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What most neighborhood activists don’t understand about real estate development

City of Minneapolis
Peter H. Brown recently has worked with the city of Minneapolis on high-profile projects such as the Nicollet Mall renovation, rendered above.

When it comes to real estate development, Peter H. Brown speaks two languages.

He is fluent in both “developer” and “neighborhood activist.” As such, the Minneapolis consultant is in a good position to act as an interpreter in the often fractious negotiations between the two, something he writes about in his recent book “How Real Estate Developers Think: Designs, Profits and Community.”

Brown recently has worked with the city of Minneapois on high-profile projects such as the Nicollet Mall renovation, Peavey Plaza and the design process for East Commons park near the new Vikings stadium. But he also acts as an “owner’s representative” on private projects.

“Most people have a hard time seeing change as positive,” Brown said during a forum last month at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “And who brings us change? Real estate developers.”

“They’re gonna block your views,” he continued. “They’re gonna shadow your building. Who knows what’s going to happen,” he said.

But the fear of change — and the tendency to move quickly toward blanket opposition — often results in activists not getting the best outcome from their interaction.

One motivation for writing his book, Brown said, was to demystify the process, to “put flesh on the bones” of developers so that those who interact with them can figure out how to work with them. The alternative is to fight uphill battles against developers who have a right to build under law and code (he quotes one developer who frequently says “that piece of land is not zoned ‘vacant’ “) and against trends that forecast continued development in cities across the nation.

“We can’t wish it away, and we can’t pull up the drawbridge,” Brown said.

But he acknowledges that developers don’t have a pristine reputation. When teaching a class on real estate development at the Humphrey School, he invites students to shout out the terms that come to mind when they hear “real estate developer.”

The response flows so quickly that he has trouble writing them down: rip-off artists, greedy, bloodsuckers, rich white men, devils. Only after their contempt is spent does someone nervously offer terms like entrepreneur, visionary and risk taker.

Whichever way people describe developers, Brown thinks the subjects of his book are vital to the growth of cities. As he writes, “throughout the history of the United States, where the great majority of land is privately owned, the buildings that make up American cities have been planned, designed and built almost entirely by developers, using private capital, one project at a time.” 

Brown’s advice to those who hope to influence development in their cities and neighborhoods: Focus on what aspects of a proposed development are actually changeable.

“Don’t say, ‘Twenty stories? Why don’t you make it eight?’ ” Brown said. “If there’s zoning for 20 stories, it’s probably going to be 20 stories.”

Instead, Brown advises neighbors, planners and politicians to keep in mind the Serenity Prayer: “Accept the things they cannot change, identify those things that can be changed and develop the wisdom to know the difference.”

For example, “Instead of insisting that the developer use brick when the metal panels they are proposing are allowed by the code, focus your comments on the quality of the panels and the pattern, colors and detail.”

Tom Fisher, Peter H. Brown, John Adams
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Author Peter H. Brown, center, shown speaking at the Humphrey panel discussion, with Metropolitan Design Center Director Tom Fisher, left, and Professor Emeritus John Adams.

Brown has been on both sides of the table. His work with developers has seen him representing their interests to neighborhood groups and politicians, but his time volunteering on Minneapolis’ North Loop Neighborhood Association has seen him questioning developers about their intentions for his neighborhood. Sometimes, he said, he wore both hats on the same day.

Brown’s path to intermediary wasn’t a direct one. He was an architect in Philadelphia for 12 years before returning to school at age 37 to study urban planning, and worked in local government planning offices. After moving to Minneapolis, he figured he was in a good position to be a consultant to developers.

“How different could it be?” he asked. “It’s completely different, it turns out. I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought, ‘Gosh, I’d been working on buildings for 15 or 20 years and the way these people make decisions — their motivations, their priorities, how they speed up, how they slow down, go right, go left.’

“I thought, either they’re insane or there’s a method to their madness and maybe I can figure that out,” Brown said. Developers don’t go to developer school, for example, and often come to the work from various backgrounds — architecture, planning, real estate, construction. There’s no government certification or license for developers.

During the panel discussion at Humphrey, Tom Fisher, who heads the Metropolitan Design Center, lamented that universities don’t do a better job embracing development as a profession.

“Our academic structure is misaligned with what you need to know to make cities,” Fisher said. “Planners are on one side of the river and the architects are on the other side of the river and the civil engineers don’t talk to either one, and the bankers are in the Carlson School. Why can’t universities structure universities in the way the world actually works?”

Brown explains development through the eyes of a batch of longtime developers in Boston, Miami and Portland. He dives into the source of conflict, that “a real estate development is a private enterprise that is acted out on a very public stage.”

“A real estate development is a business venture financed by private investors and lenders who take serious risks with the objective of earning significant profits,” he continues. Developers, therefore, are reluctant to give the public too much influence on the factors that determine the ultimate profits: costs, design and marketability.

“On the other hand, development affects everything from home values and views to the use and enjoyment of public streets, so members of the community feel they should play a stronger role in shaping projects.”

Jacob Frey at the Humphrey panel.
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Jacob Frey at the Humphrey panel.

In the middle are city officials — both elected and appointed — who have their own motivations and desires. Minneapolis Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the city ward where half of the city’s construction activity is located, also joined the panel discussion. He said his own strategy was confirmed by Brown’s book.

“Don’t say ‘No.’ Don’t say ‘Yes.’ Say, ‘Yes, but,’ ” Frey said. He suggests identifying four or five aspects of the project that, if altered, will make it better. “Ultimately you come to an end result that is far better than if you had rejected it or if you had blindly accepted it.”

Still, proposed developments are often met with suspicion and even opposition. “The only thing people hate more than the status quo is any change at all,” he joked.

Neighbors, planners and politicians have a wedge to push for changes if a developer needs a variance from existing zoning and code. Such a variance might be needed to exceed height limits or set-back requirements. But Brown cited a story from Evanston, Illinois, as a way of warning against overplaying that hand. There, a developer in need of some variances redesigned a building to make a project less burdensome on views of neighbors. When they still opposed, the developer built “as-of-right,” that is as much as the zoning would allow.

“If the neighbors had only been able to see the project from the developer’s viewpoint, they may have realized that taking an absolute position — opposition — was a risky strategy and that was not necessarily in their own best interests,” Brown wrote.

Later, he notes that developers tend to be thick skinned and “won’t be going away after one hostile meeting.

Amanda Janzen at the Humphrey panel.
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Amanda Janzen at the Humphrey panel.

“Remember, he knows his rights, and … he may be low on the ‘agreeableness’ trait so it is hard to hurt his feelings,” Brown wrote.

Amanda Janzen, a project manager for Twin Cities development company Schafer Richardson, said sometimes development decisions are driven by those who are financing a project. A developer might be willing to build a project with less parking, she said. Banks, however, often want more parking for fear that less could restrict sales or leasing. Brown said the people financing a development usually have more interest in the interiors than the exteriors. The interiors — size, design, utility — are what command the prices and rents that determine profitability.

Exteriors? That’s where neighbors and politicians focus more of their eyes because that’s what they will see everyday. “The developer has to figure out a way to have the inside and the outside come together in something that works for everybody,” Brown said.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/06/2016 - 04:30 pm.

    Well done

    A good piece, Mr. Callaghan. Having been a planning commissioner for a number of years in two different communities, I’ve seen the process close up in several different contexts.

    “Thick-skinned” seems an apt term to describe most developers. Some are more public-spirited than others, but in the end developers are capitalists, just like their investors, so they really DO have a “bottom line,” and will often make significant changes if those changes don’t jeopardize the project’s profitability. They’re not in this for recreation or good vibes from the neighborhood association, however, though they certainly like it on those rare occasions when virtually everyone at the public meeting thinks they have a great project. They want to make money, so some changes can be fairly easily accommodated, while others simply can’t be done and still maintain the profitability that investors demand, and usually there are others somewhere in between.

    I actually encountered a developer in Colorado who had a functioning conscience, and went out of his way to build affordable, workforce housing whenever he could.

    I also encountered a developer who unashamedly lied to a city council about his project, and, when he was questioned about it at a later date by the same city council, freely admitted that he’d lied in order to get the project approved. The city council in question voted 8-1 to approve his project anyway. A few of those same people are still on that same city council, so sometimes, if citizens are looking for “bad guys” in the process, it doesn’t hurt to look beyond the developer.

    One item that – in my humble opinion – is a key factor in any sort of development disagreement, but that is almost never addressed publicly by city councils or in any form by citizens in a manner that would correct some of the more egregious flaws in the process, is ZONING. Far more often than not, by the time local citizens, whether individuals or neighborhood groups, find out about a project and identify factors they don’t like, the basic decisions (e.g., “Can this project be built legally?”) have already been made, and protests at city council meetings, while they get plenty of media attention, don’t usually do much to change the outcome because, to use the farmer’s cliché, the horse has already left the barn.

    It’s ZONING that permits the 20-story building when neighbors would much prefer 8 stories. Or maybe only 3 or 4 stories – the “missing middle” in a previous MinnPost column. Given the price of urban land, not just downtown, but in the ‘burbs, as well, developers and residents are often at odds because developers want as many dwelling units (“DUs”) as possible in a given space, so they can make money on the project and still hold costs down. The more DUs sold, the better the bottom line. On the other hand, nearly a century of propaganda and example from builders and realtors has convinced many Americans that the only sane way to live is in single-family detached housing on a big lot, or, in the condo setting, the bigger the space, the better. Very different visions for what seems desirable are bound to create friction and, occasionally, hostility.

    Homeowners, in particular, are almost pathologically conservative when it comes to change taking place in their own neighborhoods. They’re often far less concerned about change in someone else’s neighborhood, a double standard that many simply don’t think applies to them, though the evidence suggests otherwise. There are acronyms galore to describe various kinds of opposition to development projects (NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard; OMDB – Over My Dead Body; BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything, etc.). No matter what it’s called, community activists would be spending their time and energy far more productively if they worked at changing zoning codes (beginning with educating the public about what those zoning codes are, and where/how they’re applied) for the city in which they lived rather than organizing protests at city council meetings, which will generate plenty of hard feelings, but little if any satisfaction.

  2. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 04/06/2016 - 09:16 pm.

    Real estate development

    In the end the developer is going to take whatever money he/she makes a leave. The folks who live nearby are going to live with the project for at least a generation.

    It is absolutely imperative that locals follow the proceedings closely, right from the start and make their voices heard. Of course providing better alternatives is good, but as a local resident we may not have much technical knowledge, however citizens should expect that local officials will listen carefully to their concerns and carry them forward to the development review process.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/07/2016 - 08:26 am.

    One more thing

    I don’t know anything about how the development process works in St. Paul, or in the surrounding ‘burbs, large or small, but there’s one little detail in Minneapolis that works against the sort of citizen engagement that Tom Anderson described in his comment. In the Colorado cities where I was a planning commissioner, meetings were held in the evening, usually starting at 6:30 or 7:00 PM. While hardly ideal from the standpoint of someone just getting home from work, then having to get right back in the saddle, so to speak, and go to a planning commission meeting (not usually the most exciting way to spend an evening), either as commissioner or member of the audience, having the meetings in the evening at least allowed for a significant degree of citizen involvement if those citizens were willing to make the effort.

    That’s not the case in Minneapolis, where the planning commission meets at 4:30 PM on Monday afternoons. That’s just a normal part of the work day for developers and construction industry representatives, for whom it IS part of their work day, but it’s a time virtually impossible for most ordinary citizens to meet without taking (usually unpaid) time off from work just to attend. This very much, and very obviously, works against citizen participation in the process.

    Developers don’t mind having meetings at a time when most citizens cannot attend, since much “citizen participation” tends to be negative. As Mr. Anderson implies, and my experience confirms, home owners tend to be quite conservative about development in their own neighborhoods, and having meetings when they can’t attend is a benign-appearing, but efficient, way to minimize the presence of NIMBY, OMDB, BANANA and other critics of a given project.

  4. Submitted by Kenneth Peterson on 04/07/2016 - 08:40 am.

    Require Licensing For Developers – And City Planners

    I would be very interested in the opinions of this panel regarding the destruction of perfectly good housing stock which have both character and stability, only to be replaced with bland, unoriginal, and boxy apartment buildings which have neither character NOR stability. These behemoths – sold to the planning commission as “Affordable Housing” – are destroying our neighborhoods, and are far from affordable. A recent example, the Motiv Apartments, exists only for the developer’s successful deal-making with the City Council and Planning Commission, destroyed two century old houses (one that was, arguably, an historic structure) and now sits 74% vacant over a year after completion. The rent on a 566 square foot 1 BR unit is $1,195 and rises to $2,195 for a 907 square foot 2BR. This structure displaced more than 20 residents, most of which resided in the “rooming houses” for decades and paid barely half the price in rent. These residents were living in a space that was both affordable and comfortable and were forced to other properties which they can now barely afford. There are several examples of just such promises of the development of “affordable housing” – two words which developers, politicians and planners LOVE to use to score points with the public – until they are ultimately caught in the lie) in The Wedge/Lowry Hill East alone. These developments have the effect of raising property taxes in the neighborhood which in turn raise the cost of rent, forcing lifelong residents out of the neighbourhood. The article states that “Developers don’t go to developer school”, and “there’s no government certification or license for developers.” Maybe we should start with creating just such animals and requiring all developers to be licensed at the City level before they allowed to even present a proposal to the Planning Commission. In addition, the members of the Planning Commission should ALSO be required to fulfil the same requirements prior to hearing such proposals. Admittedly, such requirements would create a backlog in development until all could get up to speed but I would submit that this would not necessarily be a bad thing. I would also suggest that these consist of multiple courses on Ethics and Community Awareness. Unfortunately, even these requirements may come too late to save our neighborhoods from these invasive, predatory and absentee landlords and developers.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/07/2016 - 12:15 pm.


      There’s nothing affordable about the Motive apartments. If the claim was that they were going to be affordable, that was a blatant lie. I would be curious as to whether the number of current residents meets or exceeds the number that was there previously.

      • Submitted by Kenneth Peterson on 04/07/2016 - 10:00 pm.

        Negative Population

        As of yesterday afternoon there were 31 units available of 42 total. This means 9 are currently occupied but, as 1 unit is used by management this is a total of 8. Using an average of 2 persons/unit (although I would guess it is somewhat less than this) there would be about 16 people occupying the building. The rooming houses had about 2 dozen residents so this is still a loss of at least 8.

  5. Submitted by Joseph Hoover on 04/07/2016 - 12:06 pm.

    It’s what isn’t being discussed that is the real problem.

    Development problems usually come at the policy level. If it is policy to over concentrate low-income affordable housing, sober-housing, group homes in certain neighborhoods that are poor, while “sparing” wealthy neighborhoods by creating policies (Metro Council) and funding opportunities (MHFA), as well as neighborhood training which directs those developments away from them (Corridor Development Initiative), then that is the real problem. Zoning for 20 stories? Use of cheap exterior panels over brick or higher quality materials? Then that is a policy issue, but what wasn’t talked about is how development companies often lobby for those type of changes, which sometimes may have good, but also have very negative impacts on neighborhoods.

    Also, the use of “NIMBY” is overused, and often lacks sufficient depth in discussing real issues. Are you going to call a poor neighborhood of immigrants fighting the construction of a garbage burner near their homes NIMBYs?
    “NIMBY” is often used by developers and officials who often don’t want any discussion at all and find it is a great way to limit or end a discussion.

  6. Submitted by Michael Studer on 04/07/2016 - 12:30 pm.

    What Activists DO UNDERSTAND about neighborhood development

    Let me take you back to a simpler time. A time when, in the Lake & Hennepin neighborhood, one could have the Thursday Lunch Special, a huge bowl of Split Pea Soup with chunks of ham that filled your spoon, served with a homemade crusty hard roll for $1 at the Rainbow Cafe.

    After that, one could walk over to the Uptown Bowl and roll a frame or two to work off the lunch. If you needed some household repair supplies Bob Harris, at Harris Hardware would check you out at the register. Orr Books gave you insightful reading material, Snyder’s Drug was for there for rubbing alcohol. If you needed a high end fur garment, or leather goods you got it at Schlamp’s. The Suburban World and Uptown Theater gave you movies in beautiful venues.

    I could go on and on listing all the wonderful human scale storefronts that lined both sides of the Uptown intersections. It was a thriving, essentially sustainable community, having proudly differentiated itself from Down Town for many years. For a comparison the architecture and design elements of NE Minneapolis, Central & Hennepin Ave are slightly remindful of old Uptown.

    And then, one day, a dark looming figure appeared on the scene. Ray Harris managed to secure, through the Uptown Business Men’s Association, a $10,000 Community Development Block Grant (the hypocrisy of Capitalism using Socialism dollars) to fund the exploration of the vacated Calhoun School site. That was the start for redevelopment of Uptown.

    The Library needed a new building, the Park Board wanted a new Community Center, the Police and Fire Departments needed new buildings. City Planners wanted all these community services on the Calhoun School Site.

    The community was asked to vote on where they thought these entities should be located. Four locations were established that were off the school site. Ten location options were scattered around the Calhoun School site. The votes were tallied. As a whole, the Calhoun School site received over 70% of the votes, but this vote was watered down by the 10 locations on the site. Out of the 14 sites, the highest vote went to where the current Library is located. So much for the communities involvement in a rigged election. The combined project was for the library to be adjoined to the proposed Park Board Community Center and the new federally mandated Title IX gym (current YWCA) that was imposed on the soon to be doomed and torn down West High School.

    Thus, this decision forced the Minneapolis Park Board to build a Community Center spanning the railroad tracks. Community opposition to this nonsense reached such a fury that the Park Board was able to back out of any Uptown redevelopment projects. In a grander scheme, much of the proposed taxpayer supported Uptown Business Men’s Sports Club went back to the drawing boards.

    And this brings us back to Ray Harris’s influence; over the course of time he convinced the Uptown Biz Guy’s to extend and advance the school site development in to what eventually became Calhoun Square. The rational being that Uptown needed to be more upscale like the development at 50th & France (a completely different demographic, mind you.) After months of community opposition the forces of development won the battle.

    The tear down of a once walkable, human scale, urban shopping area began. What replaced it was lauded as a revitalizing success. But the lauding was short lived. The novelty of an urban neighborhood indoor friendly shopping center wore off, the competition from other entertainment and shopping developments (Riverplace and Mall of America) sealed the fate of Calhoun Square. The outside the neighborhood crowds went elsewhere and the bloated Calhoun Square project found it could not survive with out them.

    With this demographic change Calhoun Square foundered and struggled; time and again changing its entertainment, shopping mix, traffic patterns. Trying to regain it first years of glory it continues to remain empty and desolate, a remnant of its former self.

    Two significant changes resulted from this foray by Ray Harris in trying to create a Suburban Shopping Center in an already thriving Urban neighborhood.

    The first was his achieving “golden boy” status among developers in the city, thus giving him inside track to “revitalize” another sustainable shopping/entertainment area: downtown’s Block E. Which he promptly tore down and, as if there is such a thing as comeuppance, promptly sat as a vacant parking lot for the next 15 years. But, then, Block E is another entirely different story. But, initiated by one Ray Harris, and don’t you forget his work on Plymouth Ave and Sears, either.

    The second was the spawning of the implosion of what was left of the walkable, human scale elements of Uptown and the resulting explosion of the Lagoon Avenue entertainment complex that for the most part has no human scale elements remaining.

    Having visited Cambridge MA and Providence RI last summer I was reminded of how charming and liveable my pre Ray Harris days of living in Uptown were. How remarkable it was to see the small shops and long history of their existence being posted on their windows and doors.

    Sure developers see the upside and then do strong upside selling to the movers and shakers to support their upside vision, but the few times I visit Uptown these days, whenever I see that mausoleum of a Victoria’s Secret squatting on the corner, I do long for the Pam Sherman Bakeries, the Shakti Shoes, the Uptown Bowl’s and the Orr Books of the old Uptown, because in reflection I still don’t see what the Ray Harris upside vision gained for Uptown; selling the human scale old neighborhood out to evolve into the upscale restaurant / entertainment complex of today.

    Michael Studer, Community Organizer, founder, President, Mall, Lagoon, Lake Neighborhood Association, Uptown resident 1974 – 1984

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/08/2016 - 02:04 am.

      Excellent Retrospective

      I lived just two blocks off the Snyder Block intersection 1971-73, just prior to your arrival. This was just before the district hit bottom with Snyder’s closing and West High demolition (could never believe they did that). The area was truly as you describe here, somewhat seedy but still functioning as a safe neighborhood with good shops and services…perfect urban living. Over the years I have watched the results of retail re-invigoration: lots of food and drink and new good shops.

      Traffic is totally nuts anytime now, forcing a fairly sane driver to welcome a Friday night lobotomy before that encounter. I see lots of bicycles (gotta have one to get anywhere now) and many sidewalkers.

      The neighborhood has changed, but remains occupied by many young residents who want to live in the City, as so many of us did “back in the day.” Someday, their memories of Uptown will be just as sweet as ours are of the old one, maybe more so.

      About 15 years ago, when my daughter was considering summer MBA internships out of Indiana University, she mentioned four friends on the course coming here, two to work downtown Saint Paul with the other two downtown Minneapolis. All four wanted to live in Uptown Minneapolis, without compromise, so they did.

      I figured right then that if “our” Uptown was known as far away as Bloomington, Indiana, it must truly have become a very big deal.

      These days I drive through the district a few times each year, and only on weekday afternoons, when it is possible to make a left turn on the first light…usually. It took about 40 years for what currently appears to be new stability to take hold with a completely new kind of crowd.

      Other than new stores and patrons, the most telling change I noted last summer is airplane traffic over the lakes. In the early ’70s I timed Friday afternoon incoming traffic every 5 minutes—now it’s about every 15 seconds on that given Friday afternoon.

      [You will enjoy knowing we rented a large two-bedroom, 1920s front-to-back furnished apartment on Holmes at 32nd for $125 per month, steam heat included with one garage. It was a great deal even in 1971 by about $15/mo. A young woman I know recently moved with two friends into a similar unit just down that block at 31st, for $2,100+ per month. She bought a bike first thing, too.]

  7. Submitted by Constance Pepin on 04/07/2016 - 03:39 pm.

    Saying it doesn’t make it so

    Another one-sided and disappointing article that promotes one viewpoint rather than report on opposing viewpoints. Peter Brown may be arrogant enough to claim that he can wear “both hats on the same day” but this article does nothing to demonstrate that Brown has ever truly been on the side of activists or can claim to know how activists think. And why bother, when activists are stereotyped as being against change and quick to move “toward blanket opposition.” What about blanket opposition to activists? Developers are more about profits than change, and those profits often come at the expense of residents whose neighborhoods are exploited and changed in ways that don’t benefit residents. Again, if Peter Callaghan were a serious journalist, he would have reached out to real activists, not just bought Peter Brown’s assertion that he has been on “both sides of the table.” Such an important topic, reduced to a book review that glorifies developers and adds nothing to the important conversation of ensuring that growth in Minneapolis does not obliterate neighborhoods.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 04/07/2016 - 04:49 pm.

    There goes the neighborhood…

    This is a most definitive story by a gathering of urban development planners, architects academe signifying nothing, more than same old rational in a nice setting?

    The good and the bad and the ugly are laid out with all the labels perpetuated by both sides and it is all most easy to understand, yes indeed.

    Yet humans like those citizens so involved by change… whether it be positive and negative affirmations affecting them… they become mere stick people on a drawing board in the gathered discussion?

    Maybe if developers came in bottles carefully labeled “Toxic Sip One Gulp At A Time Slowly ” and planners would heed the warning. Then too, citizens in neighborhoods so affected by change, positive or negative, need to be given more than a question and answer session, that rarely absorbs substantive change, if the city and planners have been sipping too much ahead of time?

    Development seems to be running rampant all over the place while potholes grow so big you could turn them into waterfront development?

    Then too, there is that great solution, tourism’? A quick solution again to build up our city coffers. …too often, there goes the neighborhood? At least recognize it happens often lately…so it goes

  9. Submitted by THOMAS REYNOLDS on 04/08/2016 - 09:55 pm.

    Real Estate & Community Development

    As a long time community developer both sides of the issue around real estate development and neighborhoods are very well expressed. After nearly 35 years of working in this field, I have come to the opinion that all of the parties involved are at odds with one another and it amazing that any progress is made. Public policy and governing boards are always looking for ways to improve the neighborhoods and communities in which they live or oversee. The developer is looking at how they can take advantage of neglected or opportunity real estate to make a profit and income. The neighborhood is looking to improve its livability quotient. The governing body has set up a series of zoning regulations that may or may not be appropriate for the neighborhood but is desirable from the standpoint of new taxes and job production. The developer is counting on these rules and regulations as it designs its development. Often a variance or conditional use permit is needed to maximize profit or make the development feasible. The neighborhood wants any project not to have any impact on the neighborhood other than to provide a few amenities for their use, eliminate criminal activity, and not to disturb their normal routines. There are two types of developers big and small… the smaller is willing to bend to the point of breaking to accommodate both the governing and neighborhood associations at its detriment. The larger will use its substantial wealth and influence to fight the governing body and/or lobby them for whatever is needed to make the project go forward. The neighborhood concerns are only relevant for the political needs of the governing body. In Minneapolis the cost of any development is 20% greater than in surrounding suburbs do to the cumbersome process of moving through neighborhoods, planning commissions, and city council.

    • Submitted by Constance Pepin on 04/10/2016 - 10:29 am.

      A book and book review biased in favor of developers

      Even the title of the book (“How Developers Think”) reflects the bias of the author in favor of developers. As well as his motivation for writing the book (“to put flesh on the bones of developers”). As well as unfairly and inaccurately stereotyping neighborhood activists as opposing change and wanting to “close the drawbridge.” As well as his focus on giving advice to neighbors, but not to developers on working with neighbors. What about a section encouraging developers to consider the scale and character of the neighborhoods they seek to exploit for profit? How about some advice to developers about avoiding –rather than causing–“the destruction of perfectly good housing stock which have both character and stability, only to be replaced with bland, unoriginal, and boxy apartment buildings which have neither character NOR stability.” (as stated in a previous comment)

      Neighborhood activists who oppose developments are not opposed to change, but to the City’s willingness to bend the rules in order to allow developers to build whatever they want wherever they want, even when projects are clearly inconsistent with small area plans and the intent of the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan for “smart growth” that protects neighborhood character. In the current climate, developers run rampant over neighbors and obliterate neighborhoods in the process. Did the author of the article do any due diligence by talking with neighborhood activists for this book review? It seems not, because his affinity with developers (like the book’s author) took precedence over journalism.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/11/2016 - 08:27 am.

      New Downtown Edina

      Seems to have succeeded in its re-invigoration of new shops and new multi-housing, etc. There was much “planning” division there, was there not?

  10. Submitted by Lola Santana on 04/11/2016 - 11:30 am.

    meanwhile lowrise apartments are crappy

    I cannot even believe the opposition to the Moxy Uptown and The Nye Hi-rise….
    Mediocre MLPS will get crappy buildings just like Atlanta:

    Metro Atlanta has become the nation’s second-hottest apartment market (Brooklyn is No. 1) and developers are rushing to meet the shelter needs of all those new folks moving to town. A relatively new housing product called the “five-over-one” is becoming the new apartment standard in hot metro neighborhoods across the nation.

    You’ll see more of these human terrariums popping up in areas where people want to live-work-play — like the Beltline, Atlanta’s northwest side and a few northern ‘burbs. The style is five stories of wood-framed construction over a concrete podium slab. Downstairs, you have the coffee shops, eateries and parking, while upstairs developers can stack five floors of Millennials paying $1,500-and-up per keyhole.

    As with anything, the buildings provide a certain utility and ubiquity, bordering on numbing similarity. The architects dress them up with brick facades, painted siding, cantilevers, stucco and micro-decks where residents can catch a breath of city air and stash their bikes.

    But after a while they start to seem the same, even in their stabs at individuality.

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