At an early morning candidate forum hosted by the Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Irene Fernando and Blong Yang fielded questions on matters of concern to the business community in Hennepin County’s District 2.
The immediate neighbors to a recently approved 41-unit apartment project at 3612/16 Bryant Ave S have notified the City of Minneapolis of their intent to file a lawsuit in order to stop construction. [Read the complaint.]
The complaint alleges that the apartment proposal approved by the city council “represents a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood and is a substantial detriment to neighboring properties.” There are three four-story buildings directly across the street from the site. There’s a seven-story building a half-block north.
The complaint also alleges, among other things, that the city “abused its discretion” because “the density approved was more than three times the maximum required by the comprehensive plan.”
The 36th and Bryant lawsuit comes on the heels of a Minnesota Supreme Court decision ending a years-long legal battle over a condo tower on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. A group calling themselves Neighbors for East Bank Livability, many of whom live in towers themselves, were successful in delaying the project for years. Ultimately neighbors lost in court — in addition to losing the $100,000 bond they were required to post in order to move forward with the lawsuit.
ANALYSIS: Even if neighbors can’t win in court, lengthy delays aren’t just costly, but they have the potential to kill projects entirely. The economic situation years from now might not be conducive to constructing an apartment building. Legal challenges and other delay tactics (from people with the means to deploy them) also work in tandem with exclusionary zoning that says whiter, wealthier neighborhoods are off-limits to change.
Wedge LIVE! anchor and managing editor John Edwards (and his newsbike).
Hi! I’m John Edwards. For the past four years I have been producer, writer, and all-around content creator for Wedge LIVE, a hyperlocal news source based in the Wedge neighborhood of Minneapolis (Twitter , Facebook , YouTube , wedgelive.com). In addition to general political coverage and analysis focusing on Minneapolis and St. Paul, I report on local housing and zoning issues in detail: attending neighborhood meetings, livetweeting planning meetings, and producing video content that I hope is both entertaining and educational.
I believe this, or something similar, is likely to happen again. If it’s not Carol Becker, it will be someone with similar aims. So I have begun a legal process. While I will continue to make jokes about this ridiculous situation, I’m also taking my position very seriously. I will do everything in my power to defend myself. I will not leave myself vulnerable to a person, or group of people, with the money and motivation to engage in an unlawful effort to shut down the platform I’ve spent more than four years building.
I’m starting this fund because people have asked me for a way to support Wedge LIVE! during this time (aside from a monthly Patreon contribution). I don’t entirely know what to expect from the legal process ahead, but I want to be prepared for it. To everyone who has asked how they can help: Thank you.
After a weekend of backlash, Becker indicated in a forum posting that she will temporarily back off. She said she “will be back in about six months” to try and take possession of the name “Wedge Live.”
It is my intention to take steps in the meantime that would prevent her from doing that. Here’s a countdown clock so we can all prepare.
Trees younger than five years old need one inch of rainfall each week to stay healthy. If there is not enough rain you should water your trees. Slowly pour at least four five-gallon buckets of water over the tree roots, or put a hose under the tree and let it run gently for one hour.
You can find and adopt a newly planted tree in the boulevard near your home using this interactive map — you can even give your tree a human name.
Green icons are trees that have been adopted already.
This is so cool! I just adopted one. Named it Bert.
Below is a comically ancient video the the Forestry Division of the Park Board actually delivers to your home in DVD format, if you happen to get a tree planted in the boulevard near your home (the boulevard is the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street). This video touts the ability of trees to raise property values and obscure unsightly buildings. You should watch at least the first 30 seconds.
As with other kinds of neighborhood amenities, this Baltimore study found there is a “significantly lower proportion of tree cover on public right-of-way in neighborhoods containing a higher proportion of African-Americans, low-income residents, and renters.” If a lack of trees is a problem in your neighborhood, you can help fix it by requesting some trees. You might even consider organizing a tree canvassing crew to make detailed notes of where trees are needed in your area.
You can request a free boulevard tree from the Forestry Division by calling 612-313-7710 or emailing email@example.com. If you’re unsure how much space is enough for a tree, the Park Board’s website says new trees need at least 25 feet of separation from nearby trees. You don’t have to be the owner or resident of a property to request a planting on the boulevard adjacent to that property. The deadline to request spring plantings is November 1.
This is my third neighborhood meeting in as many days (read the Tuesday and Wednesday editions). Nothing this impressive has been attempted since Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov became the first men to successfully die in space back in 1971. Below is a lightly edited tweet transcript from an almost three hour meeting of the Prospect Park Association (the local neighborhood organization). The object of concern is a proposed 17-story building, which many fear will obscure the beloved Witch’s Hat Tower.
TONIGHT: watch me become the first person to successfully complete 3 neighborhood association meetings in 3 consecutive days. pic.twitter.com/NkMUFRrDRu
This line is almost as long as the one to ride the Witch’s Hat tower. But today we ride the concern!
Neighborhood organization staff person observes: “It’s like a sport round here, attending meetings.”
Atmosphere is electric. Person next to me says, “This is gonna be wild tonight I think.” Still a crazy line out the door, as the meeting begins.
Everyone gets a chance to talk, says the president of the neighborhood association. “But if we all talk we’ll be here all night.” He suggests people “keep it concise.” (Spoiler: everyone talked, nobody kept it concise, and we were there all night)
It was eventually standing room only.
Representative from Chicago-based developer Vermilion says this is the beginning of a “concerted effort to invest in the Twin Cities.” This will be their first project here.
Previous proposal for the site from different developer had a few curb cuts. Those have been eliminated. Task force from neighborhood association wanted them to “break up heights” which the developer has done.
Developer touts 13,000 sq ft of new retail, and 20,000 sq ft of preserved commercial space in the historic Art and Architecture building. “It was a major sacrifice” financially to preserve the building.
There will be green space open to the public, as well as a number of green roofs.
Developer: It was important to help existing neighborhood residents “transfer to horizontal living.” I think he means allow older people to sell their giant empty house and move into a condo.
Anxious guy in the crowd: “You’re taking a lot of time up, like, trying to sell us a condo…” Then he suggests we have the developer present at the end. He’s eager to skip the details and get directly to the concern. (I hate details too and would like to get to the part of the meeting where six people ask the same question about dumpsters and snow removal.)
Developer’s key points:
Skinny buildings to let sunlight through
“Friendly and inviting.”
Where there had previously been parking, developer brags they are trying to be “good neighbors,” and have modified the plan to include walkup apartments instead.
The historic Art and Architecture building is in orange. Apartments are built over and around the existing building.
Developer keeps calling it “a collection of buildings” broken up. He wants to emphasize this is not a “monolith.”
Developer talking about extensive back and forth with the neighborhood organization. Guy in crowd asks, “So did the neighborhood organization ask you to make it taller?” Developer says he’ll let the neighborhood organization speak to that.
How will it affect “view sheds” from the highway? Here’s a slide:
Proposed building is the big white blob. Witch’s Hat tower off to the right.
This is what it will look like from a “whirly bird” says developer. Not a view that’s possible to achieve from a conventional vehicle.
This is what it will look like if you have x-ray vision and can see through trees and earth.
Proposed building is the black drawing under/behind the tower.
Lady thinks this presentation is misleading. This doesn’t sound anything like what she’s read on the neighborhood email list.
How will this new building affect your tennis game? There’s a slide for that too. This picture really threw people for a loop. (Why doesn’t the massive building look massive in all the renderings?)
Some confusion in the room about these renderings. Developer explaining to people that things far away look smaller than things close up:
Guy: “Why does that big building look so small?”
Developer: “It’s thousands of feet away.”
With the presentation done, the concerns can now begin for real.
Guy says he wants to remove a third of the tower, because it’s just too tall. Second guy is also concerned about obscuring the Witch’s Hat tower. He’s grown used to seeing it on his way home on “280” (which I guess is a roadway of some kind.” And parking issues: “They’re all gonna have cars and park them in front of my house.”
Important to note that the single story commercial building where this meeting is taking place is obscuring the Witch’s Hat tower right now.
There are traffic concerns. This is followed by Evan Roberts stepping in to tell people traffic counts in the area have dropped significantly in the last 15 years. (Reminds me of the kind of stunt Nick Magrino would pull.)
Lady is concerned about people using the spaces around the building to “urinate.” With some hesitation she says that “unsavory items” will be left around the building. (I’m not sure what “unsavory items” are meant to be a euphemism for.)
Lady says to development team, “You got off the rails when you got to the height of the tower.” Lotta claps. “I ask you to significantly reduce the height of that tower.”
We got a comedian: “one of you used the word “faulty” a while ago, so is the name of the project gonna be faulty towers?” I heard him muttering this joke quietly to himself earlier. He held it in reserve and released it — well done.
Series of supportive comments. Some clapping. Supportive comments are boring.
Local mom Serafina says this is about the future and sustainability for future generations. “It’s important to grow up, rather than grow out.” She says neighborhood has a grocery store now because they’ve added more people to the neighborhood.
“Parking will be a bitch quite frankly”
Someone says, “I’m tired of seeing architecture that doesn’t blend in. It’s just boxes.” Analysis: I don’t get the aesthetic concerns. It’s not “like every other building.” This seems like an especially nice looking building. Maybe these concerns are coming from people who are too classy to gripe about height.
Guy says he’s not happy with building blocking everyone’s view. ends comment with, “Jesus, fucking idiots”
I think if you put this picture I took before the meeting on the projector, people would immediately rip this building apart brick by brick.
This is not trick photography.
People now using the phrase “breaking the seal.” As in, a 17-story building today means more 17-story buildings in the future.
Older dad likes all the neighborhood destinations. Heartwarming tale so far. I’m holding my breath. Don’t know where he’ll come down:
“All those activities are gone, they’ve been forced out by redevelopment.”
“We will no longer be able to walk to a daycare, a summer camp.”
“We’re gonna look like Central Park” surrounded by big buildings.
He says “livability” is gone.
Developer rebuts: they’re preserving commercial space and adding even more. Neighborhood will have more destinations than before.
Guy says there’s no 17-story buildings in the residential areas of Paris and other great cities. Second guy tells him he hasn’t traveled very much.
Lady says she liked the previous proposal. She wants to spread the development out with shorter buildings and distribute the traffic more evenly.
Neighborhood association guy going into extended explanation of the comp plan… Lotta people gasping.
You just know all these short building fans hate the idea of 4plexes.
People really want to see the tower at all times and from all places. Lady says make the project three stories.
Analysis: maybe we need a walking tour so people can see all the places in the neighborhood where you can’t see the tower.
Optical illusion: Witch’s Hat tower would be much larger if it were closer to the camera.
Prospect Park and the Witch’s Hat tower is like Catholics and JFK. Lady says you go into people’s homes and they have pictures of the tower framed.
Guy says it’s highly unusual for developers to spend so long working with the neighborhood organization before taking plans to the city. He’d much rather have this project, than take a chance on a “crapshoot” with another developer.
People are gonna move to Minneapolis, even without our consent, says Viswa. It would be preferable if we add housing to accommodate it. He uses the word “Livability.” Guy asks Viswa: does he think this project is livable? Viswa says he does. Lady demands to know where Viswa lives.
Is this the plan that will go to the planning commission? Will they revise? Developer, coy: “we’re listening.”
Guy says lack of rental housing has led to a lot of upscaling and increased rents in older rental housing. But he does have qualms about height. Likes that it’s adding housing near transit. He wins most nuanced comment of the night.
Hamburg and Rome don’t have buildings taller than six floors, says guy who lived in Hamburg for a while. Minneapolis doesn’t need any either. Says we can only guess at future population projections.
I have never been more optimistic about the future than I am right now, listening so many people embrace a “six-stories everywhere” vision of tomorrow.
Guy: “Massive gentrification is not gonna save the planet.” Ryan, seated next to me, points out this is already a neighborhood of very expensive homes.
Lady: How much student housing will this become? She then clarifies that she owns a triplex that houses older students. “But it’s a house.”
Developer: “This is not a student housing building.” BUT (BIG BUT): “We can’t put up a barricade and prevent [students] from coming into the building.”
Student: “we’re not that bad. Don’t be too afraid of us.” Encourages people to think of the youth that aren’t in this room. Wedge LIVE salutes the youth.
Guy sweet-talking the developer: “Please make it smaller… We’ll be here for you.”
Guy says Witch’s Hat tower will go the way of the Foshay tower downtown. He wants to know where the Foshay tower is right now. My producer Ryan, jumps in my ear to tell me, “It’s still there.”
Guy says if towers are really a “good” thing then why not have a second tower on the other side of the building? I’m stumped.
Lady doesn’t want people on balconies watching what she’s doing in her backyard. She’s from New York City. Lived in Boston. When she has “tea on her deck” she doesn’t mind hearing the light rail. She’s not looking forward to the shade though.
Guy just closed on a home two weeks ago. Gets applause for calling for eliminating the apartments in favor of condos. He wants owners, not renters. People who will invest in the community. (Analysis: you just got here!)
Guy asks, why so tall? Is this about money? Developer explains that negotiation with the Prospect Park neighborhood organization’s task force has resulted in a building that is “sculpted” with “carved out view corridors” and public spaces, while retaining the density level of the original, shorter, boxy proposal.
Lady says research shows people who live way high up in the air are less invested in the things happening way down low on the ground.
Research shows that cats who live high up in the air give less shits and are not invested in the neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/wLt7DlFmcE
Here’s a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night’s meeting of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association. Residents were presented with plans for a 41-unit apartment building adjacent to the famous pit at 36th and Bryant. Live from the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood.
Developer says the goal is to provide “accessible” rents. What’s meant by accessible? “More attainable” but still market rate. Lower rents than what you find in most new construction nearby. Calls this a micro-apartment project. Some audience grumbling about the micro-apartment aspect.
Developer’s feel good pitch:
“We’re attracted to the neighborhood for similar reasons that you guys were… A lot of people like to be in great neighborhoods.”
“We buy in great neighborhoods and hold long term.”
“We want residents of our buildings to be great neighbors.”
40 or 41 units/20 parking stalls
Sizes from 450-700 sq ft.
Goal for rents is to start at $1,000
“You said 20 parking spaces? Do renters have to pay for those spaces?” Yes, they do. “So they’ll end up on the street.”
Guy having trouble hearing, repeats same question. “How many parking spaces?”
Someone suggest the architect is speaking with “hostility and contempt” for people in the room. (I didn’t notice hostility, but I have seen this guy abused at so many neighborhood meetings that I would not blame him.)
Person having trouble imagining a driver-less apartment: “Do you think 20 people are gonna get rid of their cars before they move in?”
To deflect parking concerns, the developer cites the Lyndy project in Whittier, which has 75 parking spaces for 100 units. He says their parking is only half full.
Glad we’re doing this at a hospital because we’re gonna set a record for Fred Sanford style heart attacks. pic.twitter.com/QBPoJ6fOa3
The developer would like to start construction in August, lasting 10 months.
The alley is very dangerous, says lady. Suggests to developer, “You should drive up it.”
Lady talking about the new 4plex across the street. “The day they moved in, there was traffic problems.” And, “There’s beer cans everywhere… They’re single people.”
Another person chimes in: “They’re letting their animals defecate on their deck.”
Lady: “Because they’re young white males they’re getting away with it.”
And, “There’s something about families with kids, they care about the neighborhood.”
Developer: “Are you saying people who rent are not as respectful as people who own?”
Response: “No, I’m a renter.” She doesn’t like that it’s “catering to a certain kind of up and coming young urban person.”
Staff from Ward 10 office says this project has been approved by the planning commission and without an appeal it goes forward. There’s no need for City Council committee approval. The deadline for appeal is today. Analysis: I have been wondering what the point of this meeting was.
Tina from Ward 10 office: “Council member Bender really supports this project.” Cites need for more housing in Minneapolis, proximity to transit, other amenities.
Ron Harris, also from Ward 10 office: “small scale development more amenable to the folks that live here.” Parking reform has made this possible.
Getting feisty in here. Neighborhood org president stepping in to try and let some other people speak, besides this one person.
I think this meeting was an especially bad idea. Meetings that take place after planning commission approval give people the misimpression that something was just shoved down their throat. The time for input was last month.
Lady says deliveries from Amazon are causing traffic problems.
What about snow removal? Developer: “The building will be professionally managed.”
I’m waiting for a question about garbage. Renters produce a lot of garbage. Think of the dumpsters! On cue, a question about the size of the trash area.
What’s gonna happen to the bus routes during construction? Answer: No impact.
Guy validates himself to the room as a homeowner, then asks “How many bike parking spaces?” Answer: 41. He says the proposal “fits the neighborhood.” It matches the scale of nearby apartments. He reminds us that climate change is a thing. This guy is monologuing.
Exceptional quotes from the evening’s most concerned resident:
Doing a spiel that the developers are great guys with families who are good at business and the real problem is “this Lisa Bender.”
“Lisa Bender wants me to take mass transit? Fine! I called an Uber.” It was going to cost $15 with surge pricing. So she walked to make Lisa Bender happy. “That’s what Lisa Bender wants.”
“The livability sucks nowadays. If you think I’m gonna take a bike to Target, forget it, it’s impossible. Guess what? We have cars. I’m upset about this.”
“The spot right next to you will be the next spot. Same damn fucking thing!”
I appreciate the comment from Tina, suggesting people imagine there are others who live differently than they do.
Remarkable moment here. Lady who was very strenuously opposed at the beginning of the meeting, announces she’s supporting it because she’s disgusted with the people in this room. She was upset that the sentiment seemed to be about excluding different kinds of people from the neighborhood. She made reference to how white the room was, and left the meeting.
This meeting should have been televised.
Architect says there will be less water runoff from this building than there is currently. City regulations have gotten more stringent recently — a lot more “friendly to our waters,” says architect.
Lady asks if developer guy from San Francisco is connected to Lisa Bender, who once upon a time lived in San Francisco, where she worked as a planner. He assures us this is just a geographical coincidence.
Lady worried about the coming extinction of single-family homes. “You gotta think about the future!”
Older guy who expressed concerns about parking earlier in the meeting: “I’m back to this parking again. You got 41 units, 20 parking spaces.” Maybe they take the bus during the week but “What do they do on the weekends. Where do they put that car during the week?”
He continues: “I got another complaint. Wanna hear it?” People say they do.
Woman has a bottom line for us: “These buildings are gonna decrease the value of our homes.” She’s certain there are people sitting here right now taking a big financial hit. (So, I’m skeptical but if true, hooray for affordability.)
Back to trash concerns. It’s gonna swallow up one of the parking spots, predicts neighbor.
Really, really old guy who you would not expect to support this: “This is a big win for Minneapolis taxpayers, because these people are gonna pay a shitload of money [in property taxes].”
Lady asks if developer will take advantage of city’s new program to help landlords receive tax breaks to keep rents affordable. Answer: “I don’t know off the top of my head what those rent levels are [to be eligible]. If we’re allowed to, yes.”
With the support of readers and viewers like you over the last year — from countless neighborhoods across the region — Wedge LIVE has grown to become the Best Website in the Twin Cities. If you don’t believe me, check out City Pages’ very glossy “Best of the Twin Cities” edition — on newsstands now!
Let’s take stock of what we have accomplished over the last year with a State of the Wedge LIVE 2018 recap:
Made it harder for people to describe what Wedge LIVE is.
Met a lot of new friends along the way — and isn’t that the most important part?
As we look forward to another year of continued growth and success at Wedge LIVE, I thank you for your continued support. And take one last look at what we’ve done over the last year — your monthly contribution really does make a difference! (hint, hint)