Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition


Minneapolis residents may be wondering who is digging holes in their neighborhoods and dropping little trees in them. It’s the Forestry Division of the Minneapolis Park Board.

Trees are great for the environment. They’re good for public health. They can calm car traffic. Maybe they reduce crime? They definitely make streets vastly more pleasant places to live and spend time.

They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. So I like to think of this as Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition. Little trees need help becoming the big trees people will rely on in 20 years. Water is maybe the most important thing we can do for them:

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.

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 forestry@minneapolisparks.org. 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.

Live Coverage: All Along the Witch’s Tower

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

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

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
  • Pocket parks
  • Green space
  • “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.)

Obligatory garbage concerns have been expressed.

Did you know renters produce a lot of trash?

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 4, 2018

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.

Look at me mom! I was quoted by @WedgeLIVE ! https://t.co/qHoQaonHPl

— George Abdallah 🇱🇧 🇺🇸 (@GeorgeYAbdallah) May 4, 2018

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

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 4, 2018

Another person wants to “make the whole thing condos.”

Neighborhood organization guy says “ok, we’ve gone around the room once…” (Can we do it again!?)

Second neighborhood org guy says the goal of their process thus far was to avoid the aesthetic of the North Loop. Preference is for “an assemblage of buildings with slots” that allow sunlight through.

That’s definitely 3 times more concern than I have ever swallowed in one sitting.

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 4, 2018

This was a three hour meeting. For those who’ve never done it, livetweeting is a strenuous activity that can leave your entire face and brain sore for days, so please support Wedge LIVE on Patreon!

Live Coverage: Concern at 36th and Bryant

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

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

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.

[VIDEO: Highlight from April 23, when this project was approved by the Planning Commission.]

Woman asks, “Do leases specify that it’s just one person per unit?” Developer says federal fair housing laws make it illegal to prevent couples from living together in a 1 bedroom apartment.

People have concerns about all the humans and animals you might conceivably cram into an apartment:

  • “You could have 2 or 3 people in there.”
  • “Are you doing DNA testing on those pets?”
  • Guy says renters may have friends and parents. Where will they park?
Renters, do you have friends?

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

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.”

Meeting done. Here’s the dangerous alley. I survived. pic.twitter.com/qL3fO6m7in

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

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State of the Wedge LIVE 2018

Dear Reader,

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:

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)


John Edwards
Anchor & Managing Editor

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Does Minneapolis need more cops?

Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo want to hire 100 more cops to push Minneapolis to 1,000 officers. A recent Star Tribune article notes that Minneapolis “still lags behind other Midwest cities, including Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo.” The article quotes notoriously racist Minneapolis police union leader Bob Kroll saying Minneapolis should strive to match Milwaukee, a place with nearly 60% more cops per capita.

There are a few things about all these city-to-city comparisons that make me question the relevance of “cops per resident” as a statistic. Milwaukee and Kansas City have 40-45% more violent crime per capita than Minneapolis; either all that extra policing isn’t working or there are more significant factors contributing to/mitigating violent crime than how many cops you have. And as long as we’re comparing ourselves to large Midwestern cities, Minneapolis has slightly more cops per person than St. Paul, which is the Midwest city located just across the river (police staffing data as of 2016).

Pushing back against this call for more cops is Council Member Phillipe Cunningham who defeated City Council President Barb Johnson in 2017. Johnson was maybe the Minneapolis politician most associated with stoking crime fears to push for aggressive policing. Cunningham supports alternatives to more cops, and posed one example of a situation where more police isn’t the answer: “If we’re having a mental health crisis, are police the most equipped to handle a mental health crisis?”

Council President Lisa Bender responded to the Mayor’s call for more cops with a statement saying, “we need a balanced approach that includes significantly more funding for reform and violence prevention.”

Listening to the discussion about downtown crime and policing from the business community, you might get the sense this is about making white people comfortable in the presence of low income black and brown people. People say the transit hub and the public library are a magnet for the wrong crowd. A restaurant owner says, “Suburbanites and the 40-plus crowd are concerned about safety. Office workers are not comfortable. You are always on guard.”

Based on my own understanding of where a significant majority of the current City Council is on the police issue, I think the Phillipe Cunningham position is much closer to where we’ll end up than the old Barb Johnson “aggressive law enforcement” position. It seems unlikely we’re about to hire 100 more cops in Minneapolis. In response to this political reality, the law-and-order crowd will stoke fears with anecdotes and descriptions of gruesome security camera videos. Meanwhile, it’s hard to pin down statistics that say crime is spinning out of control.

As someone who feels safe in Minneapolis at all times, both from crime and the police, I don’t want to dismiss the concerns of people who want to be and feel safe when they move around the city. But it’s important we act in ways that consider the safety of everyone who lives here. Is hiring 100 more cops actually an effective way to make Minneapolis safer, when we know it would make many of our neighbors less safe?

MinnPost crime stats

Lisa Goodman Calls YIMBYs “Republicanesque” Proponents of “Trickle-Down”

After spending far too much time with the cast of characters from last week’s Zoning and Planning meeting in the editing room (ICYMI: I’m a prominent local anthropologist and documentarian), one thing struck me as particularly notable: Council Member Lisa Goodman calling YIMBYs a bunch of Republicans.

Goodman found a very provocative way to say projects like the Sons of Norway redevelopment will “increase prices” for homes in surrounding areas:

I’m mostly concerned about the impact of projects like this on our future affordable housing goals. It’s almost like we have this Republicanesque kind of trickle-down theory going on. That if you just build a lot more, then that will free up units at the lower level…

Aside from Goodman’s “Republicanesque” and “trickle-down” slurs, I think this is a reasonable, though incomplete, characterization of a YIMBY argument. I do think building a crapload of homes of all kinds and sizes — especially on giant parking lots — is helpful! Hopefully a lot of this new housing comes with less parking, smaller setbacks, in medium-sized buildings without elevators, among other things that keep housing costs lower. I believe more housing supply puts pressure on landlords by giving tenants options, and makes it less enticing for developers to purchase, renovate, and raise rents in older apartment buildings. In addition to this, I believe we need more public money to subsidize housing for people the market can’t possibly serve. The scale of the problem is too big to pretend these solutions are all mutually exclusive.
It’s disappointing that a city council member is legitimizing arguments that make it easier for well-meaning people to oppose new housing during a housing shortage. Vacancy rates remain historically low as our population grows — hovering around 3%! Lisa Goodman represents some of the most expensive real estate in Minneapolis and many of those neighborhoods have been walled off from more housing for decades by exclusionary zoning. Instead of leading, she’s pandering to people’s fears.
We’ve tried the “no new housing” approach as prices have risen; Lisa Goodman should know it’s only made things worse in her ward. It’s an embarrassing pander to tell exceptionally well-off people that more housing in their neighborhood will cause gentrification. And it makes less sense when you consider Lisa Goodman and residents in opposition to the Sons of Norway project explicitly promoted the idea of fewer units on the site; this would necessarily have made each unit more expensive.
Council President Lisa Bender rebutted the notion of a new wave of gentrification in East Calhoun by rattling off the eye-popping “for sale” prices of single-family homes in the neighborhood (from $500,000 to 1.2M), helping to make the subtle point that Lisa Goodman is full of it. Bender added:

I can’t in good conscience as an elected official in the city of Minneapolis force a developer to build multi-million dollar homes at this location. It just isn’t consistent with any of our policies, or the promises that I made when I ran for office. It doesn’t make sense to me to say that we could only build 38 units here. Imagine how expensive those units would be: millions of dollars. 

[In fairness to Lisa Bender, she spoke before Goodman, so Bender isn’t entirely responsible for making the subtle point that Goodman is “full of it.” Blame Lisa Goodman.]

While Lisa Goodman will happily grab credit for disbursing meager affordable housing funds to a few subsidized projects each year, she is hardly an advocate for those who’ve experienced rising housing costs in Minneapolis during her 20 years in office.

When publicly-subsidized affordable youth housing was proposed near the bustling and exceedingly urban intersection of Hennepin and Franklin Avenues last year, Goodman pressured the developer to lop a few stories off the top, causing the proposal to have fewer units. The project is controversial among some wealthy residents of Lowry Hill, both for the size of the building and because it would house young people just out of foster care. One quote among many from an actual neighborhood meeting: “When you go on the nextdoor website we get a lot of kids breaking into cars to sell things to buy a hit of drugs… Are these kids curfewed?”

Goodman has also disputed the contention that housing is made more affordable by removing the substantial added cost of constructing parking. This is a weird thing for her to be in denial about because she has often supported less parking in new development; she has even noted how requiring less parking makes publicly subsidized affordable housing cheaper to build. The evidence on reducing parking minimums is clear and points towards cheaper housing no matter how it’s financed.

While campaigning for re-election last year, Goodman called the idea of allowing people in duplexes, triplexes and small apartment buildings to live near her wealthy constituents “unconscionable.” A notable sentiment because this is the sort of housing that’s least expensive to build and live in. Goodman thought it more essential to defend exclusionary zoning; she talked about her opposition to new housing in terms of protecting the “investment” of the well-off:

When you buy a house, which is your single biggest investment, one of the things that you take into consideration is the location and what the neighborhood looks and feels like surrounding you. To upend that and make a dramatic change without the neighborhood and neighbors agreeing to it is, I think, unconscionable.

But Lisa Goodman has not always pushed for very strictly interpreting the zoning code to the benefit of the most disgruntled and privileged neighbors. In 2016, Goodman justified her vote to approve a remarkably generous variance for a 600% increase in floor area ratio (FAR) for the 40-story Alatus tower (zoned for 4-stories in a historic district, oh my!), by saying: “We are in a position in the city — whether I campaigned on it or not, and frankly I didn’t — that we should increase density in our city. Not even noted Fan of Tall Buildings in the Middle of Major American Cities, Nick Magrino, could stomach that departure from the zoning code — he voted against it.
Compare the 2016 “Alatus Tower Lisa Goodman” to the 2018 “Sons of Norway Lisa Goodman.”

  • Grants 600% floor area ratio variance for a 40-story luxury condo tower.
  • Says, “we should increase density in our city.”

2018 Lisa Goodman

  • Quibbled over a single story, saying that four stories — not five — was essential to comply with the small area plan by achieving a “graceful” stepdown from east to west.
  • Said housing advocates were “Republicanesque” trickle-downers driving the gentrification of Minneapolis.
I think 2018 Lisa Goodman would rip 2016 Lisa Goodman to shreds for disrespecting the neighborhood and gentrifying Minneapolis beyond recognition.
So my point is, watch my new film [STREAM IT TODAY!]. And please send thoughts and prayers to Neighbors for East Bank Livability, the group who tried their darnedest to stop the 40-story Alatus tower, and who are still screaming at their TV screens a week after watching Lisa Goodman put her whole heart into defending East Calhoun from a 5-story building.

Local Development Politics Officially Enter the Trump Era

It was bound to happen. After a year spent enduring the daily trauma inflicted on our country by its own president, concerned residents have adopted the language of resistance to Donald Trump and applied it to the perceived atrocity of new apartments in their backyard.

The subject of my latest documentary film is the Sons of Norway redevelopment project on Lake Street between Holmes and Humboldt Avenues. The concerns are the same as they’ve always been — traffic, parking, too many people! — but it may be harder for some viewers to take seriously (and could make young children uncomfortable).
One person manufactured their own personal Elizabeth Warren moment by declaring, “Nevertheless I will persist.” A guy from New York bragged about fighting against Trump in the old days, then told the City Council about Giulian’s destruction of the Upper West Side. Lisa Goodman called people who acknowledge that we are experiencing an actual housing shortage “Republicanesque” trickle-downers. Local development politics have officially been nationalized!

Critics are calling “Nevertheless I Persisted: Real, Legitimate Families Against the Bastard Sons of Norway” the spiritual sequel to my 2016 hit film, “LHENA Goes to City Hall.” [STREAM IT TODAY and support this important content on Patreon!]

Residents Gather to Remember Iconic Arby’s Sign

People from across the Twin Cities flocked to Arby’s Island in Uptown Friday night to celebrate the memory of a fallen icon: a fast food sign that lit the corner of Lake St and Emerson Ave for more than 47 years.

Organizer Noah Hevey billed the event as a candle light vigil. Rather than mournful, the atmosphere was friendly and celebratory as the temperature hovered around zero degrees. The image of the old Arby’s sign was projected onto a screen in the parking lot while attendees displayed cardboard signs and lit candles in remembrance.

Fire dancer at the Uptown Arby’s vigil. pic.twitter.com/8qc7NcRML4

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) February 10, 2018

Arby’s Restaurant Group provided free t-shirts and the Moxy hotel provided Arby’s signature roast beef sandwiches, which were enjoyed afterwards in the lounge across the street.

A statement from Arby’s president Rob Lynch offered “condolences for the loss of a community icon.” The statement explained the reason for the restaurant’s closing was the unwillingness of the property owner to offer a 10-year lease.

Lynch continued, “Tonight we bid farewell to the Uptown Arby’s and its beautiful sign, but this doesn’t have to be goodbye forever. We have more than 60 Arby’s restaurants in Minneapolis and surrounding areas within 3 to 5 miles of here.”

Printed lyrics to a parody version of Danny Boy were distributed to the crowd. The music started, and it went like this:

Oh Arby’s Sign, the meats, the meats are calling
With curly fries and all the tasty sides
The sign is gone and now I will be bawling
‘Tis you ’tis you, must go and I must bide

But come ye back when hunger’s in the belly
Or when the city’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Arby’s sign, oh Arby’s sign, I love you so

Of you I dream, oh when the night is falling
And then I’m fed, as fed I may well be
I pray you find the place where I am lying
And kneel and place an Arby’s there for me

And I will know the sixty other metro locations
And so my plate still warm and sweet shall be
For you shall serve and show me that you love me
And I will eat in peace, oh Arby’s come to me

Solemn walk through the drive-thru.
Moxy hotel bar distributing sandwiches.

The Uptown Arby’s is Now Closed

With rumors swirling about the fate of the Wedge neighborhood’s most beloved fast food restaurant, I was present for the final hours of the Uptown Arby’s. Joined by four of my best Twitter friends, we ate curly fries and reminisced about the good times.

Employees confirmed that the Arby’s at 1116 West Lake Street is closing, and speculated about a new apartment building taking the place of the single-story drive-thru restaurant. A wistful young cashier spoke of the coworkers he won’t get to see anymore.

After learning of the news, former Mayor Betsy Hodges wondered whether the city might save the historic Arby’s cowboy hat signage.

Has anyone made an HPC application for the sign?

— Betsy Hodges (@BetsyHodges) January 29, 2018

Over the last year, the Uptown Arby’s has seen neighboring properties transformed. The former parking lot across the street has become Uptown’s only hotel — or what some residents loudly complain will be a sex hotel (the Star Tribune found photos on the hotel’s website featuring “half-dressed patrons jumping on beds”). One block to the west, on the site of a former single-story retail building, stands a new apartment building with a small-format Target store operating on the ground floor.

As we imagine what the future holds for this odd triangular patch of land, let’s take a look back at how Uptown’s geography has evolved over the years. In the mid-1960s, Lagoon Avenue was constructed north of Lake Street, cutting city blocks in half and creating what we know now as the “Arby’s Island” triangle.

1961: pre-Lagoon Ave

1970: Lagoon Ave splits Uptown blocks in half.

1974 with original Arby’s building and sign.

In the 1974 aerial photo, you can see the cowboy-hat-shaped shadow cast by the sign, as well as umbrella-covered outdoor seating on the south end of the building. The original structure, like other Arby’s restaurants at the time, was designed to look like a chuck-wagon — a covered wagon used to feed cowboys.

1989 Uptown Arby’s newspaper ad.

Promotional material from Wedge LIVE event held at Arby’s Island.