The news flashed across the I Love NE Minneapolis Facebook like a California wildfire: “They’re going to condemn my house, and I heard about it on Facebook!”
For more than a year, the neighborhood association Windom Park Citizens in Action (WPCiA) and its design group, Biko Associates, have been working on their Small Area Transportation Plan (SATP). This document is intended to provide direction for the neighborhood and the City of Minneapolis for the future on land use, zoning, transportation, parking, population and traffic density, and revitalization of the neighborhood’s commercial areas.
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, at a scheduled WPCiA meeting, a draft overview of the Small Area Transportation Plan was presented. The meeting drew a larger than usual number of residents, many of them upset over plans that suggested that their homes would be destroyed in the name of urban renewal.
WPCiA president Zachary Wefel admitted that the publication of examples of “Opportunity Sites,“ areas identified by Biko as those likely to change in the next one or two decades, were taken by some to assume that eminent domain might be employed to replace current housing. Wefel said, “The areas identified (especially the two sides of Johnson Street between 18th and 19th Avenues) were shown as part of a future vision; we don’t have the intention, or the power, to make those kind of changes.” He noted that areas with older housing stock were likely to be replaced in the future, inevitably, and that planning for that is in the neighborhood’s best interest. “Nothing is set in stone; we are looking at areas we expect to see change or we feel are
Opportunity sites involving businesses were identified. Another issue was the proposal to change all residential portions of the neighborhood to a minimum R3 zoning, defined as multiple-family district (medium density), which, Wefel noted, has the same height restriction (2-1/2 stories) as current zoning. “We have a lot of older homes that were grandfathered in. If there was large storm damage, many owners would not be able to be rebuild.”
Johnson Street was also the subject of traffic issues; 22nd Avenue NE is a “Safe Route to School” (SRTS), but the nearest traffic signal where Johnson intersects is at 23rd Avenue NE. Moving the signal one block south has been proposed.
Also, the volume of trucks on Johnson has not decreased with the completion of the nearby railroad overpass. Historically, traffic counts on Johnson are down, and the re-opening of 18th Avenue NE may help reduce them further, but Wefel pointed out the conundrum that complaints about the thoroughfare are about both speed and congestion.
What’s next? The plan will be updated for review at the WPCiA annual meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The Board of Directors election will also be held then.