Counterpoint: The case against Linden Corner

You’ve likely heard of Clancey’s — that’s my business. We’re an old-fashioned butcher shop and one of many small businesses lucky to call Linden Hills home.

I’ve been a member of the Linden Hills Business Association for the last six years and serve on its board of directors with Mark Dwyer, the Linden Corner developer. I believe his proposed five-story, 90,000 square foot development will harm existing neighborhood businesses and destroy the sense of community that is a hallmark of Linden Hills.  

That’s also my business.

Linden Hills is home to thousands of wonderful people and a destination for thousands more. Visitors are drawn to the unique pedestrian charm and quaintness of our still-untouched-by-major-development business district and seasonal celebrations. The success of the Linden Hills businesses comes as much from neighborhood support as from visitors who feel welcomed and included when they arrive.

Despite limited off-street parking and frequent overflow from Lake Harriet events, we’ve managed to remain a vibrant area by striking a delicate balance between the needs of residents and the needs of the business community.  

The low-rise apartments and two-story mixed-use buildings have established the scale and character by which future developments here must be judged. The city cites this in the zoning code and Linden Hills overlay, making sure that any requests for deviations from this standard don’t have negative impacts on neighbors, the neighborhood or neighboring businesses.  

Increasing the density of development is certainly part of our neighborhood’s future.  That’s not in dispute.

What is in dispute is this inexperienced developer’s request to ignore rules about building height to allow him to build five stories across five lots, shadowing the adjacent and nearby one and two story structures.  

What is in dispute is this developer’s request to allow for deliveries and trash removal for the complex to happen on the street, not behind or underneath the building.

What is in dispute is this developer’s request that the city take away our public space on the corner so he can build on it, and then allow him to replace it with an inferior street side space, not at all conducive to gathering.

The intersection of 43rd & Upton is the very heartbeat of Linden Hills, and the focal point for community spirit. This is not a transit corridor like Franklin & Nicollet, nor is it a retail hub like 50th & France; even there you won’t find a five-story mixed-use building.

This developer’s claim that there has been “open, thorough and respectful dialogue” regarding his proposal is misleading at best. Participants in the design focus groups he touts as evidence of his good faith efforts were told from the outset that the size and scale of the project were not negotiable. The truth is this has been a one-way conversation with no discussion of the real problems it will create.

For example, 40 upscale condos, a new restaurant and additional businesses would require more than the limited underground parking that is part of the proposal, forcing overflow parking onto already crowded neighborhood streets. Requests for permit parking are sure to follow.

Major construction will require at least 15 months of street closures, dirt piles, heavy equipment dust and noise. On average, a typical business can lose up to 30 percent of their traffic during a year of construction. The noise, debris and a significant loss of available parking will deter many who would otherwise come here to eat, drink and shop. This will surely leave many of our businesses vulnerable to a shaky timetable and potential delays. Even if there are only a few casualties, that’s a few too many.

The sheer magnitude of the proposed Linden Corner development would forever destroy the character and the scale of what many of us, including this developer, refer to as the “village.” This has become controversial because the proposed Linden Corner project is far outside this parcel’s zoning designation — a standard that many have spent countless hours creating in order to protect the neighborhood from exactly this sort of precedent-setting, irresponsible development.

This developer is determined to impose an over-sized and out-of-scale building to maximize his profit at the expense of our neighborhood’s character. There are already 2,000 petitions opposing the scale of this project. That’s a pretty clear signal that this development isn’t wanted.  

There’s certainly no evidence that it’s needed. And there’s every reason to believe it will do considerable harm.

There are responsible development and creative financing ideas out there that can keep Linden Hills vibrant for generations to come.   

Responsible development would honor the letter and spirit of the zoning code and the Linden Hills overlay. Linden Corner fails this test.

Kristin Tombers owns Clancey’s Meats & Fish at 4307 Upton Ave.