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Teardown battle in Minneapolis: A city at war with itself

MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
A home under construction in the 4500 block of Chowen Avenue in Minneapolis.

For the moment, emotions are running high in the dispute over teardowns in Minneapolis’ most idyllic districts. But even if a moratorium on new home construction in Linden Hills and four other popular southwest neighborhoods is lifted after a few months, as now seems likely, tensions over the broader issues of growth and density are here to stay. Minneapolis, in some sense, is a city at war with itself.

One side prefers the city pretty much as it is. The southwestern neighborhoods, in particular, are deeply satisfied with the status quo, and why not? Quiet tree-lined streets; lakeside views; biking and walking trails; great little restaurants and coffee shops; sailboats set against the backdrop of a distant glassy skyline. Why risk any change that might break the spell?

But there’s another less myopic side, one that sees population and tax-base growth as vital to the city’s future. Without more people and more taxable assets, Minneapolis won’t be able to maintain city services, improve schools and add the transit connections that a successful, competitive city requires. Another way to say it is that the whole city, rich and poor together, cannot move forward without taking maximum advantage of the current “back to the city” real estate trend.

In her campaign last fall, Mayor Betsy Hodges set a goal to add more than 100,000 residents and push the city’s once-shrinking population back up over 500,000. It’s not an outlandish target; rival cities, including Seattle, Denver and Portland, have grown that much in recent years by building dense, urbanized districts that appeal to young residents.

In theory, there’s room for each side in this skirmish to have its way. After all, a key element of the growth strategy is to add density mainly along commercial corridors with transit service so that the city’s established single-family neighborhoods can be left undisturbed. In practice, however, it’s not quite so simple, as the new mayor and council are finding out.

That’s where teardowns come into play. The appetite for city living hasn’t been this strong in many decades, and the southwest neighborhoods hold special appeal. A portion of the housing stock, especially in the far southwest, consists of postwar two-bedroom ramblers that are too small for modern tastes and built on lots that are more valuable than the houses. These are ripe for rebuilding and, if you drive the streets south and west of Lake Harriet, you’ll see hundreds of new infill homes that have popped up in recent years. A few of them are too large, and a few are downright ugly. But the vast majority of them are well designed and fit nicely into their surroundings.

“It’s wonderful news for Minneapolis that people want to invest and live in the city again,” said Caren Dewar, director of the Urban Land Institute-Minnesota. “But how to manage all this will be an ongoing challenge for the city because this is the direction that the market wants to go.”

The value of these teardowns is clear; they add tax base that the city desperately needs. How much? Well, just across the city line in Edina, officials have been struggling to manage a wave of teardowns — more than 280 in the last three years — over the objections of neighbors who hate the construction and the scale of the new homes. But the added value of those 280 new homes exceeds the taxable value of the entire Southdale shopping mall, according to Edina City Manager Scott Neal.

So, the stakes are high for Minneapolis. And that’s why the moratorium launched by new 13th Ward Council Member Linea Palmisano may have been hasty and shortsighted. Is it wise for Minneapolis to hang up a sign that, in effect, warns investors to stay away? Is it smart to encourage people to build their new homes in the suburbs instead?

Excessive power

In political terms, the moratorium reflects the excessive power that a few disgruntled and fearful neighbors can exert in Minneapolis, especially with a new mayor and council still feeling its way. Yes, the growth side has won many battles. Coming out of the Great Recession, the city has led the metro area in construction permits and new housing units.

Linea Palmisano
MinnPost file photo by Terry Gydesen
Linea Palmisano

But the status quo side has gained momentum recently. It almost certainly has succeeded in stopping the Southwest light rail project, the largest transit project ever proposed for the metro area. And the moratorium, although minor by comparison, further illustrates the built-in advantage that the status quo enjoys: It is an actual constituency; it can vote and it can complain loudly to elected officials, even about petty details and imaginary consequences. By contrast, the new 100,000 people that Hodges hopes to attract have no voice at City Hall. No one shows up to speak for them or for the long-range benefits they could bring.

It’s not that some of the complaints over teardowns are without merit. Jason Wittenberg, Minneapolis’ acting planning director, acknowledges that there have been serious problems on some construction sites: debris dumped on neighbors’ property; improper placement of dumpsters and portable toilets; problems with drainage and water table; disregard for designated work hours, and even some possible cheating on building heights.

“The most urgent point in all this is about construction site management,” he said. “Council Member Palmisano is right when she says that crews ‘should build like they live next door.’ They should have more consideration for neighbors. It feels like the communication isn’t what it should be.”

Lessons from Edina

The question is whether that merits a moratorium, or whether the city could fix all of that by beefing up its enforcement while construction continues. As a first step, the city should consult with Edina, which last year enacted a new system to deal with similar complaints.

Neal, the Edina city manager, offered this advice: It’s more about emotion than anything else. People love their neighborhoods, and that’s a good thing. The prospect of change incites fear and suspicion. It’s important to have one point-of-contact person to eliminate surprises and to tightly manage the site, making sure that the neighbors are informed and that the crews follow the rules — every day. Both sides — the contractors and the neighbors — need predictability, he said. You can’t just pass rules and expect contractors to comply.

Edina’s new emphasis on communication and enforcement seems to be working, although the suburb could use more than just one enforcer/coordinator.

Two homes in the 4500 block of Abbott Avenue under construction.
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Two homes in the 4500 block of Abbott Avenue under construction.

As for complaints about the scale of new homes, Wittenberg said that Minneapolis will review changes it made in 2007 that reduced heights and expanded the space between homes. Edina’s new 30-foot height limit and sideyard regulations match closely the scale that Minneapolis set seven years ago.

Truth is, modern lifestyles demand homes larger than those built 60 years ago. Unless the city wants to discourage a renewal of its housing stock, it must, within reasonable limits, allow larger homes. Those homes will cast shadows. A few trees will need to be cut, although that should be kept to a minimum. Skilled architects can use design to give new homes a less obtrusive profile. Those techniques should be emphasized before construction begins.

Warning from San Francisco

But for neighbors to stop construction altogether is akin to shooting themselves in the foot, as San Francisco has discovered. With the best of intentions to preserve the city’s character, residents there have fought nearly every effort to renew and expand housing and grow the population. The result: some of the highest property taxes, living costs and housing prices in the nation — and thousands of young people who want to live in the city but can’t.

“The city was largely ‘protected’ from change. But in so doing, we put out the fire with gasoline,” Gabriel Metcalf, a Bay Area planning advocate, wrote recently in Atlantic magazine.

Minneapolis isn’t San Francisco. Still, it faces formidable resistance to the mayor’s laudable goals of growing population and tax base. Political leaders must gather the courage to explain to neighbors that NIMBYism delivers a self-inflicted wound. As for teardowns, the city needs to establish a much better system of communicating and enforcing the rules without slowing the pace of renewal.

Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 03/17/2014 - 10:11 am.

    If the teardowns actually provided extra housing, that

    would be one thing. The cases that I have seen are simply vanity projects put up by people with more money than taste, projects that replace one single-family house with another single-family house. The houses they replace are usually just fine, only not trendy enough for the buyers.

    Often the teardowns/rebuilds have no esthetic relationship to the existing housing stock in the neighborhood. The area just west of 50th and France is a perfect example. It’s a lovely neighborhood precisely because of its stylistic unity of its housing and the mature trees. Replacing one of the existing houses with a megahouse that looks as if it was modeled on the McMansions of Eden Prairie seems like an act of vandalism.

    Not one of these projects–not the Pohlad house overlooking Lake Calhoun nor any of the rest of the oversized replacements for older housing–adds the least bit to the housing stock of the Twin Cities. One equals one.

    • Submitted by Brian Hutchins on 03/17/2014 - 10:58 am.

      Extra housing is not the only thing

      Mr. Berg addresses why building bigger (more up to date) houses is a good in itself, even without adding extra houses. “But the added value of those 280 new homes exceeds the taxable value of the entire Southdale shopping mall, according to Edina City Manager Scott Neal.” Home buyers that would otherwise go to the suburbs will remain in the city and add to the tax base because their new house is bigger. Still, you make a good point, about needing more housing and I think encouraging duplexes and “mother-in-law apartments” would be a very good idea. Also, I know in Seattle they will allow an owner to tear down an existing home to put up 3 or 4 townhomes. I have seen them and it is a great way to create density in the city.

    • Submitted by Steve Sande on 03/17/2014 - 02:46 pm.

      Preservation, conservation and the tax base

      The selective establishment of conservation districts and historic districts, along with smaller scale historic designations, could counter some of the worst effects of the teardown mania. Neighborhoods have an opportunity to preserve their most distinctive structures and to encourage the owners of new housing to build something that respects and complements its surroundings.

      This will not happen, however, unless the local historic preservation community becomes much more visible, less insular and better organized. The pro-development forces — well funded, disciplined, motivated — are getting their message out every day and engaging the public. There are dedicated individuals in the preservation movement, which is not idle; but these days their voices can scarcely be heard above the roar of the bulldozers.

      The changes Minneapolis adopted in 2007, noted in the article, were a step in the right direction. The city has made a decent start in its attempt to balance the desire to preserve neighborhood character against the need for renewal of housing stock. While some of these teardowns make me sad, I can understand Minneapolis’ need for growth in its tax base. As my former Council Member Paul Ostrow lamented, the city, thanks to its latest commercial sports team stadium deal, has $678 million less to spend on its neighborhoods in the decades to come. They will need to make up that money somewhere.

  2. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 03/17/2014 - 11:05 am.

    Redirect the market

    The City of Minneapolis might want to think creatively about how to redirect the marketplace to spur investment in locations where disinvestment is currently the trend. Encourage both new construction and rehabilitation in these neighborhoods through finance and tax incentives.

    Spreading some of the high value construction around all residential neighborhoods rather than focused in the highest amenity neighborhoods would have positive spin-off benefits. Plus it might reduce concentrations of poverty and spur positive impacts on neighborhood schools.

    The City might also reward developers who participate in employment programs and/or meet employment goals.

    Finally, it seems like a design review requirement to eliminate the worst of the “sticking out like a sore thumb” building plans would be a good idea.

  3. Submitted by Arvonne Fraser on 03/17/2014 - 11:12 am.

    housing density

    Steve Berg poses the important question: how can we achieve density in this city if the NIMBYs don’t want change. Sadly, in our last campaign this issue of increasing density wasn’t adequately discussed. Putting all the density on transit corridors won’t be enough and while building more big single family houses may increase the tax base it won’t increase density.

    Moratoriums can be useful if the real questions are addressed, but Edina is hardly the model for Minneapolis. The whole city will have to accept more population density. Kenwood has many very interesting older duplexes and there are many big older homes in the city that could be renovated by families who have the money and want space or the city could change zoning laws to allow such houses to be multi-unit buildings.

    This whole issue of housing density needs more discussion.

  4. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/17/2014 - 11:38 am.

    Let’s all agree: density is not at issue in these tear-downs and re-builds of much larger, frequently ugly, houses that abuse a neighborhood’s visual character.

    It’s suburbanites who want to have their suburban space and also eat the city’s obvious advantages over, say, Forest Lake or Lakeville in terms of lifestyle. Unfortunately, they seem to have to kill the village to own it.

    Tax base is a fine consideration. But, should Minneapolis really be looking to increase its residential property taxes in one of the areas where most property taxes are already raised above the city average?

    Why not do something to encourage these big homes being built in other parts of Minneapolis–if city living, big suburban spaces, and increased tax base are our interests? Lots of room to do that on Minneapolis’ North Side, where the tear-downs have already been accomplished, mostly by the city condemning neglected and abused houses? Lots of room in formerly industrial properties in South Minneapolis (not SW); why not build there?

    Berg tries to beat the drum, as a lot of mantra-chanting urban renewal types do, for quick and unstudied and developer- or investor-driven modifications to our city. What, in Heaven’s name, is the big rush? Can’t we think about these things a wee bit?


    • Submitted by Tony Cuppacalucci on 03/17/2014 - 10:59 pm.

      Density is absolutely the issue

      No, Connie, we cannot all agree density is not the issue. Density is absolutely the issue.

      A family of four, five or six is not going to live in a 900 ft., 2 bed, 2 bath bungalow. Bringing families into Minneapolis is a key to increasing density in the city, which everyone seems to be in favor of.

      • Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 03/20/2014 - 11:16 am.

        Building a larger home

        For the same number of people is not dealing with the issue of density. Teardowns and increasing density are both housing issues, but they are not the same issue.

  5. Submitted by Amy Unger on 03/17/2014 - 11:43 am.

    affordable high density housing

    This is an interesting article – one of many that could be posted on the subject. Several cities in the US have done some of this with great success.

    The other point to make is that people want to buy not rent and there is a dearth of affordable condominiums for sale in the Twin Cities.

  6. Submitted by Matthew Brillhart on 03/17/2014 - 11:54 am.

    Refuting the one=one argument…

    A 4BR house replacing a 2BR doesn’t really fit your one=one argument, does it? I agree that some of these things are vanity projects and don’t fit well in the neighborhood, but to say that they don’t increase the housing stock is untrue. It may be the same number of structures, but not an equal number of bedrooms. The replacement housing CAN accomodate a family of four or five people…the same cannot be said of most of the housing being torn down. Whether or not the so-called monster houses are actually accomodating families vs. rich DINKs is another question entirely…

  7. Submitted by jody rooney on 03/17/2014 - 12:25 pm.

    The assumption that bigger is better flies

    in the face of the quality design concepts that come out of people like Sarah Susanka and SALA architects.

    I would have to agree with Ms, Sandness these McMansions look like an act of vandalism. The first house in the photos looks like a waste of good material and a 1960’s 2 story. The second photo on Abbott Avenue at least are houses with more style but as far as scale for the lot it is definitely out of proportion.

    That is not to say that any particular era has a more attractive style than any other and that there aren’t some really ugly older houses in these neighborhoods.

    What seems to be the problem is the scale and the fact that they are not increasing housing stock. In addition to set back and height restrictions how about a foot print restriction. Single family homes may not exceed the square footage (or foot print) of the largest home in a 3 or 4 block linear line, excluding those houses completed after 2000. Another alternative would be to add a restriction of the % of lot that could be covered.

  8. Submitted by David Frenkel on 03/17/2014 - 12:33 pm.

    Not SF or Seattle

    Minneapolis is not Seattle or SF. They have always been expensive housing markets and prices are skyrocketing because of the massive growth of companies like Microsoft and Amazon in Seattle and the Silicon Valley near SF. Minneapolis does not have the high teach engines of these cities. The west coast also has a major problem called earthquakes that developers want to ignore.
    I have been an outspoken critic of the lack of enforcement of city regulations dealing with safety, erosion and road issues in Edina caused by residential construction.
    The city manager of Edina who seems to be a poster child of urban development in the local media has publicly said developers have rights. What he fails to say is that we all have rights and with rights come responsibilities which the city of Edina seems to ignore when it comes to enforcement of city and state code. I am not talking about the houses themselves which are an issue, I am talking about the roads and property around development. With the spring thaw coming look at any residential development in the Twin Ciites and see if they have the proper erosion barriers mandated by the state to prevent soil erosion.
    Residential tear downs are a complex topic with many issues too many to be covered in a short editorial. My only recommendation is not to compare Minneapolis to other cities that are all unique with unique issues and also stick to one topic per editorial.

  9. Submitted by jim hughes on 03/17/2014 - 12:35 pm.


    “Truth is, modern lifestyles demand homes larger than those built 60 years ago.”

    I can’t think of any real justification for that statement.

    “A few trees will need to be cut,”

    Cities need more green space, not less, and more trees, not fewer. It’s clear that the author puts little value on these things.

    • Submitted by Susan Lesch on 03/18/2014 - 12:00 pm.


      Steve Berg wrote, “Truth is, modern lifestyles demand homes larger than those built 60 years ago.”

      I agree, Jim. This is the author’s feeling, with no bearing on any reality I live in.

      Jeepers, Steve, this is Minneapolis, home of SALA Architects. Cofounder Sarah Susanka originated the “Not So Big” philosophy of residential architecture, which aims to “build better, not bigger.” Read up on the small house movement. I don’t want any part of the Miss Piggy movement. There are already too many people in this world to take care of.

  10. Submitted by Michael Hess on 03/17/2014 - 12:36 pm.

    Multiple Drivers

    What is lost in some of this discussion is that the moratorium isn’t surgically blocking projects that are messy, inconsiderate and even in violation of their permits. It’s not blocking just the projects that neighbors don’t like athestically (sorry folks you don’t get to pick your neighbors house, we’re not in a suburban gated planned community). the moratorium is also blocking all the perfectly scaled infill houses like the ones that are scattered though Ward 13 today. It’s blocking additions to very large houses near the lake where 1500 FSF addition might not be noticed. And it’s creating a bizzare scenario of a “hardship appeal” where two couples could plan the exact same project a few blocks apart but because one is carrying two mortgages and is financially damaged by the surprise moratorium, they can apply to go ahead – but the same (or smaller) project which is cash funded must wait a year and then deal with whatever regs comes out the other end. The second project types are likely to sue the city for an arbitrary enforcement of this moratorium and they’d have a good case – the impact on the city and neighborhood is the same for both projects. This discussion about infil housing is what the leadership on the city council should be driving. The shouldn’t resort to springing sweeping surprise blunt-force regulations, poorly thought out, and then falling back on the argument that they didnt’ want to give advance notice should people prepare for it…

  11. Submitted by Bjorn Awel on 03/17/2014 - 12:59 pm.

    Fully agree with Matt B. Two points to repeat/add:
    1) anecdotal info is not fact. If a 2 bedroom home is replaced by 4 bedroom home there presumably will be some density increase. Example: a young family of 3 may live in the former but a family of 4 or 5 may live in the latter. I think this is the point many are making — if they are going to live in the city they need more space for their families. Shouldn’t Minneapolis want more families — instead of being one of the top ten cities without them.
    2) a moratorium is a blunt and bad policy approach to this. It is a solution in search of a problem in that it causes financial and economic harm to residents, real estate agents, and the many small developers, most of whom are doing good work and in good faith trying to improve the communities that they also live in. Why not put all hands on deck for the city to clean up its own act in ensuring enforcement of existing rules on construction sites, conditions, etc?

  12. Submitted by Sheldon Mains on 03/17/2014 - 01:37 pm.

    “2 bedroom house too small

    Since when is a 2 bedroom house “to small for modern lifestyles”? Whose life styles? Why does someone need a Mac Mansion? Maybe for ego but why else?

    • Submitted by Tony Cuppacalucci on 03/18/2014 - 08:27 am.

      2 bedroom is too small

      A family of four, five or six will simply not fit well into a 900 square foot, 2 bed, 1 bath bungalow. The mayor’s goal of increasing population cannot be achieved by simply adding the single and childless. Taking an existing lot that one person lived in and replacing it with a home and family of six sextuples the density.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 03/24/2014 - 05:13 pm.

        Families are getting smaller, not larger


        “Over the last few decades the trend in the United States has been toward smaller households, fewer family and married-couple households, and more people living alone, especially at older ages”


        “Between 1970 and 2012, the average number of “people per household declined from 3.1 to 2.6.”

        So tell me – why is it again that “modern lifestyles” demand houses get larger?

  13. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/17/2014 - 01:45 pm.

    Famliar ground

    Both the article and the comments plow familiar, and not always pleasant, ground for an ex-planning commissioner.

    My understanding, based on hours of testimony by city staff in many a meeting, is that residential development, especially single-family detached residential development, virtually never pays for itself. The cost of providing services virtually always outstrips any gains in property tax income from the new structure being a 4-bedroom versus the 2-bedroom that was torn down, and that was apparently true even though most of the necessary infrastructure (streets, sewers, water, electricity, etc.) was already in place. In the cities with which I’m familiar, significantly more tax revenue accrues to the city from commercial and industrial property than from residential neighborhoods. This is why citizens sometimes see elected officials jumping up and down in glee when a new factory or commercial endeavor announces that it’s moving into the city. The demand for services from commercial or industrial property is often not significantly greater than that of residential development, but the return to the city in the form of tax revenue IS significantly higher.

    As for Steve’s point about modern families wanting “bigger” as well as “newer,” there are at least a couple of problems with that view. Mayor Hodges’ goal of adding 100,000 residents to the city is simply not possible if those new residents all live in single-family detached houses, even when those houses are on 5,000 square foot lots that are half the size of the typical suburban quarter-acre. Thus, at some point, density has to be seriously discussed, and doing so almost always leads – or at least should lead – to a further discussion of affordability. Brief research online suggests that median family income in Minneapolis is more than $59,000, and more than $63,000 in St. Paul. Even if we bump the usual “affordable” equation up to a full 1/3 of gross income from the more usual 30%, and “affordable” house or condo should cost no more than 3 times the family income. How many new homes are likely to be built and sold at prices in the low-to-mid $180’s? Two new houses went up in my neighborhood within the past 9 months. They’re mirror-images of each other in terms of floor plan, enclose about 1,750 square feet on a single floor, have not been constructed of what builders would call “deluxe” materials, and in addition, they’re both built on slabs, so there’s no added cost for excavation and construction of a basement. Yet they’re already listed, unfinished, for $225,000, meaning they’re well out of the reach of a median-income family.

    Garrison Keillor notwithstanding, I don’t really believe everyone in the Twin Cities is “above average” when it comes to income. The only way I can think of to build housing that’s of enough quality to be at least reasonably durable, yet is within reach of those “median income” families, is to build smaller, not larger. To the dismay, perhaps, of not only Mayor Hodges, but a good many families who’d like to have their own place, it seems possible to me that the “American Dream” has been corrupted over the years by the constant drum beat of advertising so that lots of people actually believe it’s not possible to raise a family in decent surroundings if those surroundings are less than McMansion-sized.

    And when the protestors show up at City Council and/or Planning Commission meetings, it’s useful to keep in mind that there is no single group in our overall population that’s more terrified of change in almost any form than middle-class homeowners. Perhaps it’s the result of a couple decades of celebrating greed, but instead of viewing their living space as just that – living space, wherein one could raise a family – housing is increasingly viewed as an investment, and much of the angst and emotion surrounding debates over housing size, style, affordability, placement, aesthetics, etc., stems from that obsessive concern with property value that rises directly from viewing one’s home as a financial product rather than as a place to live.

    I would personally like to see the term “luxury” used much, much less in connection with housing, whether it reflects reality or the usual advertising horsefeathers. People with real money will always be able to convert wherever they live to “luxury” accommodations. What’s needed, it seems, are houses and condos that cater to those of modest, median incomes, without reducing the development’s architecture to a series of ugly gray lumps.

  14. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 03/17/2014 - 03:23 pm.

    Spreading around?

    This debate is fascinating and of substance — far more important than the latest tax-wasting sports palace. But I find an unavoidable two-part problem with the argument that replacement houses larger than their predecessors should be spread around, not just concentrated on already-attractive areas (mostly southwest Minneapolis).

    The first part is the economic risk of building a high-value house in a modest-value (or low-value) neighborhood: The lower values around you will drag down the value of your house and perhaps harm its saleability because people who can afford that house aren’t likely to buy in a neighborhood of lower values.

    The second part is simple, if an unwelcome reality: People who can afford a new house of $350,000 to, say $450,000 aren’t going to want to put in in an area where they regularly hear gunshots.

    There’s also the simple fact that people smart enough to buy homes tend to be smart enough no buy what they can afford (or their lenders are careful enough to require that), so this lower-value housing stock serves a social purpose of putting middle-class people in the city.

    My three siblings and I grew up in a three-bedroom house, and I can’t recall any of us saying we felt deprived because we had two siblings per bedroom.

    • Submitted by Bill Coleman on 03/18/2014 - 01:34 pm.

      Neighborhood options

      Neal, It would be sad to think that the only two neighborhood options in Minneapolis are high end luxury and gunshot-ridden crime scenes. Expanding the number of areas that re-investment is occurring should be a goal of the city. As I noted above, financial incentives could be used to mitigate financial risk.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/20/2014 - 03:14 pm.


        Being a Plymouth bound suburbanite, it seems based on the comments in this post that the city is going to have a hard time getting “the neighbors” to accept modern 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2500+ sq ft homes, w/ 3 car garages. And without these typical accomodations I think it will be hard to attract upper middle class families like mine into the heart of the city.

        My cousin moved to Plymouth and couldn’t take suburbia. So he moved back somewhere North of Southdale… However he then renovated the house to double its original size… I wondered if any of his neighbors egged it as an “eye sore”…

  15. Submitted by Keith Morris on 03/18/2014 - 07:28 pm.

    Population growth of 100,000 is impossible without real transit

    McMansions can easily be avoided by zoning and zoning is something that city and suburbs have everywhere in this country dictating what kind of development can occur: it’s illegal in many suburbs to build walkable, bikeable developments because their zoning codes ban it.

    The main issue is isn’t NIMBYs in SW hoods like Linden Hills preventing redevelopment on quiet side streets, but the simple fact that those cities listed as our competition like Portland and Seattle offer more higher-quality mass transit to justify their much larger, faster population growth. Minneapolis grew a mere 2.7% from 2000-2012, while Portland grew % and Seatle % respectively

    They both rely heavily on buses just as we do, but their systems offer things like real-time “next bus” signage, off-board card payments (like we have with our light rail), etc, Portland’s rail transit alone is well beyond what we offer. Notice how its focus is dense urban neighborhoods in each quadrant of the city.

    Lines like these are not run in sprawling low-density suburbs like the proposed SWLRT line out to Eden Prairie or our “red line” “bus rapid transit” ( a cruel joke at best) between MOA and Apple Valley where maximum ridership is very, very low in comparison to dense urban areas that need this kind of transit (an Uptown-Downtown BRT lost out to Bloomington-Apple Valley why?). Seattle already has 5 rapid line bus routes, 6 later this year, that traverse the city.

    We need to focus on improving transit where it makes sense, in the city, while also focusing denser development on commercial corridors rather than allowing lots of McMansions to be built on residential streets in SW Mpls. At the same time, SW Mpls residents can thank the fine folks in Linden Hills who put the kibosh on perfectly sound projects that fit the current scale of their commercial streets, like Linden Corner, which would have helped absorb current housing demand but instead left people wanting to move in with no other option expect existing housing.

  16. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 03/20/2014 - 07:15 am.

    Mother-in-law apartments and public transit

    Back in the 1990s my family owned and lived in a duplex in the Folwell neighborhood. The second floor was considered a mother-in-law apartment: smaller in scale than the ground floor but still having all the amenities. I don’t know if our 1914 house had the only mother-in-law apartment on the block, but our house had the only driveway on the block. The driveway was more of a nuisance than a convenience because of people who would partially (or completely) obstruct it with their own vehicles. If mother-in-law apartments were built – which would be a good idea – there would need to be accommodations for the vehicles the additional residents would operate. Or even better, public transit to get people where they had to go.

  17. Submitted by David Frenkel on 03/23/2014 - 12:33 pm.


    The state has mandated silt barriers to prevent erosion at all construction sites. Very few residential sites I have seen in Minneapolis or Edina follow state code on this issue. The sites that do have silt barriers don’t understand they are not meant to be driven on or used as a levy for construction dirt. Enforcement is lacks since no enforcement body can give a financial penalty to anybody that does not follow the state code. This is just part of the frustration of the city of Minneapolis with developers.

  18. Submitted by Julie Stroeve on 03/23/2014 - 05:58 pm.

    housing density

    re-gentrification of existing neighborhoods in the face of unprecedented wealth at the top is to be expected. what the county needs to do is re-create an equitable property tax structure so that lower income folks living in Mpls’ prized neighborhoods for decades don’t experience huge property tax increases because the young, uber-wealthy buyer purchases the lot next to hers, tears it down, and builds a residential monument in its place. the uber wealthy, who understandably want the most sought south and southwest Mpls neighborhoods for the extraordinary lifestyle they offer, ought to be prepared to bear the property tax increases that occur as a result of their choices. a resident living in a 100-year-old 2-bedroom bugalow who is low income or fixed income (retired) cannot afford to support the new wave of uber-wealth and giant house boom. pricing residents out of urban neighborhoods in the interest of increasing property taxes will soon result in a massive macro-economic downturn. we’ve seen it time and time again all across the country. Mpls and Hennepin County are well advised to avoid such consequences.

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