Three areas of Northeast Minneapolis (and even more in North Minneapolis) are already in some stage of gentrification. Four out of 12 small area plans that city planners say don’t call for enough density or commercial area, are from Northeast neighborhoods.
These are just two of the many points featured in the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, and they’re not necessarily the most important, just specific to Northeast. Until recently, only a couple of the many engagement opportunities relating to the plan were held in Northeast; the council members and some neighborhood groups sponsored or are sponsoring some last opportunities before the July 22 public comment deadline.
The next is Thursday, June 28, 5:30-7 p.m. at ESNS, 1700 2nd St. NE, sponsored by Council Member Steve Fletcher and several neighborhood organizations.
Upon reading the entire plan (2040 or simply “plan,”) readers may conclude that the platoons of planners and engagers got it right. And in many cases, if there are push-backs or comments, read further and they’ll be acknowledged respectfully. The plan can be explored through the website Minneapolis2040.com. You can also download a PDF.
Whether you accept or disagree with how I see things, if you don’t think you have time to get through 265 pages, here’s what I found interesting or challenging. (Reading goes faster than you might think, there are lots of graphics, blank spaces and repeated text).
Equity is the primary lens. Many statements are made about directing resources to the areas most in need. The 2040 guidance is a departure from what we’ve worked with for 20 years. In the late 1980s the Neighborhood Revitalization Program also allocated some funds to parts of town that are not in need, or that could develop needs if not assisted to stay on the other side of the tipping point.
Density along transit corridors and near existing commerce centers and amenities: At a presentation to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, Heather Worthington, the city’s director of long range planning, addressed media reports that sounded the alarm that every neighborhood would have huge fourplexes popping up in every now-single-family neighborhoods. Only partly true; there is a kind of zoning suggested where small multifamily structures could be added, would have to stay within the height of existing buildings and could not be put on combined lots.
Worthington told the real estate group that 80 percent of the city’s blocks already have at least one multi-family residence, from duplex on up. “We’re not coloring way outside the lines here,” she said. And, as Fletcher pointed out at a recent Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce gathering, many blocks are already zoned for higher uses than they are built for now; that doesn’t mean they’ll become more dense, only if owners seek to, and market forces facilitate.
A recent Finance & Commerce article suggests that the apartment building craze might be softening, as rents are declining.
Higher density would be put along transit corridors especially near commerce centers (which would be encouraged to expand to meet demand). To really see the effect, compare the maps, which can be found on pages 54 through 74 of the PDF, or on the website under Maps: Future Land Use and Built Form. (See this Northeaster, page 10.)
Car is no longer king, but street grid should be restored: The plan calls for “complete neighborhoods” to help people reduce car trips, to be able to walk to get their basic needs. It suggests not having parking requirements throughout the city, and discouraging new gas stations, drive-throughs, and auto repair facilities in certain areas. It calls for any new parking ramps to be built such that they could be converted to other building types in the future, and for ramps to be hidden, at least at street level, by commercial uses that wrap around them to make them interesting to walk by.
The plan says too much of the street grid has been interrupted by buildings and natural barriers; future development should keep grid restoration in mind. Not necessarily a car-favoring contradiction, as it helps walkers as well.
Fossil fuel uses reduced: A 37 percent reduction in car trips is needed to reach environmental benchmarks. The plan also wants natural gas replaced with renewable sources.
Transit system: No small coincidence that the body that requires the plan also controls the buses and trains (Metropolitan Council). In the public comment section it’s acknowledged that people want east-west bus routes and options of north-south routes that don’t require going through downtown.
Neighborhood groups and business associations: Concerned about losing power relative to city government? The plan says the city will work through neighborhood organizations and city advisory committees, but doesn’t say how. The plan quotes survey statistics from 2016 saying nearly half of residents do not think they can influence decisions at city hall, and 30 percent said they did not have a voice. I believe this has degraded from about 8 years ago when NRP was winding down; and while the questions may have been worded differently, a study for the city in 2011 registers “wouldn’t change the result” as a reason for not engaging, for only 16 percent of those surveyed. See www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@ncr/documents/webcontent/convert_281153.pdf.
The plan mentions supporting business associations.
Commercial nodes: Not all that long ago, the city discouraged somewhat isolated commercial buildings by downzoning their land, making it tough to rebuild after a disaster, or to expand. The 2040 plan encourages more commercial spaces around certain commercial nodes (where demand exceeds supply) as well as transit corridors, and to preserve what’s there now.
Small area plans in alignment? Thirty-six neighborhoods or areas have done small area plans that the city has accepted since the last city comprehensive plan. 2040 planners reviewed them and highlighted points of differences. In most cases they stated that the discrepancies were in the way the density guidance was presented, lacking maps (but of similar effect), or were otherwise about the same. East Side plans in this category were from Above the Falls, Holland, Marcy Holmes, Nicollet Island East Bank, Sheridan, St. Anthony East and St. Anthony West. Areas where 2040 called for more density include Central Avenue, Audubon Park, Logan Park, and Lowry Northeast. The North Minneapolis Lowry Avenue plan wanted to limit commercial properties to certain nodes, and the 2040 plan would reverse that and extend the commercial.
The gentrification map: An illustration in the plan, provided by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs 2000-2015, shows Sheridan in the early stages of gentrification, Logan Park “mid” and St. Anthony East, St. Anthony West and Marcy Holmes in the late stages. 2040’s policy on housing displacement: Minimize the involuntary displacement of people of color, indigenous people and vulnerable populations, such as low-income households, the elderly and people with disabilities from their communities as neighborhoods grow and change.
Policies relating to historic preservation encourage involving indigenous residents, including those traditionally underrepresented, in decisions about what stays, goes, or gets documented. Watch www.MyNortheaster.com for more information on this and other comprehensive plan related topics.
The plan has six policies directly relating to the arts. The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District board will inform its constituents of the urgency of weighing in on the plan in those areas as well as the two kinds of “production” districts the Northeast City Council members point out as needing protection for artist studio spaces. (See the Northeast Arts Insights page 7 in this Northeaster.)
2040 explores a lot of topics the Metropolitan Council doesn’t directly ask for but makes the case that they’re all interconnected. Energy use, food access and protecting pollinators are just a few. For more on how the plan developed, see related article here.