MIA modifies expansion plans

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has offered a number of concessions in response to neighbors’ complaints about its planned 117,000-square-foot expansion. The MIA proposed lowering an atrium pavilion by 10 feet to reduce shadowing; paying for pedestrian lights and more and larger boulevard trees, and changing the loading dock design to reduce truck traffic.

Stevens Avenue neighbors — who have filed a formal appeal to the City Council to block the project as designed — still are not happy.

The MIA wants to move ahead; a spokeswoman said further delays mean higher costs. The MIA offered the 11th-hour design changes hoping to overcome the appeal, the final government hurdle.

The Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee voted Oct. 29 to forward the issue to the full Council without recommendation. The Council will discuss it Friday, Nov. 8.

Neighbors say the MIA still does not go far enough on the building’s size and proximity to their homes and parking and loading-dock problems.

The city Planning Department, Heritage Preservation Commission, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Planning Commission supported the MIA’s expansion.

The Whittier Alliance, a neighborhood group, supported the design, conditioned on addressing parking and traffic issues. It had asked the Council committee to delay action for a month for further discussions.

The Zoning committee agreed with the MIA’s proposed changes. But the committee failed to approve the package of changes after Councilmember Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward) offered an amendment to require the museum to design a drive-through loading dock. A drive-through would eliminate the awkward procedure of backing large trucks into parking bays.

The MIA said it could not accommodate the loding-dock change because the drive-through would ruin a historic facade. The committee did not support Zimmermann’s proposal, and he withheld his vote from the overall package.

Other MIA changes included:

  • Lowering a mid-block atrium from 75 feet tall to 65 feet tall.
  • Hiring a dock master so the loading dock runs more efficiently.
  • Reducing the two loading-dock curb cuts’ width by more than 12 feet.
  • Reducing truck traffic by changing trash pick-up from twice a week to twice a month.
  • Installing pedestrian-level historic streetlights on both sides of the 2400 block of Stevens Avenue and adding more and larger boulevard trees to the block’s east side.
  • Not opposing critical parking restrictions "on a suitable number of Stevens Avenue neighborhood residential block faces."
  • Changing valet parking, which as initially designed entered and exited onto Stevens. In the new plan, cars would turn off Stevens onto a fire lane and exit along a walking/driving path to 3rd Avenue. It would eliminate all queuing and half of the traffic movements on Stevens, the MIA said.


    Neighbors have said the city should not review the Institute’s design plans in isolation, but should consider the expansion of the College of Art and Design and Children’s Theater at the same time.

    The MIA also proposed a neighborhood-wide parking study, completed by July 1, 2003, after other approvals would be granted. It would have representatives from the MIA, MCAD, Children’s Theater and the Whittier Alliance.

    The proposal’s fate is unclear. The MIA said Mayor R.T. Rybak promised the city would staff the study. However, Zoning committee Chair Gary Schiff (9th Ward) said he was yet committing city resources.

    Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward) reiterated criticism that the MIA needed to involve immediate neighbors at the beginning of the design process, not the end.

    There have been two recent meetings between the sides.

    Paul Smith, one of the neighbors trying to get the design changed, expressed disappointment prior to the Council meeting that the two sides had not met more.

    Anne Marie Wagener, MIA director of communications, said meetings were left up to Zimmermann’s office.

    "It (the process) could go on forever," she said. "It is not as though we have our architects here, meeting with us around the clock. We have to schedule meetings. This is the best we can do. I think we have been more than accommodating, frankly."