Planning process for Uptown Small Area Plan gets underway

Uptown residents have long been vocal about the type of development they don't want to see in their neighborhoods.

But at a community meeting April 22 at Bryant Square Park, city leaders and area residents began working on a plan that will detail the type of land use and development they would like to see in Uptown.

The meeting served as the starting point for the Uptown Small Area Plan, a document that will outline the long-range vision for the area. Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward) is leading the effort to develop the plan along with new Southwest City Planner Amanda Arnold.

Remington told the more than 60 community members at the meeting - many of whom have loudly voiced their concerns with several high-profile developments in Uptown - that this is their chance to create a document that clearly states how they would like to see their corner of the city grow. He said he wants the creation of the plan to be a &#8220long, thorough, deliberative process” where &#8220everyone has a voice and every voice counts.”

&#8220This is the time for us to define what we're for, as opposed to what we're against,” Remington said, adding that the city is paying for personnel and other resources needed to complete the plan. &#8220This is our first chance to say what we think the community should look like.”

The purpose of small area plans, which have been created for a number of neighborhoods and corridors in the city, is to provide more detailed recommendations for the area than can be found in the city's comprehensive plan. The finished Uptown Small Area Plan will examine the current conditions of the area, develop a future vision of what residents want the neighborhood or area to become, and then formulate specific goals, objectives and policies that will help implement that vision.

Remington said in addition to periodic community meetings, a steering committee will be formed, and its members will give city officials input during the formation of the plan and advise them on how to interact with the community. The steering committee will include two representatives from each neighborhood in Uptown as well as representatives from business associations, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, the Midtown Community Works and other organizations. Remington will also appoint five committee members from areas of the community he feels are not already represented on the steering committee.

Arnold, who has been in her position just a few months, asked the community members at the meeting to start their work on the small area plan by getting together in small groups and outlining the area they believe should be defined as Uptown for the purpose of the plan.

But community members balked at defining Uptown's geographic area before they had the opportunity to discuss the goals and priorities they would like to see encompassed in the plan. In an exchange that was sometimes heated, several residents said they want to discuss overarching issues like the amount of growth the area is expected to absorb in coming years before going any further with the small area plan.

After the meeting, Remington said the frustration expressed by community members wasn't surprising.

&#8220I think we're seeing some baggage,” Remington said, adding that many community members feel their concerns and positions on development have been dismissed and ignored for some time. &#8220We have a new planner, a new councilmember and it's all about trusting and opening up and allowing the process to unfold.”

Things finally settled somewhat after community members reluctantly broke into small groups to discuss how they want to see Uptown geographically defined. Each group shared their thoughts on where the boundaries of Uptown should be. In general, the groups defined the area as being bound on the north by West 27th or 28th Street, east by Lyndale or Garfield Avenue, south by West 31st or 32nd Street and west by Lake Calhoun.

City officials plan to appoint a steering committee this month, and the next public meeting isn't scheduled until the end of August. But Arnold said she would consider holding another meeting to discuss the goals and priorities community members would like to see encompassed in the plan.

Uptown resident Jeff Rosenberg said the meeting had to potential to begin defining what residents want to see in the area, but it &#8220broke down.”

&#8220All we've had so far is discussion about what we don't want,” Rosenberg said. &#8220What do we like? What would we like to see the area become?”

Rosenberg created a website, www.uptownplan.com, that outlines steps for creating a positive plan for Uptown and where community members can participate in an online forum.

Arnold said the Uptown Small Area Plan will need to be adopted by the City Council before it becomes official, and she said there will be several more community meetings to get input on the plan.

&#8220This is not the end, by any means,” Arnold said. &#8220This is just barely the beginning.”

For more information on the plan and updates from the city, visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/planning/uptown-plan.asp.