Dinkytown right now is $110K in an R1A district. You can build up to 2,500 ft2 in that zone.

          Buy it, do a teardown, then build out 2,500 ft2 at $100/ft2. Bedroom size minimum is 70 square feet, so you could get 10 bedrooms in for 700 ft2 of that.

          Taxes are about 2% of the property value (so about $5K) and another $2K for insurance, maybe a bit more.

          Finance that with a 30 year loan at 4.46%, split 10 ways that comes to around $250/mo per person.

    • Submitted by Wayne Coppock on 08/02/2013 - 02:33 pm.

      Parking lots are not providing any cheap student housing, nor were any of the oh-so-cherished businesses being displaced. If you think a smaller-scale development with fewer units would somehow result in lower market rents you’re kidding yourself. This area desperately needs more housing units and the sad fact of it is that no new construction is ever going to provide the cheapest rents. The one silver lining is that new construction gets old and becomes cheaper housing as newer units are added in the future. Today’s luxury apartments are tomorrow’s moderately priced housing.

      And no, I’m not a shill for any developers nor do I have any sort if vested interest here other than wanting to see more housing units and mixed use development in the city. I’m sick and tired of NIMBYs holding this city back.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/02/2013 - 03:55 pm.

        Many of your points are well-taken, given your concerns.

        The Dinkytown space is very inefficiently used, far below anything you could call best use. More housing is needed. And I don’t at all accuse all proponents of this new money-making scheme shills for the development community.

        What’s bugging me more than anything is the major screwing we have given the young over the last couple decades in all areas related to their college education. Housing seems to be just one more dimension of this grand shift. It was not always so.

        It’s not enough that we have allowed our public institutions to radically increase the cost of a college education, way past the rate of inflation, while barely asking “Why?”. It’s not enough we have enabled a massive loan-sharking operation to saddle them with debts it will take them long years to pay off, if ever. It’s not enough we now peg their student loan interest rates at “market” (expect more screwing) rather than at a reasonable subsidy. It’s not enough that the college course book industry has students trapped paying out massive profits, but now they’re required to buy a new version each year even if the text has hardly changed at all.

        SO NOW, when we’re considering better uses for the land in Dinkytown, where are the interests of the student in the discussion ?

      • Submitted by Robert Beauchamp on 08/02/2013 - 04:35 pm.

        Parking in Dinkytown

        While I support new development in Dinkytown, we can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. There is definitely a shortage of parking in Dinkytown for those of us who like to patronize its stores and restaurants but don’t live in the neighborhood. A parking strategy similar to Madison’s would be in order for Dinkytown, Stadium village and the West Bank.

    • Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/02/2013 - 03:48 pm.

      density advocates really exist

      There were plenty of urban design enthusiasts advocating replacing surface parking with dense housing who had no ties to developers. The folks at streets.mn are just one example.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/02/2013 - 04:02 pm.

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to impugn the motives of every advocate…

        …but I guess I did, judging from the responses. Thanks for your reply.

        Maybe I should go back to college and improve my writing skills. I don’t think I could afford to live in this new place they’re planning, though. Maybe a MOOC for me ?

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/02/2013 - 02:04 pm.

    Imagine a streetcar

    running from Lake Calhoun to downtown St. Paul. Oh, wait: we had one once.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/02/2013 - 08:35 pm.

    once again….

    Minneapolis officials favor the rich at the expense of the middle class and less fortunate.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/03/2013 - 10:10 am.

      Agreed. If those folks in Linden Hills think this has nothing..

      ..to do with them, they’d better think twice.

      Reading between the lines of the statements by the champions of development in these local public bodies, it is not such a stretch to say that local control – at the neighborhood level – is or soon will be a thing of the past in Minneapolis. The City Council see themselves cutting a pretty wide swath.

      Dinkytown may not be the best example of this new trend, because of its proximity to the University and all its attendant issues, which make it rather unique.

      Is anyone going to get all misty about the displacement of a convenience store and a parking lot ? Of course not. But when big development comes to your neighborhood, all the smallness soon goes, the chains certain to follow.

      Remember that cartoon, “Bambi Meets Godzilla” ? It is a good depiction of local neighborhood concerns vs. development concerns when backed by the City Council. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIPKgQ5Kuo

  4. Submitted by Matthew Brillhart on 08/03/2013 - 12:09 pm.

    Parking shortage a myth

    There is no parking shortage in Dinkytown. The massive University-owned 4th Street Ramp sits just two blocks (less than 1/4-mile!) from the heart of Dinkytown: http://www1.umn.edu/twincities/maps/4StRamp/

    I suspect it is never full unless there’s a major sporting event going on. The problem is people’s expectations that parking should be free in the middle of a major city and adjacent to one of the country’s largest universities. Parking meter prices around the core of Dinkytown should be increased so they are utilized only by short-term parkers (2 hours max). People looking to linger in Dinkytown longer than that should be parking in the ramp. This would have the added benefit of fewer cars circling the block hunting for that one last (free or underpriced) space.

  5. Submitted by jody rooney on 08/03/2013 - 09:07 pm.

    Would any developer other than the well connected Opus crowd

    have gotten that variance. Perhaps not.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/04/2013 - 09:01 am.

      An interesting question. There have been cases in the past…

      …where a city official has left city service for well-paid private employment with those who benefitted from the official’s decisions while in public office.

      What candidate for employment with your development company could better champion your causes than one who knows the ropes of city decision-making, knows the people, and has ALREADY proven to be solidly in favor of your interests ?? Wouldn’t this make for an ideal employee ??

      Local government officials are keenly aware of who’s watching – including potential future employers.

      I don’t know if this kind of dynamic is at work in this case. However, I’m pretty darn sure that 5-10 years down the road, you’re going to see some of today’s city officials working for development interests.

  6. Submitted by jody rooney on 08/04/2013 - 09:45 am.

    New thought

    Perhaps the Legislature should give the University zoning authority over the community adjacent to the University?

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