Rethinking the Dinky debate

Saving Dinkytown doesn’t mean fighting development.

by Daily Editorial Board

The debate over student housing development in Dinkytown reached a fever pitch last week when the Minneapolis City Council approved a controversial Dinkytown development previously shot down by a committee vote.

The six-story, 140-unit apartment complex proposed by developer Opus Group has been vehemently opposed by the group Save Dinkytown, which argues the development and other projects would hurt small businesses and harm the essential character of Dinkytown.

While preserving the area’s culture and small business community is important, Save Dinkytown has gone about it all wrong and clouded the truth about the neighborhood and its history.

While the House of Hanson was a Dinkytown institution, the area affected by Opus’ proposed development is otherwise unremarkable. By the time the planning committee voted down the project, two businesses had moved and two more were preparing to. At that point, Save Dinkytown wasn’t fighting for character, small businesses or student interests, but vacant storefronts and surface parking lots.

“Nothing historic is leaving Dinkytown,” House of Hanson owner Laurel Bauer told the Minnesota Daily last month.

Dinkytown has constantly evolved to meet the needs of the University community while remaining an essential part of each generation’s college experience. The House of Hanson is part of that tradition, but so are Dinkytown’s new buildings.

The argument over Dinkytown’s integrity is also nothing new; it stretches back decades. In 1970 more than 300 protestors squared off with police, fighting a new fast food restaurant. Four years later, a Minnesota Daily editorial encouraged city planners to “Keep Dinkytown dinky” and be mindful of development’s effect on the community.

The Opus project represents healthy, natural growth for Dinkytown. Fighting it — or instating a moratorium on development, as Councilwoman Diane Hofstede has discussed — would not be in the best interest of students or the neighborhood.

Save Dinkytown and its allies should work to ensure students’ needs and the integrity of the neighborhood are met in its small area plan, which is being crafted now, rather than fighting development altogether.