Tangletown torn over Creekside Commons

TANGLETOWN — Tangletown residents continue to battle over Creekside Commons, a proposed workforce housing development designed for the corner of 54th Street and Stevens Avenue.

The building would have 30 affordable units — including one apartment for a transitional refugee family — and 46 underground parking stalls. The proposed complex would be built on an overflow parking lot for Mayflower Church.

On Sept. 24, the Tangletown Neighborhood Association (TNA) held a special meeting to give neighbors a chance to voice their opinions of Creekside Commons. Lee Blons, executive director of the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation (PCNF), the nonprofit developer behind the plan, and Harry Kaiser, leader of the neighborhood group Minneapolis Residents for Smart Density (MRSD), presented their sides of the dispute and fielded questions from the roughly 200 neighbors in attendance.

“[Creekside Commons] will be an asset to the neighborhood,” said Blons. She pointed to the development’s green design, community areas, tenant screening process and high number of three- and four-bedroom units, which are hard to find in the neighborhood.

Kaiser countered that Creekside Commons would be too large for the area, increasing parking and traffic and leaving little outdoor space for children to play. He and his cohorts passed out postcards for neighbors to send to the city’s Planning Commission reading: “[This] development will adversely affect the safety, character and livability of Tangletown with regard to the impact of safety, parking and traffic issues.”

According to Kaiser, MRSD has the support of many people who live near the plan and several local businesses, such as Tangletown Gardens, Ace Hardware and Aqua City Plumbing.

Residents and business owners have expressed concerns about the effect that adding dozens of new neighbors could have on street parking. In a report released by PCNF, Traffic and Parking Services determined that an increased number of cars traveling and parking in the area wouldn’t have an effect on the neighborhood but that attendance growth at Mayflower Church could pose a problem.

“We’re pushing to get a parking study done that would be objective,” said
Kaiser, who lives across the street from the proposed project.

During an hour-long question-and-answer-and-comment time, many neighbors stood up to express their support or disapproval of the development.

“I do not think that this apartment building is going to be a negative impact on our neighborhood,” said Shirley, who has lived on Stevens Avenue since before I-35W was built.

Jennifer, a 10-year Tangletown resident, agreed, saying that diversity and openness is the biggest appeal of living in the neighborhood. She chalked the opposition’s worries up to “NIMBYism,” or Not In My Backyard.”

Some residents think Creekside Commons could be the beginning of more development. “What happens next time when it’s a group home for sex offenders they want to put in?” said neighbor Dwayne Evans. “[PCNF] is making a pot of gold off of this.”

Leah Kaiser, a member of MRSD, felt that adding more apartments in the area is a bad idea. “Homeownership is really the ticket out of poverty,” she said. “Give these people a home.”

For the past few months, PCNF and MRSD have been in talks about reducing the size of Creekside Commons.

Kaiser said that if building Habitat for Humanity homes were out of the question, his group would be OK with a project with fewer than 20 units. As a compromise, Blons said PCNF was willing to allow some market-rate apartments or reduce the number of total units. In the end, they decided to shrink their original proposal for 40 units down to the current 30-unit plan. Taking away even more units would drive up the cost of operations and public funding required per unit, Blons said.

PCNF will be applying for rezoning, conditional-use permits and variances from the city Planning Commission in late October. They’re hoping to get the land rezoned from single family to multifamily, removing the home currently sitting on the parcel. They also want an off-street parking variance that would allow their proposed 46 spaces to shrink to 27 on days when the church needs additional spots.

The TNA has sent a letter to the Planning Commission supporting the project in principle yet noting that a 30-unit building is still too large. They support all of the requested variances, rezoning and conditional-use permits except for the off-street parking variance. Windom Community Council is also in the process of drafting a letter, but they plan to further research city codes before forming an opinion.

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.