Second Ward, Minneapolis

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Dinkytown Moratorium Fails

At this morning's Council meeting, a motion to create a moratorium on development in Dinkytown failed on a 6-6 vote.  I voted for imposing the moratorium.

As I predicted when the Council was discussing the Opus project, our decision to grant the rezoning for Opus has been taken as a signal by the development community that it is open season in Dinkytown.  At least one additional developer has brought forward a project that will demolish existing commercial buildings and replace them with new student housing.  This development is on 4th Street, the heart of Dinkytown, one of the corridors that works very well today.  It is vibrant, pedestrian friendly, and home to an eclectic, welcoming mix of small, independent businesses.  By the time the Dinkytown small area plan is finished later this year, a substantial chunk of Dinkytown will already be slated for demolition, and I fear that the pattern will be set: the Council will support any and every redevelopment project a developer proposes.

It didn't have to be this way.  As I wrote in July, the Council could have voted to allow the Opus development but made clear that we were not signaling support for wholesale redevelopment of Dinkytown.  We could have adopted a moratorium at that time, and I think it would have been more likely to pass.  By not offering that compromise, those who are working to preserve Dinkytown and let the small area plan have some actual effect made a dangerous bet that, in the end, did not pay off.

During the Opus debate, I heard from at least a few Dinkytown stakeholders who supported the development.  This time, it seemed like every person I've heard from with an actual stake in Dinkytown has supported the moratorium.  The only opposition to the moratorium has come from a single private developer - who has not even made a formal application for his project.

This morning, the Council made clear that placating favored developers is more important to us than listening to the small business owners and others who are most impacted by development.  I will continue to fight to conserve the treasured character in this part of town but I no longer have much hope for the effectiveness of the Dinkytown plan - the Council seems to have already decided to allow this unique part of town to be demolished and replaced, if that's what will make money for private developers.


At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Erik M. said...

This time, it seemed like every person I've heard from with an actual stake in Dinkytown has supported the moratorium.

I live on 14th Ave SE a short walk from Dinkytown, and as a renter who likes walking, biking, and using public transit, I am very glad the moratorium failed. If you look around the Twin Cities metro, the state, and the country, I think you'll find that greater density means more pedestrian-friendliness, not less.

Meanwhile, independent, non-chain businesses will have more potential customers if more people live in the neighborhood. If having more housing units keeps rents down (not at the new developments, but the neighborhood average), we'll be able to spend more. There's no reason there can't be an eclectic mix of businesses post-development. Some of the incumbent business owners will thrive, some may be replaced by others, but there's no reason that Dinkytown must stay exactly the way it was in the 1960s and 1970s forever.

There also would have been a significant environmental downside to the moratorium, which would have caused a nonzero number of people to live farther from work or school, commute by car, and park near the U. These people don't know who they are yet and can't write to their future council members, but their interests should count as much as the "Save Dinkytown" groups lobbying against density.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at the demographics. Dinkytown and Minneapolis needs much more rental housing to satisfy the coming demand. Killing proposals like this for fear that some unhealthy greasy spoon or outdated dusty bookstore will "be next" isn't "progressive." It's conservativism of the worst kind. If council members are going to remain relevant, they need to embrace change.


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