Light rail’s imminent arrival spurs neighborhood concerns

Courtney Lewis

Area residents are concerned that neighborhoods around the Light Rail Transit’s Hiawatha corridor will not be developed by the time trains start running in roughly 18 months.

Michael Krause, executive director of the Green Institute and member of the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Advisory Board, said he is concerned there are not any plans for housing in the neighborhoods. Krause said the areas around the line should have dense populations, and residents should be able to walk or ride the train anywhere they need to go.

Krause met with local residents at the Carlson School of Management on Friday to answer questions about project development.

The Hiawatha corridor – the train’s first line – will begin in the Warehouse District downtown off Hennepin Avenue, travel along Hiawatha Avenue and end at the Mall of America.

The area is marked intermittently with single-family homes, small businesses and the Veterans’ Hospital.

Krause said the projects for the corridor should involve creating greater density in the area by building more apartment buildings.

“When you discuss density with people, they are usually turned-off,” said audience member Billy Weber.

Weber said density concerns have arisen with the neighborhood in his three years as the Corcoran neighborhood land use and transportation chairman.

“People fear ‘the tower,’ ” Weber said. “But you can have a dense development without constructing tower upon tower apartment buildings.”

Weber said it is important to ensure everyone in the neighborhood is well-educated about the city’s plan so they can be active participants in discussions.

“I think neighborhoods really have a key role in this,” he said.

Areas near the transit stations will need to have more affordable housing so families who cannot purchase private transportation can live near the train, Krause said.

But he also said affordable housing should be evenly distributed near transit stations so areas of poverty and racial segregation do not develop.

“While there really isn’t any cash available for affordable housing now, we still need to find a way to maintain 20 percent of rental properties as affordable properties,” Krause said.

With a projected population increase of 115,000 in Minneapolis by 2030, Krause said development of vacant properties into apartment buildings will be necessary to house future residents.

“I would guess that the public would almost expect high levels of density near these transit stations,” Krause said. “But to sell density to the public, it will have to be clustered.”

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]