Students, neighborhood councils voice concerns over new apartments

Affordability, Dinkytown’s history and future were discussed

Randal Gast, co-owner of Qdoba Mexican Eats in Dinkytown and Dinkytown Business Alliance member, speaks at a town hall about affordable housing and Dinkytown development on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 at the Purple Onion Cafe. MSA hosted the town hall for students and members of the Dinkytown community to discuss their concerns about development in the area.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Randal Gast, co-owner of Qdoba Mexican Eats in Dinkytown and Dinkytown Business Alliance member, speaks at a town hall about affordable housing and Dinkytown development on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 at the Purple Onion Cafe. MSA hosted the town hall for students and members of the Dinkytown community to discuss their concerns about development in the area.

David Clarey

Some Dinkytown business owners and University of Minnesota students worry an influx of luxury high-rise apartments could render the Dinkytown area unaffordable and take away its charm.

At a Minnesota Student Association town hall meeting Wednesday, University officials and members of the Dinkytown Business Alliance and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association fielded questions from students who were concerned about the affordability of new apartments, including a proposed 16-story complex that would displace Mesa Pizza and Chatime Bubble Tea on Fourth Street Southeast.

A petition cirulating campus calling for local neighborhoods and small businesses to be preserved has collected almost 800 signatures.

“If [Dinkytown] just becomes a large dormitory, there’s not a lot of reason for anybody to come here,” said Jim Sander, a member of the Marcy-Holmes Land Use and Development Committee. Sander’s wife owns Kafe 421 in Dinkytown.

Sander isn’t opposed to change but said he doesn’t think new luxury high-rise buildings fit the “character” of the area.

The Minneapolis City Council designated the commercial buildings on the block of 14th Avenue Southest and Fourth Street Southeast historic in 2015. The designation could hinder new development, but guidelines are pending approval.

“The thing about Dinkytown is that … it is a draw,” Sander said. “If it ceases to be a draw because it’s lost its character, we’ve really lost the essence of Dinkytown.”

Converting areas such as the block on 14th and 4th to residential property can drive property values up, leaving mom-and-pop shops priced out of the area, said Kristen Eide-Tollefson, co-owner of The Book House.

Dinkytown benefits from new business as long as they fit the existing culture, Eide-Tollefson said, pointing to Gina + Will and Target Express as postiive examples.

English senior Brigid McBride, who attended the town hall meeting, said she lives in the Southeast Como neighborhood because she was priced out of Dinkytown.

“It’s been really disheartening from an affordability standpoint and a cultural standpoint,” she said. “It’s pretty distressing as a student here.”