Sunday, December 4, 2011

Can We Get Something OTHER Than Non-Profit Development?

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Word came out this week that changes are being sought to the Let's Just Give All of West Broadway to the Ackerberg Group Because We're Not Doing Redevelopment Anyway Plan.  The proposed changes can be found here.  While I have sung the praises of Ackerberg and Catalyst before, and I'm thankful for their ongoing commitment to NoMi, I have some deep reservations about this proposal.

Those reservations are not around the preservation of housing stock in the proposed development area.  There are a series of homes and other land that will need to be assembled, and that's a part of any such project.  If anything, the quality of housing that was demolished for the MPS building next door was far higher than this and I wish some of those homes would have been moved instead of demolished.  There are 11 parcels being added to the site plan, starting with...

...1301 21st Ave N
 1303 21st Ave N
1305 21st Ave N - vacant land owned by Hennepin County
1307 21st Ave N - vacant land owned by the City of Minneapolis
1317 21st Ave N
1403 21st Ave N - homesteaded property
1405 21st Ave N - owned by the infamous Keith Reitman
1409 21st Ave N
2107 Girard Ave N - apartment owned by the Ackerberg Group
1408 West Broadway
1410 West Broadway

Based on photos of many of these properties, there's not a whole lot that appears visually historic here:

Oddly enough, this house is not on the addresses in the proposed change.

Let's start with the nicer point of criticism first, shall we?  If this project goes through, why are we leaving 2015 Girard alone?  I do think there's a lot to like about the proposed site plan.  I want to see two-story buildings along West Broadway and that could require the creation of parking behind such structures.  But how is it fair to the owner of this last house to plop that redevelopment around that structure?

And I have to wonder if the following statement is a standard part of such design plans:

State law authorizes the City to acquire property either on a negotiated basis or, in certain situations, through the use of its power of eminent domain, if necessary, to carry out a redevelopment plan. The City will seek to acquire property from willing sellers whenever possible.
Before this closing statement, the proposed plan change states:

The West Broadway Hub will be developed by The Ackerberg Group and will be privately owned by a related development entity (gee, I wonder who that could be?), with Hennepin County as the sole tenant. Hennepin County will house approximately 200 employees in a new two-story structure of approximately 30,000 square feet. The Hennepin County Hub will provide adult and child social services to clients throughout north Minneapolis...
(linked comment added by the author)

So here we have a site with multiple parcels already owned by the city of Minneapolis, Catalyst, and Hennepin County.  The city is preparing a plan modification for the area, in which the new development would be managed by Ackerberg/Catalyst, and currently the sole tenant is Hennepin County.   Why oh why does this smack of insider baseball?  And what kinds of services are we talking about providing here?  Will there be things that regular folks can actually use, like maybe pulling permits (admittedly a city function) or a DMV?

The proposal continues:
The building’s street-focused design and the addition of hundreds of County staff and thousands of annual client visits will add vibrancy and presence to this critical corridor.
If the usage will be that great, then why does the plan only call for about 120-150 parking spaces?

Page 8 of the plan appears to be somewhat self-contradictory in stating that this proposal is in line with the West Broadway Alive plan, yet in some cases rezoning may be necessary.  The areas that might need rezoning are where area residents probably have the most leverage to either get what we want out of this or derail it entirely if it comes to that.

Residents will have a chance to give their input at a community listening session, which I am told will happen on December 15.  I will add the time and location to the post when I have that available.

As a resident who now lives within walking distance of the plan, I strongly oppose this based on the social service aspect of its proposed use.  I would like to see actual business development along West Broadway, and not more service-based projects.  If nobody has such a proposal at the ready, or if now is not the right time, then let the MPS headquarters do what we all thought it would do; bring in employees and other patrons that will increase business demand along the corridor.

If anyone wishes to convince me otherwise, show me another such facility in Minneapolis that abuts residential properties and prove that such a facility has brought tangible benefits to the community.

Furthermore, while I generally have a high opinion of the work done by Catalyst and the Ackerberg Group, I'm starting to believe they have their fingers in enough pots along West Broadway.  And the last time there was a disconnect between Catalyst and the community, they didn't really listen to the neighborhood all that much.  So I'd like to see more finished results and a redoubled commitment to a real dialogue before handing over yet another key intersection to them.  Even then, I'd rather see another developer start taking on projects along the corridor.  Such competition will spur all parties to do better.  Right now we have an overabundance of fried food shacks and nail salons along Broadway.  I'm doubtful that continuing to add social services to the mix is going to make the community any better.


  1. Social services appear to be a booming industry around these parts. So glad we asked for them... Oh wait a minute, no, no we didn't.

  2. One other thing... How are businesses supposed to exist, let alone be created if whole blocks are being consumed by government entities?

  3. Just what we need... A high rent welfare office on West Broadway! (NOT!)

  4. The I.I. , you may not have asked for them, but how do you know that a whole shit load of residents that you don't associate did NOT ask for them?

    And what are the nail salons that overpopulate west broadway? I'd like to chek them out, maybe get my nails done. thanks!

  5. The way I see it, this is not going to be a magnet for poor people. Do you know why? Because the poor people are already here. And they are already going to the social service offices. That won't change. What it will do is bring in professionals. Instead of the poor being HERE and the professionals being THERE, it will bring these professionals into the community. And they will go out to lunch, get gas, and stop at Cub to pick up milk on their way home from work. Heck, maybe some will decide they want to live close to where they work and will be wowed by how affordable it is here. This is not going to increase poverty in NoMi. But there will be more people with a higher income level spending large amounts of their time here. That is precisely what we need more of if we are going to develop and sustain businesses on West Broadway.

  6. M. Clinton, you hit the nail on the head. Even with this project, there is PLENTY of room left (entire blocks, sadly, of vacant land and/or boarded buildings) for every type of business to find a home on West Broadway. We need a critical mass of positive activity in the corridor, and this would be another big step in the right direction. Actually, I'm still pissed Catalyst torpedoed AutoZone and it would definitely be nice to see this project upgraded to a full-blown County Service center, but either way I'm all for this one. Incidentally, NXNS, what better way to validate a streetcar line up Broadway than to have a bona fide "employment hub" right in the middle? The more the merrier.

  7. @ Anon 4:01,

    Trust me, I know the people that I associate with wouldn't "ask" for something like this.

  8. To the question of whether or not people are asking for such a social service center on Broadway: That's a good point. ARE people asking for this? What kinds of social services specifically would be offered at this yet-to-be-approved project? And assuming many of those services are downtown, ARE the users of such things saying that it would be better to have them closer to home? And are the ones who might clamor for such change actually from north Minneapolis?

    I'm not sure if the answers would change what I personally want, but providing them could at least demonstrate that such a project was based on measurable criteria. Right now I'm hearing the following logic: We have poor people in NoMi; a certain number of poor people use social services; many social services are located downtown; ergo social services should be located in north Minneapolis; West Broadway is the specific place for such a center.

    And if that's what's being sold to me, I ain't buying it.

    Speaking of not buying it, guess what I don't do much of on Broadway right now? Buying things. North Minneapolis has middle- and upper-income people too, and right now West Broadway doesn't offer them much of a reason to stick around and spend their money in the community. Sure, filling commercial space on the corridor isn't easy - if it were, the five points building would be overflowing with activity and we'd be singing a different tune about this site here. But if all we ask for are the things that come easy, we won't get much of value in the long run.

  9. I do have to say, the most compelling argument in favor of the proposal (from my perspective) is that the addition of employees and those seeking service could increase the traffic along Broadway to the point where a streetcar system becomes a higher priority. If that point begins to get any traction then I would want to see some hard data applied to both this proposal and the streetcar reports. Don't just mollify me with a "there, there, HH, we'll get streetcars (maybe) sometime soon (I think)."

    And even then, I'm not sure if I'd like it; I just might find it to be an acceptable tradeoff.

  10. Two other points:

    First, if this is going to help spur business along West Broadway, as M.Clinton suggests, then I'd like to see the existing businesses express their formal support through the West Broadway Coalition.

    Second, if we want more social services in NoMi, then why not take a look at the intersection of Penn and Plymouth? The southern two corners are large vacant lots and the land is owned by CPED. It's been vacant now for how long? And nearby we have the Urban League, UROC, and Northpoint. If we're going to create a "social service hub" in NoMi, this would appear to be the logical place for it.

  11. "Build it and they will come" Well, so much for community progress.

    We keep catering to the poor, indigents, criminals, sex offenders, and every other form of lumpenproletariat and we wonder why the community can't attract businesses and homesteaders?

    Our hearts are in the right place, but we aren't using our brains. Is it any wonder that personal accountability in our community is so low that no one wants invest here? Are we really serving the needy with such a high concentration of poverty and social maladies?

    To say that we need additional social services because this is where those services are needed becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

    Of the "Hundreds of Staff" and the "Thousands of clients" which class do you think will be inhabiting our neighborhoods and shopping our stores? That's why there are only 150 parking spaces and Ackerberg hasn't proposed any retail space in conjunction with this development.

    If we think that the clerk who just turned down social service request is going to go window shopping along Broadway on her lunch break or hop on a shiny new street car after work we are crazy.

    The positive side of this plan is that it does establish some basis for development which coupled with the School Admin relocation has long range promise. The building development is said to be convertible to retail space should the service center ever relocate. It needs a lot more review.

    Ya, Ackerberg is little more than a high class poverty pimp, But hey - He's our poverty pimp and this is the only proposal on the table!

    Please post a copy of the sight plan.

  12. Two items of note: First, the listening session mentioned above is listed on the Jordan neighborhood's calendar as Thursday the 15th, 6:30 p.m. at North Regional Library.

    Second, I received a phone call from Catalyst, wanting to both meet with me and correct me on some things mentioned here. I've called them back and look forward to that meeting. If there are factual inaccuracies that were printed by me or others, I will gladly correct them and will do whatever I can to keep a dialogue going - even if my personal opinion remains the same.

  13. They are converting land designated for homes and turning it into a parking lot for 150 cars.

    A parking lot that will now be the first thing neighbors see when they look out their window. Not a business. Not rehabbed or new homes. A parking lot.

    And this location is NOT high density retail. It is the gateway for a very residential section of Jordan, on streets not designed for heavy traffic.

    All of which will now all funnel directly towards this parking lot.

    Why were the residents that own homes around this project not asked for input?

    They know about it now, and they are PISSED

  14. Why can't additional parking for this facility and the School Admin building be formatted into a ramp with a smaller footprint and first level retail and restaurants? This will provide the impetus for further development while creating a secure environment for potential professionals.

  15. Unacceptable - I do not want the car and foot traffic on MY BLOCK - This will affect Hillside - we already have speeding and too much car traffic down our block. NO WAY!

    I have repeatedly asked the County and City to get back to me regarding how this is anticipated to increase traffic on Irving and Hillside Avenue. I have asked them what is the City and County plan for dealing with this. What plan does the county have for public safety? It is amazing to me that there is NO Traffic plan associated with this plan - why are they willing to let our street become more of a speedway than it already is?

    This will continue to shape West Broadway as a overly congested social service avenue, not a viable commercial and housing corridor. If you the response it that this brings 200 people to shop on West Broadway, let me kindly direct you back to my first argument about the traffic, I DO not want 200 extra cars, plus the "customer" on my block. They will take Hillside, because West Broadway will be more backed-up than it already is.

    Downtown is a very accessible place for these services. Is this really the only idea that CPED has been able to come up with for this part of North Minneapolis? Also, I need to know how does this fit in with the West Broadway Alive plan? Aside from that - most government employees bring their lunch to work...the build it and development will come argument is BS. THis area needs more intervention than that!

    I would personally rather see nothing at all here, than a giant parking lot and a government office. Put the parking underground (I DO NOT CARE WHAT THAT COST IS).

    I am also not swayed by the argument that it will be better than a dilapidated block. It is the idea that we would be so dazzled by a shiny new building that we would forget about the traffic impact that bothers me. What also sits badly with me is the Neighborhood fought and worked so hard with Auto Zone to come up with a thoughtful design that would eradicate the nasty carwash, whose customers have been terrorizing neighbors. After we gave our approval. Ackerberg and Catalyst swept in and silently killed the deal, saying it does not fit the West Broadway Alive Plan. Now they are silently trying to push though another plan that doesn’t fit the West Broadway Alive plan. This is pure hypocrisy. They killed the Autozone because they did not get the profit.

    Also, that was the argument the school district threw out when it bought up blocks of houses to build several of the now vacant Northside schools. So, that does not carry much weight. I would rather see the neighborhoods, along with City and County official be much more strategic about what goes here vs. asking us to be happy because it is better than what we have. Personally, the duplex on the SW Corner, owned by the now deceased owner of the Butteroll, is a beautiful building to tear it down and let Morris Klock's flophouse stand is pure crazy!

    Mainly, I am depressed thinking about the lack of vision the City and County have for this neighborhood, guess they found a developer willing to help them congest a residential neighborhood with traffic and social services. Good to know that attracting and maintaining a middle class population to creat a true mixed income community is a priority -- NOT!

  16. Living on Hillside - Keep in mind that there are 13 members on the City Council who would do about anything they could to prevent the concentration of poverty we have in NOMI from leaking out of this community and into their Ward. (This includes transit planning).

    Ackerberg gets it. That is why his development emphasis has shifted from retail and condos to pandering for the social services handouts we are given in an effort to salvage the investments he has already made.

  17. "I would like to see actual business development along West Broadway, and not more service-based projects."



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