Minneapolis comprehensive plan recognizes University area for first time

On Wednesday, City Council approved an amendment solidifying the unique role of the University and surrounding neighborhoods in the city.

by Tiffany Bui

As the Minneapolis City Council prepares to complete a draft of its comprehensive 2040 plan, an amendment will uniquely recognize the University of Minnesota and surrounding neighborhoods for the first time. 

Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon proposed an amendment to the draft that identifies the “University District” as a district area due to the University’s far-reaching influence.

The Committee of the Whole approved it and a slew of amendments presented by other council members Wednesday. 

“[The University District is] special and it deserves some kind of recognition in our plan,” Gordon said. 

The amendment lists action steps like supporting infrastructure improvements for the area’s growing population and attracting a mix of diverse renters and homeowners. Gordon is a member of the University District Alliance, whose feedback to the City Council in July helped inform the amendment language. 

The move lays the groundwork for implementing future policy plans affecting the University District, although Gordon said he has no specific initiatives in mind yet. 

“I think when the [University District] is in the plan, there’s an expectation there is something that will get implemented,” said Gordon.

One of the key points in the the amendment recognizes that rental housing in the area is almost exclusively occupied by groups of “unrelated young people,” an acknowledgement Gordon said is meant to ensure neither renters or homeowners are treated unfairly in policy decisions moving forward. 

Ted Tucker, a member of the UDA executive committee, was one of many community members to testify in front of the City Council on the comprehensive plan Nov. 14. 

“The University is unique, with its own police department and transit service and open space,” said Tucker, “There’s no other district in the city that has that as the major institution at the center.” 

UDA member Katie Fournier said the neighborhoods’ close proximity to the University makes it a significant player in the city landscape. 

“[The University District] need[s] to be regarded as an asset to both the University and city,” said Fournier. “[Neighborhoods] are recruitment tools for the University to recruit and keep the best faculty who want good neighborhoods and also to recruit top flight students.”

The UDA was established in 2007, shortly before planning for the last City comprehensive plan was completed. But members didn’t see a need for a University District-specific amendment at the time, said Fournier. 

“There wasn’t a sense of change,” Fournier said. “This is the first opportunity that we’ve had to think about how this part of the city stands out or is different from the city in general.”

The comprehensive plan proposes building dense housing in neighborhoods traditionally composed of single-family homes, an issue which has attracted citywide controversy. Tucker said the UDA is more concerned with ensuring infrastructure in the area can keep up with the growth. 

“The infrastructure that is streets and parks are not adequate for the number of people living and working in the University District,” Tucker said.