U area on trend for growth

The metro area is set for big changes, and area development mirrors citywide trends.

Tyler Gieseke

Twin Cities’ population is poised to skyrocket, and city leaders are evaluating whether the University of Minnesota area is ready for a smooth transition.

The Metropolitan Council presented its 30-year regional plan to a Minneapolis city committee Thursday, recommending more development around transit corridors to accommodate new growth in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

City leaders say development around the University already follows this trend and existing projects seem to match the Met Council’s long-term recommendations.

The plan predicts a nearly 30 percent jump in the metro area population, with the Twin Cities receiving the largest share.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents neighborhoods around the University, said leaders in Prospect Park plan to redevelop the industrial land north of the University, build a research district and construct mixed-use housing along the light rail Green Line that is opening in June.

Gordon said he agrees that developing near transit is good for cities, noting that there’s an opportunity to redevelop near the West Bank light-rail station.

Building around transportation hubs is efficient because it helps people commute faster, said University geography Professor Emeritus John Adams.

The Met Council plan also forecasts a higher demand for redevelopment, said Libby Starling, Met Council manager of regional policy and research.

This redevelopment can be mean costly demolition, but it presents less public cost in the long run than building on the Twin Cities’ suburban edge, Starling said.

Gordon said it’s important that developers — especially in the University area — build at a reasonable pace, because it’s hard to market housing that goes up too quickly.

Another concern is that too many new developments target specific markets like college students. To counteract that, Prospect Park leaders want a mix of family-oriented, senior and family housing in their new developments, Gordon said.

It’s estimated that retired and single people will increasingly flock to urban areas, potentially choosing apartment complexes near transit hubs instead of single-family housing, Adams said.

The greater population will present the city with both challenges and opportunities, Gordon said. The boost could be a boon to the economy, but the government will need to adapt and provide sufficient parks, schools and law enforcement protection, which Gordon said could be challenging.

The Met Council is required by Minnesota law to produce a comprehensive 30-year plan every decade to help guide cities as they create development plans. The public is able to comment on the unofficial plan until April 28, and the Met Council will finalize it next month.