Neighbors protest lack of parking in new townhouses

A rendering of new townhomes slated for 5605 Nicollet Ave. S. Submitted by Wells & Company Architects

Residents in Windom covered cars with blue tarps in early June to illustrate street parking they anticipate losing to townhomes slated for construction at 5605 Nicollet Ave. S.

Following the community protest, the developer applied for a city variance to approve its design for surface parking.*

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Submitted photo

Minneapolis city staff approved plans in March for the Granite Hearth Properties project, which includes six units with two bedrooms per unit.

The approved design has no off-street parking. That complies with new city rules passed last summer that introduced zero minimum parking requirements for new residential projects of 50 units or less located within a quarter-mile of frequent bus service or a half-mile from rail.

City staff said that in this case, the developer’s design for surface parking doesn’t have an adequate drive aisle.

Architect William Wells said he doesn’t agree with that determination. An application for a variance to allow two, three or four parking spaces goes before the city Planning Commission on July 18, he said.

“We’re not looking for an exception to the rule,” he said. “We’re challenging zoning staff’s interpretation of the rule.”

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Submitted photo

Jeff Larson is an attorney who works on immigration law next door to the development. He said street parking is a “finite resource.” Biking isn’t realistic in wintertime, he said, and bus service on Nicollet isn’t adequate to meet the needs of most residents who travel through the metro.

“We’re not that kind of city yet,” he said.

Larson’s office was previously located in Uptown, where he said parking became increasingly difficult. A brochure circulated in the neighborhood said neighbors are not anti-development, but they want to “illustrate the adverse effects of the lopsided use of public space by a single-size residential lot.”

“How many times can you do that in a neighborhood?” Larson said. “…Twelve cars seem to be way over the top.”

Larson said the site previously held a single-family home, which was condemned and leveled.

When Larson bought his office building, 5605 Nicollet came with it. He subdivided the lot and sold 5605 Nicollet last fall under an agreement that new development would consist of no more than 3,500 square feet (approximately a fourplex, he said). But that agreement no longer stands, because the property changed hands again, he said.

Neighbors sent the developer a 90-signature petition, and Larson said he hopes City Hall gets the message about its new parking ordinance.

“What were you thinking?” he said. “Let them respond to the adverse impact this has on this neighborhood.”

Proposed by Council Member Lisa Bender and unanimously approved by the council, the change in parking requirements is designed to make it easier to build more affordable housing, as parking can drive up the cost of construction.

*This story has been updated to note the developer is now applying for a variance to add surface parking.