Downtown East / North Loop Master Plan
Chapter Two: Planning Complete Communities
Chapter Two presents a new paradigm for growth and change in Downtown Minneapolis: an integrated approach to transportation planning, land use planning, and urban design aimed at promoting the development of so-called "Complete Communities" within the Project Area. Complete Communities are neighborhoods or districts that are self-sufficient by virtue of interconnected transit and commercial environments, and are surrounded by a diversity of housing types, services, and amenities. Establishing Complete Communities within Downtown East and the North Loop is the primary goal and vision of this master plan. Overall, the aim of this chapter is to set precedents for how growth and change should occur in order to realize a healthier collection of new and existing neighborhoods in the very heart of the city.
Chapter Two outlines the key principals necessary for encouraging so-called Complete Communities in a mature downtown setting. The chapter begins with a discussion and primer on the goals and objectives of transit-oriented development and mixed-use development. Next, the chapter looks at some of the wider, emerging trends in urban residential development in U.S. cities today and considers how these trends might come to play in shaping Complete Communities. This is followed by a discussion of general strategies for downtown commercial environments. This section is particularly geared toward renewing the vigor of downtown retail – especially neighborhood based retail meant to serve a growing downtown population. The chapter ends with a discussion of the general goals and recommendations for transportation, transit, and parking.
Because a large proportion of space within the peripheral districts surrounding the core is underdeveloped and underutilized, new opportunities exist to capture the economic potential of these districts and to update the public realm through more cohesive interaction between downtown districts. The driving philosophy behind the creation of the Downtown East/North Loop Master Plan is the need for Downtown Minneapolis to engage in "complete" community planning. Planning Complete Communities calls for the inter-weaving of transportation planning, land use planning, and urban design planning into an inter-related set of policies that mutually reinforce one another. The result of such policies would be the realization of a collection of neighborhoods that forge and retain their own distinct identities while still being tightly connected to the Downtown as a whole. More importantly, each neighborhood or precinct is complete in the sense that it is self-sufficient by virtue of interconnected transit and commercial environments, surrounded by a diversity of housing types, services, and amenities.
In short, complete communities are those which provide the opportunity for people to live, work, shop and play within the boundaries of their own neighborhoods. Complete communities offer these amenities in a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere where public transit is at least as convenient as the automobile.
In pursuit of the larger goal of building Complete Communities, instituting land use policies that inherently reduce auto dependence is paramount. The integration of transportation and land use strategies in support of this goal is known as Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), a strategy that is gaining widespread acceptance in both urban and suburban centers across the country. The central planning ingredient for TOD is convenient access to revitalized public transit service – commuter rail, light rail transit (LRT), bus rapid transit (BRT), and city bus systems – that directly serve medium- and/or high-density nodes of mixed use development. TOD is the creation or restoration of compact, pedestrian-friendly, neighborhoods that contain housing, workplaces, shops, entertainment, schools, parks and civic facilities – all within easy walking distance of a prominent transit station. TOD promotes the increased use of transit, particularly rail transit, because it is located at the "hub" of neighborhood uses and activities. Likewise it de-prioritizes the need to build more highways, roads, and parking ramps to accommodate single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting.
The main premise of TOD is that people are able to live, work, shop, play and generally find all of the necessities of life within a given node, or within a nearby node that is conveniently and quickly accessible by transit. Such configurations of uses and activities mean that most, if not all, of the day-to-day trips that one makes can be done easily by low impact ways of moving about – on foot, by bicycle, or by transit. Use of the private automobile is limited to occasional non-routine trips. For example, an increasingly typical end-of-the-day commute for many people involves leaving work, picking up children, parents, or friends, shopping for groceries, stopping off at the dry cleaner or the drug store, and then heading home. If land uses are organized to allow dense, mixed-use / mixed activity development, all of these trips can be accomplished quickly, conveniently, and cost-effectively without a car. This is because TOD nodes have enough density to sustain commerce that provides the kind of goods and services that people need on an everyday basis.
Based on the existing concentration of bus lines that feed Downtown Minneapolis, the construction of the LRT line, and the prospect of new commuter rail lines, the Central Business District (CBD) will continue to be the most highly served collection of real estate in the Upper Midwest. As such, the Project Area is an ideal location to develop a series of medium and high-intensity TOD nodes that provide both new places to live Downtown and new commercial spaces that will contribute to regional and neighborhood prosperity. TOD is particularly effective at capturing the benefits rapid transit can bring to communities. Successful TOD incorporates the following key objectives:
Multi-Modal: TOD allows for multiple modes of transit to access and use the same stations thereby facilitating easy transfers between different modes.
Mixed-Use Development: Different uses and activities are clustered within a single neighborhood, within a single city block, and in some cases within a single building (see Figure 2.1).
Compact Development: Facilitating a wide range of land uses within a one-quarter to one-half mile radius of transit nodes means that most everything in the neighborhood is no more than a five or ten minute walk away. Smaller lots, reduced setbacks, and greater attention to infill development opportunities make it possible to assemble different uses in a relatively small amount of geographic space.
Increased Density: Intensification of land uses makes the most of expensive land and infrastructure, while facilitating greater population growth.
Traditional Neighborhood Structure: Incorporating the concept of "town centers" into downtown neighborhoods creates a series of strong individual neighborhoods, each of which is interconnected to the CBD as a whole.
Connectivity: An interconnected street grid facilitates easy linkages between places.
Civic Identity / Public Realm: A mix of safe public spaces including parks, plazas and active, at-grade storefronts lends a "sense of place" and character to each node.
Pedestrian-Friendly: Taking measures to enhance pedestrian safety, function and aesthetic character improve neighborhood livability.
Traffic Calming: Widening sidewalks and reducing vehicular capacity on selected city streets "calms" vehicular traffic and creates a zone of activity designed to accommodate pedestrians, primarily, and to facilitate vehicular access to building sites, secondarily.
Policies for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and Mixed Use Development
- Promote downtown living by forging Complete Communities that include a mixture of transit stations, commercial office, retail, housing, and parks/plazas.
- All land uses within one-quarter mile of new and potential rail transit stations in Downtown Minneapolis to incorporate either high- or medium-density mixed-use development in order to capitalize on the benefits of creating vibrant transit nodes that can become the heart of both new and revitalized Downtown neighborhoods.
- Medium-density mixed-use development (generally 5 - 14 floors) should be considered the norm for new construction and rehabilitation projects in the Project Area. This recommendation is made specifically because medium-density, mixed-use projects have already become the norm in most parts of the Project Area, particularly the Warehouse District.
- High-density mixed-use development (generally 14 floors and higher) should be pursued primarily within the Downtown Core, but also in a limited number of specifically designated locations outside of the core.
- New and rehabilitated low-density residential development (generally 2-4 stories) should be pursued on sites within the Ninth Street Historic Street. Mixing in commercial/retail uses is only appropriate at designated neighborhood nodes.
Mixed-use development is the key component to forging vibrant, Complete Communities because it produces the density, variety, and pedestrian life needed for lively, downtown living. Mixed-Use development is a more efficient model of downtown development than single-use development because it allows for multiple land uses – residential, commercial retail, commercial office, and lodging – to be integrated into a single block, building or site. Combining different activities into a single site, or building mixed-use development, makes better use of valuable land, allows for common site servicing, and provides economies of scale for other infrastructure costs.
Moreover, mixing residential and commercial uses adds vitality to downtown neighborhoods by extending street activity beyond the typical nine-to-five work day. Because people are occupying, coming from, and going to buildings for longer periods of the day, the resultant "eyes on the street" add to a feeling of neighborhood safety and community care. The ability to walk to work, shopping, recreation, and entertainment venues on pedestrian-friendly streets reduces reliance upon the private automobile and encourages use of public transit.
In order to demonstrate the concepts and benefits of mixed-use development, a series of Mixed-Use Development Typologies were investigated and assessed. In each case the ability to include required parking, either underground, or concealed above grade, was analyzed and ranked (see Figure 2.2).
Over the last half-century, downtowns in cities across America have seen a dramatic decline in the number and kinds of residential housing stock available for urban living. Perhaps the greatest reason for this decline was rooted in the cultural dominance of the single-family, suburban-style house as the ultimate symbol of the American dream. Until recently, living downtown offered few options beyond living in high-rise apartment buildings, many of which lack social amenities.
In the last decade, new kinds of housing choices have sprung up in downtowns across the country making the benefits of living in the heart of the city more accessible to a wider array of people with a wider array of lifestyle choices. These choices are rooted in an expanded set of alternatives for kinds of residential units and kinds of residential building types. As a result of expanded residential options, downtowns are fueled with a new and growing population, a new sense of vitality, and a new set of demands for locally available goods and services. Downtowns are becoming healthier and more exciting, which in turn attracts more new residents and visitors.
Emerging Trends: Renewed Forms of Residential Living
Live / Work Residential: Live / Work units are characterized by the flexible arrangement of space that allows the occupants to conduct business in the same space that serves as their primary residence. These units are usually built at-grade and are designed to have direct-access to, and a high-level of visibility from city streets and sidewalks – much like retail stores. In many cities, live / work units are especially popular with artists and people who own small businesses. These units are ideal for professionals in computer services, graphic arts, and other emerging job classifications who do not necessarily require a morning commute to the office. In some cases, live / work units have become especially popular among those who enjoy being interconnected with and exposed to the streetlife of the city outside. From a city-building perspective, live / work units are especially beneficial because they create flexible spaces at street level that can be easily transformed from residential spaces to retail spaces when market demand changes. Live / work spaces are most always combined in a building that includes other styles and types of residential units on the upper stories.
Single-Residence Occupancy (SROs): One of the downsides of urban development that took place in many American cities during the 1950s and 1960s was the destruction of residential buildings that were divided into Single Room Occupancies, or SROs. These units combine the essential functions of a living space into a small, but affordable unit that is intended to be inhabited by just one person. While in many cities such as Minneapolis, SROs were stigmatized as the housing of last resort, this kind of residential unit is again gaining popularity, this time as a low cost "first step" housing option. For instance, a recent trend aimed squarely at the young seeks to provide either rental or ownership units that are not much larger than a hotel room, 200 – 250 SF. Although such an option may not have widespread market appeal, the focus on affordability offers a cost-competitive choice to those seeking to minimize housing and commuting costs. Likewise, SROs add another layer of the income strata to downtown neighborhoods, thus avoiding the one-sided view that downtown is an enclave of the wealthy (see Figure 2.3).
Co-Housing Residential: Co-housing is a form of residential development that combines aspects of individualized, or family-based home ownership, with those of communal living. Co-Housing projects provide a series of individual living units organized around communal facilities such as kitchens, dining areas, and recreation and hobby rooms. They are programmed to accommodate a variety of households living together under a single roof. Co-housing can be designed to accommodate any special needs or focus of the intended occupants – from young families starting out through to elderly people looking for cooperative care. In the process, co-housing helps to foster new downtown communities, which in turn helps to reverse the otherwise prescribed "choice" of a single-family, suburban-style house (see Figure 2.4).
Emerging Trends: New Typologies for Downtown Residential Development
Downtown living requires housing types other than the suburban style, single-family home with its inefficient use of valuable land. Downtown housing needs to be developed, designed, and built in such a way as to ensure that the resulting clusters ultimately become vibrant neighborhoods. Such places need to be served by neighborhood necessities such as grocery stores, hardware stores, dry cleaners, and mass transit. But they might also encourage a host of extras such as coffee shops, video stores, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. If both Downtown East and the North Loop are going to meet the test of becoming Complete Communities, integrating residential development with commercial development – particularly neighborhood services – must be a high priority.
Realizing that downtown Minneapolis will only achieve its goals for Downtown revitalization especially in the Project Area with a substantial resident population, the Master Plan examined the range of possible housing types that should be used for new downtown residential projects (see Figure 2.5).
Emerging Trends: New Opportunities and Challenges
Affordable Housing: The provision of affordable housing is a policy issue, not a specific physical typology. All new residential development within the Project Area must conform to existing and new City policies on affordable housing. Affordable housing units should be dispersed throughout the Project Area, not built in stand-alone developments that run the risk of becoming ghettoized. Progress on residential development in the Project Area should be monitored and tracked so that an annual review can assess how well the market place – as well as city funded projects – are meeting the challenges of providing affordable housing. The City should consider normalizing a policy for creating a set percentage of affordable housing units in all ownership and rental developments, regardless of how they are financed.
Neighborhood Preservation: The Downtown East/North Loop Master Plan underscores and re-emphasizes the goals for neighborhood creation, preservation, and enhancement outlined in the Elliot Park Neighborhood Master Plan, the Hennepin County Multi-Modal Station Area Plan and the Update to the Historic Mills District Plan. The master plan also places the highest importance on the evolution of downtown Minneapolis through quality residential areas. It articulates a vision of neighborhood development for specific precincts within the Project Area. The creation of new residential neighborhoods is essential to the future success of downtown Minneapolis as a place to live, work and play. Bringing more residential development opportunities to downtown is at the core of the recommendations made within this report.
However, one issue that could inhibit neighborhood development within the Project Area is the potential for emerging NIMBYism. With each new housing unit filled, the possibility grows that community residents, current or future, will oppose development that comes after them. Unattended, this problem could hold the Project Area back from realizing the densities called for throughout the plan. The result could be the loss of critical mass required to meet the goal of vibrant inner city communities. Efforts must be taken to ensure that beneficial development is not stalled under the guise of "Neighborhood Preservation." In other words, neighborhoods are not static entities; they grow, change, and evolve over time. That sort of dynamism must be understood and embraced as the number one reason that cities – particularly downtowns – are exhilarating places to live.
Policies for Downtown Housing
- City policy must encourage development of downtown housing that is twice the growth that is otherwise suggested by current market predictions (see Chapter Three). Specifically, the City should ensure that adopted policies and ordinances support the creation of 10,000 new residential units within the Project Area over the next twenty years.
- New housing should accommodate a diversity of end users by offering various kinds of units, typologies / configurations, and price points.
- Medium and high-density residential development will be highly required within the Project Area (except within the 9th Street Historic District).
- Residential and commercial uses will be combined in mixed-use developments throughout the Project Area; Land use ordinances and zoning codes should be revised as required to remove any obstacles that discourage mixed-use development.
- Issues of overshadowing, view protection, and other quality of life considerations should be regulated through development of comprehensive design guidelines.
- A percentage of all housing units should be set aside for non-market and "hard-to-house" tenants.
- A portion of all new housing should have larger, ground floor units, with outdoor recreation areas that are visually accessible from indoors to accommodate families with children.
In order to encourage the development of Complete Communities, a wide range of commercial uses and activities should be interwoven within both the existing and emerging residential districts of Downtown Minneapolis. In order to offer a truly urban set of residential choices, it is important to create environments where residents might choose a lifestyle where it is possible to work and shop in the same neighborhood as where they live. Even if residents choose not to live, work, and shop in the same given neighborhood, the intermingling of commercial and residential uses is critical to establishing a city that has activity, vitality, and safety at all times of the day and week. It is essential that there is always somebody coming and going – whether it is to and from their job or to and from their home. For this reason it’s important to overcome the temptation to think of one part of downtown as the place where people work, another part as the place where people are entertained, another where people live, and so on.
Commercial enterprise should be developed throughout the downtown, albeit in different densities and formats depending on the location or neighborhood, where that development is occurring. High-density office development should continue to be concentrated in the Downtown Core, but that does not mean that it should not and cannot exist at other scales and in other formats in other parts of Downtown. Likewise, large hotels may choose to cluster within the Core or close to the Convention Center, but if a developer can "make a go" of lodging within another part of downtown, that use should continue to be allowed and encouraged.
A healthy retail landscape is a prime requisite for successfully developing Complete Communities in Downtown East and the North Loop. New and current local residents need to be able to purchase the goods and services required to carry out their daily lives. It is critical for policymakers to remember the timeless real estate mantra "location, location, location." To simply decree, for example, that all ground floor, mixed-use development should be designated retail would doom too many of those spaces to failure. The key is to pick strategic locations that will serve as catalysts for further retail growth and to establish a sense of place surrounding those retail nodes.
The City of Minneapolis must ensure the ability to develop "at-grade" neighborhood-based retail districts within the Project Area. It should ensure that these retail centers are brought "on line" in manageable increments and given every opportunity to take hold and prosper. If a retail center is too ambitious for its marketplace, and it flounders, the perception that the area is failing will prompt even further failure and begin a downward spiral that the City would have a very difficult time recovering from. Several key principles should be the foundations for encouraging and sustaining retail within the Project Area and throughout Downtown Minneapolis:
Concentrate on providing neighborhood commercial and retail services: Downtown should remain a strong regional center for goods and services. However, another layer of goods and services also must be available to new and existing residents – neighborhood retail and commercial services. Emerging and existing neighborhoods will only be sustainable if they offer residents choices for obtaining life necessities within walking distance from home. Such necessities include groceries, hardware, drycleaning, and other retail and professional services (see Figure 2.6).
Retail must be strategically located: While the concept of creating space for neighborhood retail on every Downtown street corner is attractive, the reality is that the market is not likely to support a high proliferation and variety of new spaces over the next twenty years (see Chapter Two: Market Analysis). Nevertheless, there are specific sub-sectors of retail that can be expected to grow in Downtown Minneapolis. Retail growth should be strategically clustered at LRT stations, major intersections, or along existing or emerging commercial corridors such as Washington Avenue. Once key locations are established, it is more likely that new start-ups and expansion might survive in mid-block or interstitial locations.
Establish critical mass at selected locations: Rather than designate a requirement for at-grade retail everywhere within the Project Area, this plan proposes that retail development should occur first at specifically identified streets and intersections, particularly those that already have a physical infrastructure that can accommodate such uses. Three or four successful retail establishments clustered at a prominent neighborhood intersection will go a long way to establishing the critical mass required for a full-fledged retail precinct to take root. If this corner retail development is further combined with urban design or place making elements – a public plaza, public art and/or a water fountain, a vest-pocket park – so much the better. Once the retail precinct takes hold, other retail facilities should be encouraged to "spill" down the side streets forming unbroken "fingers" of retail development that add to the character and identity of the precinct. The trick is to provide settings that are architecturally designed in such a way as to let retail develop and evolve at a speed that enjoys continued market support, rather than designating too large a precinct from the start and watching it fail.
Flexible architecture: It’s important to allow for retail growth while avoiding the temptation to overbuild retail spaces. Overbuilding would result in too many spaces being vacant for too long, thus undermining the feeling that Downtown is active and healthy. Instead, it’s important to ensure that the ground-level design for any downtown building is scaled and proportioned in such a way that its use can be changed over the years from housing to office to retail space and back again, according to the demands of the marketplace. Buildings that are flexible in the kind of uses and spaces they accommodate are more likely to survive because they can be adapted with changing times. For instance, a century ago, it was unlikely that anyone foresaw the Warehouse District as an enclave of creative enterprises, upscale residential units, and trendy entertainment venues. But because the buildings in this part of Downtown were designed to be flexible, they were easily adapted to new uses when it became more profitable to warehouse goods elsewhere.
Ensure that design enhances retail environments: The City’s ability to encourage good building design and good street design is critical for creating walkable neighborhoods. It is important that pedestrians feel comfortable enough to shop. Providing interesting architecture that allows for highly visible displays and street settings helps to create safe and attractive places to spend time in. The goal is to have people buy more, enjoy themselves, and return with their friends. Neighborhood retail centers should become the "living room" of the community, the focus of pride and identity. Good design will enhance and encourage emerging neighborhood retail districts through a variety of different measures:
- Mixed-use buildings increase pedestrian activity not only during the day, but well into the evening. People will use the sidewalks more if there is a mixture of residences, offices, stores and entertainment in a single location rather than being spread out over several blocks;
- Wide sidewalks: Sidewalks need to have enough room for friends to comfortably walk side-by-side. On major streets, sidewalks should be a minimum of 12’-0" wide. On side streets, 10’-0" sidewalks are adequate;
- Shade and shelter: Shoppers need shelter from summer sun and winter snow;
- Spatial enclosure: In most cases, buildings need to be placed up against the sidewalk to create a "sense of place." The exception is in blocks where there is already market demand for wider sidewalks that could accommodate outdoor cafes;
- On-street parking creates a greater sense of pedestrian safety because there is a physical barrier between moving cars and strolling pedestrians;
- Sidewalk "bulb-outs" at street intersections reduce the width of roadway and, therefore, the width of the crosswalk, making it easier for pedestrians to see cross traffic, and shortening the distance needed to walk across the street. At the same time, because bulb-outs break the otherwise uniform line of street curbs, they force motorists to slow down as they perceive a narrower space to drive through (even though drive lanes are actually the same size as streets without bulb-outs);
- Narrow car lanes: Providing as few car lanes as practical and narrowing them accordingly helps to control the speed and pace of vehicles and minimize street pavement;
- Benches, planters or low walls: People like to rest and enjoy being at the center of activity. Retail health is often tied to the ability to stop and "people watch";
- Aligned building facades lend a greater sense of security because they minimize places for people to hide;
- Building facades should provide a variety of styles, regarding storefront materials, colors and signage; avoid boring, blank facades;
- Doors facing the sidewalk: People will use the sidewalk if storefronts open directly onto the sidewalks rather than opening into the interior corridors of buildings;
- Linear Buildings: One way to fill vacant lots on retail streets is by the design of linear buildings along pedestrian streets. Buildings that are long and narrow encourage the appearance of more retail frontage than what local conditions can economically support;
- Large storefronts encourage window-shopping;
- Upper story windows facing the street from residential, lodging, or office spaces allow for natural surveillance, thus lending a sense of security.
Encourage Business Improvement Districts (BIDs): Shopping districts will be stronger if retailers band together to form Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). BIDs can ensure a lively streetlife by constantly refining their image through banners, other advertising programs, street festivals, and the like. In-store promotions often link merchandise presentations with neighborhood or district-wide events.
Discourage Further Auto-Oriented Retail: Developments that cater primarily to automobile traffic – service stations, fast food stores, drive-in banks, strip shopping centers and the like – are counter productive to the goal of establishing pedestrian-friendly realms within the Downtown Minneapolis. Their inherent need for multiple curb cuts and large, highly visible surface parking lots do little to encourage construction of mixed-use residential developments. Although selected kinds of auto-oriented development are necessary to ensure that new and existing residents have access to filling stations and auto repair shops, they are best located at the outer edges of downtown in close proximity to the existing freeway system. Beyond what is considered a minimum number of essential auto-oriented neighborhood services, the City should take the position that subsequent auto-oriented and "drive- thru" facilities will not be permitted within the Project Area.
Policies for Retail Strategies
- Develop distinct neighborhood retail centers, which are at-grade and easily accessible to and from city sidewalks.
- Discourage second level retail in neighborhoods and districts outside of the established Downtown Core, as it detracts from on-street pedestrian activity.
- Designate full street corners as catalyst community retail centers; encourage retail development to continue along streets, but only once street corner retail development has matured.
- Wherever possible, develop street corner retail with an urban plaza that includes neighborhood icons, public art and the like.
- Encourage retail uses that promote extended hours of operation - such as restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and the like - in pursuit of city streets that are lively at most hours of the day and night.
- Prohibit surface parking lots between sidewalks and retail storefronts.
- On-street parking is encouraged wherever practicable.
- Maintain and enhance existing restrictions on all new auto-oriented development. Encourage new development at sites where auto-oriented development already exists.
A starting point for this project was to address the inter-related issues of transportation, transit, and parking in order to establish a solid framework on which to evaluate several different options for refining the land use plan in the Project Area.
In order to create the kind of environment that will allow Complete Communities to germinate in the Project Area, the City must first seek ways to reduce automobile dependence. This challenge must be dealt with effectively at two different levels. Some of Downtown’s peripheral neighborhoods have languished for many years as the fallout of an otherwise very successful strategy for intensifying land uses in the Downtown Core. More specifically, many of the buildings and activities in the North Loop and especially in Downtown East were cleared and replaced with surface parking lots. For many years, these lots offered a stopgap measure in that they provided ample parking for a growing downtown and an increasingly mobile working population. But times have changed. The city has grown. Under-utilizing such a vast area of potentially lucrative property is counterproductive to maintaining a healthy, vital downtown. Surface lots that currently serve Downtown commuters must be re-developed for higher and better uses that are served by a mix of transportation modes. Given the value of downtown land, it is not possible to expect that each and every existing surface stall will be replaced by a stall in a new structured ramp. The commuter trips represented by at least some of those stalls must be replaced by commuters using public transit.
Because of the relatively high value of downtown land, it costs more for developers to assemble a site. The city must therefore maximize the utility of each site – as well as its eventual tax capacity – by allowing for, indeed requiring, that each site is built to a minimum acceptable density. Moreover, it is not wise to build residential units that automatically have two dedicated parking spaces apiece. It is incumbent upon the City, as a leader in the region, to plan communities that allow for households that have just one car or less.
In cities where downtown parking supply per employee increases, the percentage of people choosing transit and walking / biking to travel downtown almost always decreases. Similarly, in cities that provide more transit and less downtown parking, the converse is true. Land that might have been used for parking is developed for higher and better uses that are more productive in building the city’s tax base. Thus, the continued accommodation of convenient downtown parking, much of it in single-use parking structures, is counterproductive to the desire to reduce auto dependence within the Downtown Core generally, and within the Project Area specifically.
At issue is the pursuit of land use planning that promotes compact development, which in turn complements new rail transit infrastructure. In response to this challenge, land use planning efforts must be geared toward enabling residents to live in close proximity to where they work, shop, and play, thereby reducing unnecessary automobile trips. In addition, land use planning must focus on providing commercial activity in close proximity to both new and established transit routes as a way to stem the flow of single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) arriving in and moving around Downtown Minneapolis on a daily basis. At the same time there is a need to balance the relationship between transportation investments and development density in order to ensure that downtown vehicular traffic is not unduly inhibited by future development.
Parallel to the issues related to land use planning is the observation that most existing downtown parking, either in single-use parking structures or on surface lots, is generally not pedestrian-friendly. Efforts need to be made to retrofit existing parking structures and ensure that future parking facilities meet design guidelines that deal with their functional and aesthetic presence within the community.
Policies for Transportation, Transit and Parking
- Improve operations at congested intersections: Initiate measures aimed at alleviating traffic difficulties at the key intersections identified in the Downtown Transportation Study as being highly congested. Such measures could include improvements in the design of intersections and changes in traffic patterns to reduce volumes through such intersections.
- Achieve effective interface with the Hiawatha LRT Route: The need exists to effectively coordinate the Hiawatha LRT service with bus service as well as pedestrian and bicycle circulation within the Project Area.
- Relieve bus congestion during the PM peak period: Provision of additional exclusive HOV/bus lanes, consolidation of bus routes into shuttle / circulator services should be pursued to accomplish this objective.
- Improve the quality of downtown transit stops: Placement of bus stops should be further examined with MetroTransit. In addition, funding for provision of additional and/or improved bus shelters should be actively pursued. Design guidelines should be devised to reinforce existing policies and regulations that call for integration of bus stops / shelters within new building projects - both public and private.
- Address the needs of bus layover space: The City, in consultation with Metro Transit, should determine to what extent bus layover space is needed in the Project Area and how best to locate and design such spaces.
- Maintain existing requirements and encourage new requirements for the City's award-winning Travel Demand Management (TDM) strategies in Downtown Minneapolis.
- Expand the existing UPass and MetroPass discounted transit pass programs for employees and residents of Downtown Minneapolis with a program that allows developers to construct fewer parking stalls in exchange for purchasing transit passes (for a limited time period) for all residents, employees, or students.
- Consider "In Lieu" fees, where developer fees are used to fund public parking instead of requiring individual facilities to provide off-street parking.
- Develop a Comprehensive Parking Policy for Downtown Minneapolis: Although it is beyond the scope of the Downtown East/North Loop Master Plan, the City needs to develop a comprehensive parking policy for the entire central business district.
- Discontinue Expansion of the City's existing Perimeter Parking Policy within the Project Area: The City's current perimeter parking policy should not be expanded any further because it discourages public transit ridership, promotes inefficient land use and is not pedestrian-friendly. In addition, the existing perimeter parking policy conflicts with the ability to discourage construction of future park-and-ride structures within close proximity to the LRT Corridor.
- Develop standards for and set "parking maximums:" As a means to reign in the over-construction of parking, the City should establish policies and ordinances that incrementally reduce requirements for providing new parking in direct proportion to expansion of transit service. The City's Zoning Code should be revised and amended to include standards for "parking maximums," rather than "parking minimums" for all new construction. In support of the City's goal of moving towards greater reliance upon alternate modes of transportation over the next twenty years, the zoning code should be modified to gradually scale back existing parking requirements for downtown office uses from a minimum of 3.33 stalls per 1,000 per Gross Floor Area (GFA) to an ultimate maximum of 1.0 stall per 1,000 GFA. Likewise the Code should be revised to gradually scale back existing parking requirements for downtown residential uses to one stall per residential unit.
- Eliminate or reduce required parking in specific circumstances: The City should eliminate or reduce required parking in new developments adjacent to LRT Stations within the Project Area. The City should prohibit construction of new commercial parking structures within a block of downtown LRT stations. Likewise the City should eliminate the on-site parking requirements for infill development projects on development sites that are less than one-quarter block in size.
- Phase-out existing surface lots within two blocks of all downtown LRT stations by instituting a five or seven year timeline for conversion to other uses. In an effort to encourage higher and better uses, explore options for raising property taxes on stand-alone surface parking lots to be commensurate with the rates that would be paid if the site was fully developed.
- On-street parking permits: Continue to provide for a limited number of resident on-street parking permit programs to discourage workers from parking on downtown residential streets. Consider market pricing for on-street parking through the metering of on-street and residential permit parking programs to reduce spillover problems.
- Devise Guidelines for Parking Structures to promote higher standards of development within the Project Area. Such guidelines should include - or continue to include - consideration of design as well as corollary uses (within the same structure). Specifically, these guidelines should encourage construction of underground parking structures wherever possible. When below-grade parking is not feasible, the guidelines should call for the following:
Above ground parking structures should be incorporated into mixed-use projects in such a way that the parking structure is "lined" with or surrounded by active uses facing the street.;
All parking structures should limit vehicular access to no more than one combined entrance / egress point per block located as close as possible to the middle of the block face.;
Pedestrian entry / stairs should be located mid-block to allow for high-visibility uses at street corners.
Last updated Sep 27, 2011