Minneapolis Reverses Course, Opts For Increased Dinkytown Density

The controversial plan to build a 140-unit apartment building on land once occupied by the House of Hanson, Duffy’s Pizza, the Book House and the Podium was approved Friday on a 9-to-4 vote by the Minneapolis City Council.

One piece of Dinkytown will not be saved after all.

The controversial plan to build a 140-unit apartment building on land once occupied by the House of Hanson, Duffy’s Pizza, the Book House and the Podium was approved Friday on a 9-to-4 vote by the Minneapolis City Council.

The action reverses an earlier vote by the Zoning and Planning Committee, which denied an application for the zoning change needed for the project.

“This project has gone through a lot of neighborhood debate, a lot of neighborhood concern. The neighborhood is engaging in long-term plans for Dinkytown,” said Council Member Gary Schiff, who chairs the Zoning and Planning Committee and had voted in favor of the project when it was before his committee.

In addition to the six-story building, the development will include room for five commercial spaces and underground parking for 138 cars.

“This is a really critical issue, not just for Dinkytown, but for each neighborhood in the City of Minneapolis,” said Council Member Diane Hofstede, whose ward includes the area adjacent to the University of Minnesota. “It goes to the core of who we are as a city,”

Hofstede argued against the zoning change, saying it does not comply with the Small Area Plan approved by the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association.

Despite that non-compliance, however, the neighborhood association has submitted a letter of support for the project.                    

Small Area Plans are written by neighborhood residents and local business owners to fine-tune and localize the city’s zoning and planning requirements. Work on a new Small Area Plan for the development area is currently in progress.

“The fact that this neighborhood is in the middle of its Small Area Plan is really important to me,” said Council Member Meg Tuthill.

She successfully fought plans by Trader Joe’s to tear down a block of buildings on Lyndale in her ward. She based that opposition on a new Small Area Plan that called for mixed use, housing and commercial on the block in question.

“Those Small Area Plans are crucial for the businesses, for the people who live there,” said Tuthill, who opposed re-zoning for the Dinkytown apartment project. “I think it’s really important that we honor the process.”

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Area residents opposed to the project filled the council chambers during the debate and vote. They argued that the increasing numbers of apartments in the area already are adding to the density of the area.

But council members favoring the project said it is vital to increase the population of Minneapolis and that the area around the University is, to them, an ideal location for more dense housing.

“Building a city is hard—doing nothing is easy,” said Council Member Kevin Reich, whose ward abuts the development area.

He said residents in the area near the University want the student housing concentrated close to the campus and not spilling out into their area of single-family homes.

“The building we are talking about is not a charmer. It’s not 100 years old. It was built in the ‘70s. The amount of parking, the surface lot, is the defining feature,” said Reich.  “You are not losing a treasured asset.”

Those voting against the rezoning were Hofstede, Tuthill, Lisa Goodman and Cam Gordon.