Dinkytown apartment complex proposal shot down by City Council committee

The proposed apartment complex’s fate hangs on a City Council vote.

Dinkytown apartment complex proposal shot down by City Council committee

Meghan Holden

Dinkytown’s future is up in the air, and the community is growing more divided over what changes should happen, if any.

After a surprise vote against a controversial six-story apartment complex at the Minneapolis City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee meeting last week, some businesses and community members are hopeful for Dinkytown’s future, but others are upset.

The committee voted 3-2 against planning staff recommendations for the unnamed development from Opus Group. If allowed its required rezoning, the project would replace businesses and a parking lot on 14th Avenue Southeast and Fifth Street Southeast in Dinkytown with retail space and 140 apartments.

The City Council will vote on the project Aug. 2.

The development’s opponents said the meeting was a critical day for Dinkytown.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Kafé 421’s James Sander. “I’m feeling hopeful.”

But other businesses left the meeting frustrated and unsure of what to do if the project isn’t approved.

Laurel Bauer, who owns grocery store House of Hanson and the three buildings the Opus project would displace, said she expected the committee to approve the rezoning.

“I hope they come to their senses,” Bauer said. “Nothing historic is leaving Dinkytown.”

Two affected businesses, The Book House and The Podium guitar store, have already relocated, with only The Book House remaining in the area. The Podium has moved its business to another guitar shop on Minnehaha Ave.

Bauer planned to close House of Hanson on July 31 to make room for the development, but now she’ll leave her store open through at least the weekend.

“I’m hanging on day-by-day,” Bauer said.

Bauer said she has two other offers for her land that wouldn’t require rezoning, but Bauer said the other projects wouldn’t be as good for Dinkytown as Opus’.

Opus will give up on the project if it’s rejected by the City Council, senior director of Real Estate Development Matt Rauenhorst said.

“We’re very disappointed in the Committee’s decision last week,” Rauenhorst said in an email. “If the City Council does not vote in support, Opus will move forward to pursue other opportunities.”

Peter Bajurny, University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering information technician, said there’s no point in opposing the project now that the affected businesses are just “vacant store-fronts.”

Matt Hawbaker, spokesman for Save Dinkytown, a group opposing the project, said the fight isn’t about the individual stores anymore but about keeping the area open to small businesses.

Opponents have said small businesses can’t afford to rent space in new buildings, but Rauenhorst said in an email statement that commercial rental rates would remain “in the range of those currently in place.”

Development v. tradition

Even if the project isn’t approved, community members will still disagree on whether Dinkytown should cater to students or the community at large.

“Students want to live close to the University,” Bajurny said. “It’s more productive to work with Opus.”

But architecture junior Jake Benecasa said Dinkytown’s “unique charm” is more important than building more student housing.

“It will be a big, sore thumb in the middle of town,” he said.

Third Ward Councilwoman Diane Hofstede, who represents Marcy-Holmes, said the vote will open the area to similar development.

“[This vote] gives the opportunity for similar decisions to be made [in the future],” she said.

Hostede said she wants to wait until the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association finalizes its master plan, which includes Dinkytown, sometime this winter.

Feedback from groups like Save Dinkytown will weigh heavily on her decision, Hofstede said.

Hawbaker said the group is hopeful Hofstede’s opposition to the project will influence the final Council vote.

Members of Save Dinkytown want to see development happen in Dinkytown, Hawbaker said, but not until the neighborhood sets firmer guidelines.

By the time the neighborhood hashes out the master plan, it may be too late for Opus, but Rauenhorst said he’s “hopeful” the project can still happen.