For years, members of the LynLake community have been dreaming about the future of a city-owned parking lot on Garfield Avenue. Soon, they’ll have real plans to debate.
Minneapolis is preparing to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of a surface parking lot behind the Jungle Theater at Lake & Garfield, and local property owners who paid into the lot have big ideas for the space.
The 114-space Garfield lot was funded in 1998 by $2.3 million in bonds that were paid off by special assessments to local businesses, with the final bond payment made in December 2018. Now a group of local business owners wants to be heard as development approaches.
“The reason we deserve to be a part of this is because we have real skin in the game,” said Morgan Luzier, who co-owns Balance Fitness Studios.
The RFP will likely be issued in September, according to Rebecca Parrell, a senior project coordinator for the city of Minneapolis who is working on the project.
Parrell said planners are not ignoring the history of the investments made in the public lot by local businesses and said the group will have a different level of engagement throughout the process. Ultimately, the decision on what goes in and what doesn’t will be up to the City Council.
The LynLake Parking Committee — a group of local business owners and representatives from neighborhood groups and Minneapolis Public Works — envisions a unique architectural design with a mix of housing and commercial space, Luzier said. The group would like to see a mobility hub requirement in the RFP that brings in transit connections, bike share hubs and increased wayfinding for pedestrians and cyclists, and public parking to support the local business community.
They are advocating for a mid-block pedestrian cut-through from Lyndale to Garfield, where vehicles currently access the lot, to place art and other attractions that are open to the public. They’d like to see a community area, affordable retail space along Garfield Avenue, an extended 29th Street promenade and connections to the Midtown Greenway.
“LynLake is a great neighborhood but there’s no place to congregate that you don’t have to pay for,” Luzier said.
Much of what the redevelopment can become will be determined by zoning, Parrell said.
Currently, the lot is zoned as a C3A Community Activity Center District. The 2040 Comprehensive Plan, currently under review by the Metropolitan Council but likely to be adopted by the time this project goes through, zones the area as Corridor 6, Community Mixed Use, which calls for retail or office space at street level and hopes to draw pedestrian activity.
“There’s flexibility within those,” Parrell said.
The city will start presenting to neighborhood groups about the RFP in a meeting with the Whittier Alliance housing committee at 6:30 p.m. on July 16 at Black Forest Inn. Parrell said she is also setting up presentations with the Lyndale, Lowry Hill East and South Uptown neighborhood organizations.
“There’s a lot of opportunity there, given the nature of the parcel,” said Kaley Brown, executive director of the Whittier Alliance.
The lot itself is about an acre in size and includes nine individual parcels, according to Parrell. The city will have the land appraised to ensure it receives fair value from the development but will also be looking to meet city goals on green space, density and public realm interests.
“We are looking at more than just, ‘How much will you pay us?’” Parrell said.
A priority for the businesses that paid into the lot is maintaining public parking in the new development. How much parking that means is up for debate.
A recent study commissioned by the LynLake Parking Committee found an ample supply of parking in the area. It found that 64% of the 3,667 private and publicly owned parking spots in LynLake are in use at peak hours.
The Garfield lot contains 3% of the total parking in LynLake, according to the study. Even at peak parking times, the Garfield lot was not full, the study found. The lot is seen as critical to some local shops and venues, especially the Jungle Theater.
Fees paid by local businesses over the years have accumulated to about $300,000 in what is known as the LynLake trust fund. Originally the fund was supposed to be earmarked for parking improvements, but a political movement away from prioritizing cars makes that use unlikely, Luzier said. Now, the group is hoping to use those funds to beautify the area around the business district and the new development at the Garfield lot.
Any redevelopment on the lot will look to a similar project at 29th & Aldrich, where the city once owned a 50-space surface lot. The Aldrich parking lot was sold several years ago for development but includes 30 public, metered parking spaces in an underground parking garage. The business owners that invested in the Garfield lot have been told redevelopment will similarly include public parking, ideally with more wayfinding signage.
Parrell said the city will put a minimum and maximum public parking space requirement in the RFP, with the maximum likely to be around 100 spaces.
“Most of our adopted city policy veers toward fewer parking stalls,” she said.