Project may limit parking

Fairview’s planned addition in the Cedar-Riverside area prompts parking concerns.

by Karlee Weinmann

As organizers plan for the addition of a pediatric facility on the Fairview Health Services’ Riverside campus, neighbors raised concerns about the new hospital hurting more than it heals.

The children’s facility will be built onto Fairview’s already-standing structure at 25th and Riverside avenues, atop what is now a parking lot.

But residents say parking is already scarce as the University and Fairview, among other entities, develop in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

Steve Freund has lived in the area for nearly 30 years, and said commercial expansion has been consistent during that time.

While the parking lot that is to be built upon is for the use of Fairview patients and visitors, Freund said he is concerned about the hospital drawing more people into the neighborhood.

“Over the years, I’ve watched the University gobble up more and more land,” he said. “Right now, we have no excess parking. We don’t have enough parking.”

In a press release, Fairview said replacing the parking lost in construction on the existing lot will be done “as necessary.”

Those living in the neighborhood without off-street parking must buy critical parking permits from the city, which cost $25 for a year’s use, in order to park on public roads in front of their houses.

Joan Scully, former vice president of the West Bank Community Coalition and a 35-year resident, said she advocated the permit decades ago, but now its cost increased and parking is becoming a greater problem.

“It’s just an added cost for living here,” she said.

Beth Elliott, principal city planner for the City of Minneapolis, said the neighborhood doesn’t have cause for concern, at least not yet.

She said Fairview is still in its conceptual planning stages for the project, which must go through extensive evaluation by various city units before it’s approved.

The facility is scheduled to open in 2010 and officials said construction could begin in 10 months.

Initial discussions between Minneapolis and Fairview began in the last few weeks.

Transportation issues, along with land use, development guidelines and pedestrian resources like sidewalks will ultimately be assessed.

“Parking is one of the top concerns,” Elliott said. “I think once we know more about what they’re doing and how much parking there will be, we’ll have a better sense of how to mitigate that.”

Fairview officials must submit a parking plan to prove there will not be a negative impact on the area’s parking due to the project.

Fairview officials met with parking consultants, who helped develop strategies like underground parking to help alleviate stress on the neighborhood, according to Gordy Alexander, University of Minnesota Medical Center president.

Elliott said the business owners and residents may not have to deal with concerns about less parking due to hospital construction.

“It might not have an effect on those residents and commercial business owners directly concerned with parking” since most of the parking provided by Fairview is exclusively for the use of its patrons, she said.

Julie Jensen, a residential delegate of the Cedar-Riverside Business Association, said parking is the No. 1 matter brought up in meetings.

“Any time you take away parking, it’s bad,” she said. “You can’t stand up against the University or Fairview, so that’s really tough.”

The University-Fairview medical partnership already offers teaching and researching benefits for students, but other advantages could extend to the community, according to Jan Morlock, CRBA institutional delegate and director of community relations for the University’s Twin Cities campus.

“Having a hospital there, close to the Fairview system, will be a good thing,” she said. “The area already has vitality, but keeping customers coming for businesses is a good thing, and anything we can do to make Riverside Avenue a more pedestrian street would be good.”

Fairview officials chose the project’s planners and managers based on candidates’ demonstrated abilities to work with community members, Alexander said.

Doris Wickstrom, chairwoman of the land use committee for the West Bank Community Coalition, said her group typically sees a University presentation before such projects are launched, but hasn’t received information relating to this one.

“We hope the University of Minnesota comes to the community organizations to present what the plan is, and then we can see what the proposal entails. We are particularly concerned about parking,” she said.

Alexander said Fairview’s connection with the community will be lasting.

“The collaboration with the community will never be finished,” he said. “We want to solve problems, we don’t want to create them, and that’s the bottom line.”

Scully said she is optimistic about cooperation between community members and Fairview in addressing concerns relating to the new facility because past issues have been resolved, she said.

“I’m sure they would realize at some point that we’re going to want to have some fears put aside with parking issues,” she said. “Everyone either working or living in that neighborhood knows parking is the issue.”