Big Developers, Big Business, Big Southwest Agree on Mpls 2040

The Star Tribune got big local developer Kelly Doran to talk about Minneapolis 2040, a plan that would allow more housing across all parts of the city. Doran said 2040 was “silly,” and that triplexes won’t turn him a profit. He even sees it as a threat to neighborhood character.

It’s funny because Doran is constructing a five-story building very near to my home (the pile-driving is still ringing in my ears!). Now, personally I’m glad for the additional housing. I couldn’t be happier about the grocery store in the new building. But while we’re on the subject of neighborhood character, Doran’s building takes up a third of a block. It has two levels of underground parking. And I’m sure you can imagine the large volume of complaints about how it would destroy neighborhood character.

Kelly Doran’s building at 26th and Lyndale.

I don’t know where Kelly Doran lives, but if he’s worried about triplexes destroying neighborhood character in the swankier parts of Minneapolis, why does he think it’s ok to dig a two-story parking pit in the ground and top it off with five-stories of apartments in my part of the city? Because he’s doing it in Whittier?

It’s some weird millionaire logic to think a triplex is too much to bear in Southwest Minneapolis, but Whittier is just fine for 100-unit apartment buildings. Minneapolis desperately needs more homes; neighborhoods in certain parts of the city shouldn’t just get to opt out of accommodating even a small number of those homes.

Doran isn’t an outlier. A recent article in a local business magazine included the perspectives of a bunch of developers and realtors, along with the usual crowd of Southwest Minneapolis homeowners:

It isn’t just single-family homeowners who have concerns about the new comp plan. Behind the scenes this spring, the Minneapolis Downtown Council business group helped organize Building Minneapolis Together, a group of about two dozen for-profit and nonprofit developers. Building Minneapolis Together has not been issuing public proclamations or handing out lawn signs. The developers involved with the group aren’t giving much thought to fourplexes, either.

Basically: Fourplexes aren’t for us. We don’t build them. We don’t live in them. We don’t sell them. We can’t make money from them. Why bother?

I should note that some of the business community opposition to the 2040 plan is driven by hostility to inclusionary zoning (I admit that I’m also somewhat worried about this policy).

Though the TC Business magazine article is completely one-sided, the photographs are nice: Steve Cramer of the Downtown Council pointing triumphantly at a large building under construction downtown; and an iconic photo of a prominent Southwest Minneapolis millionaire clutching her apocalyptic yard sign.

The coalition that’s formed against Minneapolis 2040 is very similar to the coalition that lost last year’s election — an election that flipped the council’s most vocal 2040 opponents, Lisa Goodman and Linea Palmisano, into the minority. And this really shouldn’t be surprising. The city council faction that will provide the decisive votes to pass the 2040 plan are the same council members who had $275,000 in corporate PAC money spent against them by a familiar cast of business and developer interests in 2017 (among them Doran, Steve Minn, and the Downtown Council).

The two big lies of the 2040 debate are (1) it will cause the bulldozing of neighborhoods and (2) that developers have bought the process. The reality is:

  1. Bulldozing is already happening with great frequency in Southwest Minneapolis, and because these neighborhoods are largely zoned single-family, all we get are ever-larger single-family homes. Fun story that I’ll never get tired of: the millionaire threatening to sue the city over this, bulldozed his home in 2007 so that he could live in a larger single-family home.
  2. Big developers, the business community, and people in big expensive single-family homes all agree that the status quo is working just fine and that the Minneapolis 2040 plan is no good.