Changing Times

City growing faster than expected

The population of Minneapolis is growing at a significantly faster rate than earlier projections – planners now expect the city to swell above 466,000 residents by 2030, for an 18 percent increase over the last U.S. Census.

Downtown and Uptown are the growth leaders, accounting for much of the anticipated boom, although the Hiawatha Corridor also is expected to see significant development. Within 10 years, Downtown alone could add as many as 10,000 residents, primarily made up of empty nesters from the suburbs and young professionals.

The greater figures were revealed earlier this month, when the city’s Planning Department analyzed population and housing trends for use in applying for federal funds, including community development and transportation grants.

Although city officials anticipated growth in these areas for some time, the scale of increases surpassed expectations, said Judith Martin, director of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Studies Program and president of the Minneapolis Planning Commission.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, cities have been posting population gains largely because of immigration. Minneapolis is somewhat of an anomaly, Miller said, because most of the growth has occurred in metro areas with warmer climates.

The number of new housing units in Minneapolis also is expected to increase faster than previously forecast. By 2010, the city is expected to have an additional 17,000 housing units, with the bulk of those located Downtown. By 2020, city planners are projecting an additional 42,661 housing units. All told, the city’s housing stock is expected to jump from 168,629 units based on 2000 Census figures to 189,880 in 2010 – an 11 percent increase.

The obvious challenge for city leaders is preparing for this level of growth, particularly regarding its transportation infrastructure on already-congested Uptown and Downtown streets.

Minneapolis is heavily car-dependent compared to other major urban areas, Martin said, and although officials have been working to encourage use of public transportation and transit-oriented development, additional strategies will be required.

A plan for Uptown

Community groups, among others, have criticized the city for failing to develop a strategic plan before approving large-scale projects that will reshape the area. Planners will be crafting a small area plan for Uptown this year, but Pam Miner of the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development department admits, “We’re a little bit behind.”

Recent projects that have generated the most controversy include the 10-story condo and office complex slated to rise near Lagoon Cinema and the massive Calhoun Square expansion.

In June, the City Council approved the tower near Lagoon and Fremont avenues by Uptown developers Ackerberg Group and Financial Freedom Development. And against the wishes of many neighborhood residents, the Planning Commission in December approved the $75 million renovation of Calhoun Square. The Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) appealed the decision, and the City Council was to decide the fate of the project after this issue of the Southwest Journal went to press.

Residents and business leaders will be invited to weigh in on development patterns as city officials craft the Uptown plan.

“Basically, it’s a guided process where community members are asked for input,” Miner said.

City Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward), newly elected representative for the Uptown area, made creation of an Uptown master plan a campaign issue and has expressed concern over the dwindling availability of affordable housing as these trends are realized.

Downtown’s challenges

Development pressures are even more intense Downtown, where an estimated 6,000 units are in the pipeline.

Although the hurried pace of construction witnessed in recent years likely will slow, no one disputes that Downtown’s residential population has and will continue to grow much faster than anticipated.

At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census, Downtown was home to 9,000 residents; in the last five years, the population more than tripled to 30,000.

Downtown’s City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) supports development but said new projects must meet public safety and aesthetic standards.

“Specifically as more people move Downtown, we need to make sure development addresses livability issues,” Goodman said, “such as streetscape, lighting, greening and crime prevention by environmental design issues among others.”

 

Uncertainty remains for neighbors, retailers as Calhoun Square plans move forward

 

By Kari VanDerVeen

Sarah Dorman thought she had found the perfect location for her small silver and gemstones store, SaraCura Silver, when she set up shop in Calhoun Square almost seven years ago.

But after months of uncertainty surrounding the $75 million redevelopment project in the works for the Uptown shopping center at 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Dorman followed the lead of several other shops and closed her doors early this year.

“People are getting disillusioned with Calhoun Square,” Dorman said. Questions over rent rates and whether the shopping center would retain its eclectic local character went unanswered by Calhoun Square owner and developer, Solomon Real Estate, spurring her decision.

Dorman’s experience reflects the persistent uncertainty and anxiety among some storeowners and neighbors about how the redevelopment will alter the size and shape of the building and its surrounding neighborhood.

After the city’s Planning Commission approved the redevelopment plans at its Dec. 20 meeting, the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) appealed the decision at the Zoning and Planning Committee meeting Jan. 19. After listening to the group’s arguments that parts of the project don’t fit the character and scale of the neighborhood, the Zoning and Planning Committee opted to send the redevelopment plans to the City Council without recommendation. The City Council was expected to take action on the plan at its Jan. 27 meeting, after this issue of Southwest Journal went to press.

Aaron Rubenstein, chair of the CARAG Zoning Committee and the representative who presented the neighborhood’s appeal, said residents are especially concerned about how high-density housing and increased traffic will affect the area.

“We want to see Calhoun Square grow and succeed,” Rubenstein said. “It’s not doing well right now, and we understand it needs to grow. The question is where and how.”

The mainly two-story mall has housed mostly local stores since it opened in 1984. But foot traffic began falling off, and the shopping center now struggles to attract customers. Developers have said the goal is to increase the number of larger retailers to draw in more routine business. The renovation calls for the project to engulf an entire city block bounded by West Lake Street, Hennepin Avenue, West 31st Street and Girard Avenue South and half a block to the east. Several buildings will be demolished to make room for the expansion that will add an outdoor plaza, one and a half parking levels, two residential buildings containing 108 condominiums and a new skyway system. The residential buildings proposed for West 31st Street at Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street will have five and seven levels, respectively. Both towers exceed current zoning codes that limit area buildings to four levels.

Anne Knuth, leasing manager for Solomon Real Estate, said the completion date will depend on city approval but likely would be no sooner than 2008. The goal of the project is to bring more major retailers into the shopping center while maintaining the area’s unique atmosphere, she added.

“We want to take advantage of the Uptown neighborhood and the atmosphere here and infuse that with retail strength,” Knuth said.

But many store owners aren’t sure what the mall’s plans to bring in more major retailers will do to the locally owned shops. Some, like Dorman, have chosen to leave the shopping center. Uptown Traders, a women’s clothing store that occupied a space in Calhoun Square for 21 years, closed at the end of December. The store’s owner cited the fact that the shopping center will be in an unknown state of transition in the months ahead. The architecture and interior design store Redlurered, 3045 Hennepin Ave. S., also closed at the end of the year after its lease was bought out.

Ini Iyamba, president of the women’s boutique Ivy, said many small retailers feel in the dark about what the redevelopment will mean. He opened his boutique in Calhoun Square 11 months ago and hopes to stay, but attempts to get information about the redevelopment have yielded few results. Iyamba’s main concern is that the project will upset the established balance between locally owned shops and chain stores, which help draw in business but leave a niche for small stores.

“It’s truly a mix of those boutiques and independent stores that give Calhoun Square the uniqueness,” Iyamba said. “When we begin to neglect the boutiques that are in here, we neglect what Uptown is all about.”

Another owner of a small shop in Calhoun Square also questions his future there. He asked that his name and business not be printed because he is afraid that owners will refuse to renew his lease – up this spring – if he openly said anything negative about the redevelopment.

“I’m very concerned,” he said about what the redevelopment means for his store. “It causes me a lot of angst.”

But Erin Wambach, store manager at eyeDeals in Calhoun Square, blames storeowners for poor relationships with the shopping center. EyeDeals, which has been in the mall for 14 years, plans to expand its clinic as part of the redevelopment project.

“Some of the stores that are having bad relationships now have always had bad relationships,” Wambach said.

John McArdle, co-owner of ZRS Fossils and Gifts that opened four months ago, also said Solomon Real Estate has been upfront with him about the redevelopment plan and says a lack of information is natural during the approval process.

As soon as the City Council gives the developer the final go-ahead on its plans, Knuth said she will begin meeting with tenants to go over new leases.

“We haven’t been able to start solidifying the leases yet because the timing has been so open-ended,” she said.

Some spaces will be expanding and some tenants will relocate temporarily until construction is complete. She expects the headaches that come with construction to drive out more tenants, but that’s to be expected, during periods of transition.

“The vacancy rate will go up before it gets better,” Knuth said.

But Dorman said she’s not convinced that Calhoun Square owners understand what makes the shopping center and surrounding area unique – making claims that they will preserve the neighborhood’s character absurd: “They don’t understand Uptown in the least bit.”