Choosing neighborhood health over density

People who are surprised to hear criticism of development projects seem blind to the real concern about livability. The issue is not about whether more people are accommodated in the city (increased density), nor access to goods and services, nor any good thing to which supporters of unbridled development seek to turn the discussion. The issue is about scale and what limits on development are necessary to support the good things of a community — including the unique character of some rather fragile inner-city neighborhoods.

The city government should be protecting neighborhoods from a “bigger is better” mentality that stems from the drive for higher profit, not about what is good for the neighborhood. What sense does it make to destroy or damage the very thing that makes a neighborhood attractive? Even highly developed areas, like Uptown, cannot accept unrestricted development and retain the features that make the neighborhood unique and attractive.

Developers pay lip service and have community meetings, but they are only willing to make small changes that do not affect the bottom line much. If a development cannot make a profit within the bounds of what is healthy for a neighborhood, then it should not be approved.

This is where people, via organizing and protesting, can have a role.

People clearly differ in opinion about what is healthy for a neighborhood, but the concerns of the people who live there certainly are a valid part of that discussion. We need to have that discussion and not make it about development versus no development. I challenge defenders of development projects to identify what is too big for a specific location prior to simply defending a proposed development on vague ideological grounds like increased density.

Robert L. Jorczak
Linden Hills

  • Ben Osa

    Your post makes no mention of the economics of projects in Linden Hills (I assume intentionally). A small development is not feasible for developers when land costs are so high. Hence, your post is really against any development and quite misleading on your open mindedness.

    Reading similar articles of this type in SW Journal, one can easily see a generational divide from the anti-development, anti multi-family housing article authors.

    Robert, I wish you luck on keeping the multi-family tennant riff raff out of SW Minneapolis.

  • Sans Comedy

    So in other words, “Developers should take time to listen to us complain about everything and ultimately build nothing.”

    Also, how precious that you think one of the richest zip codes in Minneapolis is a “fragile” neighborhood. Not getting a rockstar parking space in front of Great Harvest doesn’t mean your neighborhood is suddenly in danger, FFS.

  • Hiawatha

    I keep hearing about how more people or buildings of four to six stories will “destroy” a neighborhood. Even a four story building designed by lauded St. Paul architects Snow/Krelish was opposed. What is never stated is the mechanism by which this destruction takes place. Surely it cannot be that the mere presence of such a building sucks all surrounding homes into it through its gravity?

    A thought occurs…

    Could it be that the reason behind this assumption of neighborhood destruction is never stated is because it amounts to prejudice against the less well-off? Could it be that these ostensibly progressive neighborhoods fear sharing their schools with minorities? Could it be that it’s not the building at all that will “destroy” the neighborhood, but rather the people who will live there?

    The only way we can know for sure is if development opponents are challenged to come out and explain their thinking about how, exactly, a few apartments will “destroy” their neighborhoods.

  • Adam Wysopal

    There seems to be a paradox regarding being against developers having a profit motivation while living in a neighborhood where houses start at $500k

  • amiller92

    Yes, the disagreement is what’s healthy for a neighborhood. Almost always, more neighbors is healthy. It’s what supports local businesses and the amenities that we all enjoy in our neighborhoods. It means more people and things closer together and thus a neighborhood that is inherently more walkable and less dependent on car trips.

    Of course there are limits, but to be honest, we don’t really see development proposals that push them. Take the proposal for 44th Street. It was right in line with other nearby buildings that have been there for decades. Ten stories would probably have been too much, but something like the buildings right up the street isn’t. It certainly wasn’t one story too tall – I’m not sure that’s a condition that can exist.

    I’m sympathetic, though, to the idea that it’s really hard to define what is or isn’t acceptable. We have zoning and overlays and guidelines, but those are really just the opinions of people in the past. Project-to-project, I think we all end up relying on a gut, which can make it hard to come to agreement.

  • mattaudio

    Personally I think more residents – and more housing – are healthier for neighborhoods. And that a neighborhood is livable when people are allowed to build housing for humans to actually live in.

  • Sans Comedy

    Pay for a study. Bring facts to the table. Define the qualities you feel are at risk with metrics, and bring data that forecasts how an action will change those metrics for the worse.

    We shouldn’t accept “I feel this way and that’s more important than reality” as an argument for anything anymore.

  • Jason Kloster

    uh, wrong neighborhood Sans Comedy, where is the Great Harvest in Uptown?FFS.

  • Jason Kloster

    319 units plus retail on the lower level. How many parking spots on site? 323. Traffic in the area could become a nightmare for local residents. The Mpls planning commission is planning on renters not owning cars….and how does one do that? Will there be a box to check on the renters application, indicating they don’t own a car?

    Lets imagine all the units are 1Bedroom Apts with two occupants, thats a quite an increase in the blocks current population.
    As far a filling the schools with minorities….they already are, and no one fears sharing their school with them.

  • Sans Comedy

    The author makes a passing mention of Uptown, but given the amount of vitriol any proposed development gets in Linden Hills, it’s clear he’s more concerned about how changing views of density are going to affect his backyard.

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