Garfield lot priorities: affordable housing, parking

Oct. 8 open house
Residents gather at an Oct. 8 open house soliciting feedback on a city-owned parking lot slated for redevelopment in LynLake. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

As Minneapolis prepares to sell a city-owned surface parking lot in LynLake for redevelopment, planners are trying to balance public support for affordable housing with local businesses’ desire for public parking. 

The city is preparing to sell a one-acre, 114-space surface parking lot it owns at Lake & Garfield, behind the Jungle Theater, and it will be able to dictate certain requirements for any new development project. 

“It’s a big opportunity for us in a part of Ward 10 and Minneapolis that’s really changing,” City Council President Lisa Bender said at an Oct. 8 open house. Bender said the principal consideration will be creating a space that’s useful in the future. 

Originally, the city had planned to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the project in late September but decided to hold off longer to solicit more feedback from residents, according to community planning and economic development (CPED) director David Frank. The RFP is now likely to be issued in early 2020.

Based on city policies regarding land sales, any residential redevelopment on the site would be required to reserve 20% of its units for affordable housing. Interest in adding more affordable units is high, according to early survey work and feedback received at the Oct. 8 open house. City policy requires the land to be sold for fair market value.

Minneapolis planners have been meeting with the Lowry Hill East, Lyndale, South Uptown and Whittier neighborhood organizations and local business groups about the RFP process and they will hold an additional open house in November, Frank said. The feedback will help the city determine “development objectives” for the site, which will influence the requirements that are put into the RFP. In addition to requirements, the city can also include recommendations to try to incentivize developers to incorporate preferred design elements into their proposals, Frank said.

Once proposals are received, CPED staff will review plans and make a recommendation to the City Council. The City Council ultimately has authority on what requirements are included in the RFP and which proposal is selected.

As part of the RFP, the city also plans to sell a smaller, 5,000-square-foot surface parking lot on the other side of Lyndale, between The Herkimer and the James Ballentine Uptown VFW. Developers will have the option to submit proposals for both sites together or for either of the two sites, according to CPED.

Oct. 8 open house

Frank said a big question for the Garfield lot is: How much parking should be required in the RFP?

The area is zoned as a “Corridor 6, Community Mixed Use” space by the Minneapolis 2040 Plan, which calls for retail or office space at the street level topped by residential space and allows for heights up to six stories.

The Garfield lot was developed in 1998, when the city and the LynLake Business Association came together to acquire parcels to support parking for local businesses. Businesses in the area helped pay for the lot through 20 years of special assessments, for which the final payment was made in 2018.

“I’m still hopeful that the outcome will be a positive for the LynLake small business community,” said Morgan Luzier, who co-owns Balance Fitness Studios.

Luzier is part of the LynLake Parking Committee, which was formed by the city when the lot was built in 1998. The committee has put forth plans for the space that seek unique architectural design, a mix of commercial and residential properties and public space for pedestrians to walk through. The group commissioned a study last year to better understand parking use in LynLake. 

Given the size of the Garfield lot, two buildings could be possible on the site, said Minneapolis senior planner Peter Crandall. A big question is if public parking would be below ground or at grade.

“I think the city looks at this as a really good housing density opportunity,” Crandall said, noting the lot’s proximity to frequent transit service and the Midtown Greenway.

It’s possible the RFP will include a requirement or recommendation to incorporate public space into the design. The lot has been considered as a potential parkland acquisition for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Nate Broadbridge, a member of the Whittier Alliance’s housing issues committee and co-owner of LynLake-based SK Coffee, said affordable housing should be a top priority for the Garfield lot, but added it would be good to have public realm elements and a direct connection to the Midtown Greenway.

Shaping the requirements and recommendations of the RFP is a priority for those who have invested time and money in the lot over the years.

“It took us 20 years to get to this point and whatever goes here will be here for another 100,” Luzier said.