Community leaders start crafting Uptown plan

Vibrant, sustainable, safe, innovative, artful, green, diverse and sexy were a few of the of the words Uptown Small Area Plan Steering Committee members tossed out at their first meeting June 13 to describe what they want the area to be.

The committee will advise city staff involved in the development of a land-use plan for Uptown. Members will guide the planning process, give input on plan content, serve as a communication link between organizations they represent and the committee, and engage the public.

City Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward), representatives from the Hennepin Avenue and Uptown business associations and community members primarily from East Isles, Lowry Hill East, East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) and Calhoun Residents’ Action Group (CARAG) sit on the committee. Each of the four neighborhood organizations selected two delegates; Remington appointed six other members himself.

Creating a plan for Uptown, an area that’s been a hot spot for new developments in recent years, was one of Remington’s campaign promises.

“We’re going to establish something that will be city policy that’s unprecedented,” Remington said at the June 13 meeting. “It’s never been done before in this area.”

Figuring out the borders of Uptown was the focus of the first meeting.

The city’s recommended boundaries for the plan extend from 31st Street on the south to 28th Street on the north, Bryant Avenue on the east to Calhoun Parkway on the west. A corridor along Hennepin Avenue from 31st Street to Franklin Avenue was also included.

Several committee members had different ideas.

Lowry Hill East representative Sue Bode thought the boundary should go past Bryant Avenue on the east so the neighborhood wouldn’t be divided.

Steve Benson, also of Lowry Hill East, said Dupont Avenue should be the eastern boundary because of the change in businesses past that road. ECCO representative Tim Prinsen agreed with him, while CARAG representative Thatcher Imboden suggested making Colfax the boundary.

Imboden said he didn’t want the plan to become to large and unwieldy.

“I would rather narrow the geographic scope than narrow the content,” he said.

The length of the Hennepin corridor and whether to include it at all were also debated. Remington said the city ought to have a plan to deal with developers who might want to start building higher along Hennepin Avenue, instead of handling every development in a piecemeal manner.

East Isles representative Gabe Keller agreed.

“It will be a real lost opportunity if we don’t look at that area now,” he said.

Several committee members wanted to extend the Hennepin corridor to 36th Street because of commercial development in that area. A motion to recommend the extension to planners was passed.

Beginning the search for a consultant is the committee’s next order of business, said Amanda Arnold, principal planner for Minneapolis.

City staff will manage the consultant, who will create the small-area plan. Staff will choose the consultant after committee input.

The Uptown plan will take 12-18 months to develop and last for about 20 years, Arnold said. The plan cannot revert developments currently being constructed.

“We’ll look at what’s coming down the pike and try to work with it,” Arnold said, “but we can’t stop projects that are underway.”

Jake Weyer can be reached at 436-4367 and [email protected].