Prospect Park to connect residents and developers

An upcoming “open house” is part of the neighborhood’s development plan.

Alex Bitter

With some development already planned for the neighborhood and more on the horizon, Prospect Park is looking to connect developers, investors and residents in order to better coordinate the changes.

The Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association and planning group Prospect Park 2020 are holding a “Neighborhood Open House” next year to introduce residents and developers and to discuss their goals for the community. The organizations hope to hold more open houses as developers propose new projects.

PPERIA master planning committee chair Tamara Johnson said they hope to let developers and potential developers see the overall plans for the area.

“We don’t want to look at each building in isolation,” she said. “We want to look at how it all fits together.”

Prospect Park 2020 board member Dick Gilyard said the meetings will allow developers and residents to meet and examine how new building projects fit in with the area.

“It’s mainly to talk about what their company does, what they’ve done in the past, why they’ve chosen this area and for the neighborhood to get to know people,” he said.

Residents will get to meet the people behind developments planned for the area, he said, like a 200-unit housing complex The Cornerstone Group is building on the corner of 29th Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street Southeast.

Johnson said there would be opportunities for developers to collaborate; new businesses in the area could share parking spaces, for example.

“It’s really talking to the developers and trying to get them to work together,” she said.

Coordinating planning

Richard Adams, a PPERIA board member who is planning the Open Houses, said Prospect Park 2020 has majorly shifted the way the neighborhood plans for change.

The group began as a PPERIA committee before becoming a separate nonprofit last March. Since the split, Adams said communication between Prospect Park 2020 and PPERIA has decreased.

“The connection is still there, the neighborhood is behind it, but the information flow is not quite as fluid as it was when it was just a committee of PPERIA,” he said.

Although Prospect Park has a small-area plan filed with the city, Adams said the organization did it before light rail was “on the radar” for the neighborhood.

When PPERIA began planning for changes along its portion of the Green Line, Adams said there was little desire to revise that plan.

“The problem with master plans is there does not tend to be that high a correlation between the master plan and the ultimate development of the neighborhood,” Adams said.

Instead, the neighborhood has shifted its planning focus toward working directly with potential developers whose plans match the neighborhood’s priorities, Adams
said.

Minneapolis city planner Haila Maze said Prospect Park’s approach to planning, while more piecemeal than other University of Minnesota neighborhoods, is still proactive.

“They’re trying to think about [the developments in the neighborhood] as a series of master plans for the area,” she said.

She said the effort has helped preserve the residential areas while keeping larger developments confined to areas around the edges of Prospect Park — closer to the University.

“While they have their residential base, they’re really looking for changes to happen in those transitional zones,” Maze said.

Since Prospect Park is working with developers on a case-by-case basis, Adams said, maintaining a close connection between PPERIA and Prospect Park 2020 is critical.

“These meetings are about making sure that the relationships … between Prospect Park 2020 and the community and PPERIA are solid and intact,” he said.