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Slate decries NIMBYism in Mpls, calls for council to approve 6-story Dinkytown project

Dinkytown needs more density, Slate argues.
Dinkytown needs more density, Slate argues.

This morning, Slate's Matthew Yglesias put the Minneapolis City Council's zoning and planning committee on blast for voting against a proposed six-floor retail and apartment building in the heart of Dinkytown yesterday.

SEE ALSO: Slate says: "You should move to Minneapolis"

In a short piece entitled, "Minneapolis NIMBYs Threatening What Makes The City Great," Yglesias argues that in order for Minneapolis to be able to market itself as one of the premier cities in the country, officials need to allow more density in the urban core.

First, for some context, here's an excerpt from the Star Tribune's report about the zoning committee's 3-2 vote against the project (Council members Lisa Goodman, Cam Gordon, and Meg Tuthill voted against the proposal, with Gary Schiff and and Kevin Reich voting in favor), which was recommended for approval by city staff:

The project has spurred an aggressive campaign called "Save Dinkytown" to resist what some neighbors view as a threat to the small-business fabric of the neighborhood...

Council members expressed concerns about the potential high price of retail space in the new development and long-term implications that denser zoning would have in the area. [Including possible redevelopment of the iconic Al's Breakfast, which is just one property away from the proposed development]...

The decision and the preceding campaign to stop the project illustrate the fine line that city leaders must walk as they pursue more density outside of downtown, a key facet of City Hall's quest to grow Minneapolis' population.

And here's Yglesias's take on that vote:

[T]he last time I was in Minneapolis I had a good time hanging out at a couple of bars in Dinkytown. Dinkytown not only has a hilarious name but it's located adjacent to the University of Minnesota and across the river from downtown Minneapolis. That's a great location for an urban revival. Most people in the Minneapolis - St Paul area are going to want to live in the suburbs, which is where most people live in every American metropolitan area. But a thriving urban core is a great amenity for any metro area, and a centrally-located neighborhood like Dinkytown should be at the thriving core of your thriving core. So it's no surprise that there's interest in doing things like building a new six-story mixed-use apartment and retail structure in Dinkytown. Sadly, though, the proposed building has been blocked by local NIMBY types.

The Minneapolis area has great housing affordability compared to the major coastal metro areas since it's Midwestern location allows its suburbs to sprawl out and out quite easily. But Minnesota is very cold and in the long term it's hard to see how Minneapolis is going to compete on the basis of pure sprawliness with, say, Dallas. There's no reason MSP should ever become a particularly dense city by global standards (plenty of cheap land around) but Minneapolis does have the bones for a dense urban core around the CBD and the university and that should be a source of advantage. But it only works if you let people move in!

The zoning committee's vote is only a recommendation, and the Opus Development Dinkytown project will go before the full City Council next week for a vote that could shape the future of Dinkytown.

In the meantime, you might want to enjoy Al's flapjacks while you still can. It's the price of progress, Yglesias would say.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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