The case for Linden Corner

You’ve likely heard of Linden Corner — our proposed redevelopment in Linden Hills. We’d like to share why we feel this project will be a great fit for the neighborhood and the city.

Since its beginnings as the final stop on the streetcar line from downtown, the Linden Hills business district has evolved into a fun destination for visitors and area residents alike. The success of the district is important to the health of the neighborhood. Because most Linden Hills businesses receive more than half of their sales from visitors, we are motivated to ensure this business node remains a welcoming and inclusive place.  

The northwest corner of 43rd & Upton offers an important opportunity to rejuvenate the business district with a mix of new housing and commerce. The site is currently underutilized, run down and contaminated. Developers have eyed this site for the 10 years. Whether by our team or another, it will be developed soon. The redevelopment of this corner is best led by a design-development group of neighbors and local business owners.

I grew up in southwest Minneapolis and moved to Linden Hills 19 years ago. The proximity to the city lakes brought me here. The schools, parks and business district have kept me here. Six years ago, out of love for our city and for small local business, I became volunteer head of the Linden Hills Business Association. Our members work together to help ensure a vibrant district in a changing world.

Four years ago, when developer interest in the corner site ebbed with the economy, I purchased development control and notified neighbors via the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) and the Southwest Journal. After interviewing many architect firms around town, I selected Linden Hills’ own TEA2 Architects — one of the Twin Cities’ best firms — to create a vision for the corner. The design team also includes skilled landscape architects and engineers who live in Linden Hills.

To enhance Linden Corner’s local design, we’ve engaged in open, thorough and respectful public dialogue. Early project design was unveiled at the neighborhood festival in May 2011. Neighbors have provided constructive input through emails, meetings, and four well-organized design focus groups. Since the unveiling, our team has also met with the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council and its committees in 14 public meetings. LindenCorner.com continues to be a well-maintained resource for details about the project and the process.    

The result is a locally grown project designed to create neighborhood amenities; meet the needs of the marketplace; fit nicely in its surroundings; and —   provide economic benefit to our neighborhood and our city.

We value the role the business district plays in bringing us together. For this reason, Linden Corner will include these new amenities — a corner entryway with drinking fountains for people and pets; a restaurant with south facing outdoor patio; six new street front businesses and an office suite; an indoor commons area with public seating and displays of local art and history;  free public parking and lots of bike racks; widened sidewalks with many benches and gathering spaces set between trees and flowers; a public garden featuring a large circular bench, pergola, water feature, brick pavers and many plants and flowers. Painted wood storefronts will vary in size, color and signage.

Linden Hills needs exactly this type of quality housing.  A growing list of folks have expressed strong interest in living here. Half are from the neighborhood. Many are empty-nesters.

New businesses at Linden Corner will complement and add to the mix of small local businesses. No major chains need apply. Some of the activity lost with the relocation of the Linden Hills Co-op will be restored to 43rd & Upton. There is interest from local restaurant and local retail operators who want to open for business here.

Linden Corner also adheres to the intent of the zoning code and an in-depth traffic study concludes that car travel generated by the project will not be significant or “downgrade” nearby intersections. This is a very green project we hope to build to a LEED gold standard.  Located on a transit corridor, Linden Corner aligns nicely with the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan.

The 15-month construction of Linden Corner will create construction jobs. The new businesses will create jobs. And after redevelopment, the site will generate roughly $500,000 more per year in property taxes than it does now. The viability of an important small business district will be helped now and into the future.

And to set the record straight, I am not a “front person” for a large developer. In fact, I hope you’ll agree that the precedent we’ve set to this point is one that few outside developers could match.  

The project application is in the process of being considered by the city. Linden Corner is a local effort to ensure our neighborhood remains a welcoming, inclusive and successful part of our city. I hope you’ll support the vision.

Mark Dwyer is the project leader for Linden Corner and president of the Linden Hills Business Association.