A rosy spin on density

The editor’s decision to assign and feature the story “Apartment rises and people move on” as front-page news in the Jan. 9 issue reinforces an impression of his bias and inclination to push the city’s 2040 agenda for density at any cost to neighborhoods. Since he took the helm, it seems every issue of the Southwest Journal delivers a rosy spin on density, car-free living, bikes or the latest large-scale development.

It’s curious to say, “While proposals for new apartment buildings are routinely debated and resisted, less attention has been paid to how those buildings actually impact their neighborhoods once they are in the ground.” This sweeping statement doesn’t address how projects like Linden43 can have many impacts, including higher rents, loss of local businesses, displacement of residents, reduced parking, increased traffic congestion and precedence for more large buildings and loss of trees and green space. Some or all of these effects are occurring in various neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis, including Linden Hills.

Another sweeping conclusion also seems to reflect the editor’s view more than any evidence presented: “While there may still be hard feelings over the long process that took place over the site, most business owners and residents of the area have moved on.” The fact that people move on with their lives, by necessity, doesn’t address the matter of whether the project changed the neighborhood’s character or scale.

One historical detail left out was that Mark Dwyer’s original plan was to combine five lots for his proposed five-story Linden Corner project. Serious concerns that this development would harm the neighborhood were justified; even the city’s findings of fact reached the same conclusion as the basis of rejecting the project. Yet the story frames residents’ concerns as being overblown and hypes the project that ultimately got built as being good for the neighborhood. Indeed, it seems the article reflects a “much ado about nothing” theme, as if years-long opposition by residents was ultimately pointless; when in fact, these people were very successful in stopping a much larger project and ensuring that the building finally constructed was smaller, set back the top story from the street, retained the community pocket park and included design changes based on community input.

While the story includes one comment about the city’s flawed approval process, the editor disregarded the opportunity to explore this significant issue. Instead, numerous anecdotes are used to support the idea that the Linden43 building is good for the neighborhood, however out of scale and out of character. All these comments lead to the unsurprising point of the article that there are a lot of positives to allowing higher-density housing, including that it allows for economic diversity within neighborhoods. Never mind that Linden43’s exclusively upscale luxury condominiums do nothing to support “economic diversity” of residents.

It’s good to know that people in this “friendly neighborhood” remain welcoming and do not turn up their noses at people who live in the building. Perhaps that outcome speaks to the “charm” of the “village.” As apartments rise and neighborhoods change, it’s disappointing to see the editor’s bias in articles on the topic of development in our city when more than ever we need factual and objective reporting to ensure that our local press is more than a mouthpiece for the city.

Sara Schumacher

Linden Hills