Survey shows people want supermarket, more restaurants

The city is looking for student input on Dinkytown’s small area plan.

Survey shows people want supermarket, more restaurants

Nicolas Hallett

As the City of Minneapolis and the Dinkytown community draft the district’s small area plan, student voices have been hard to come by.

But a new outreach initiative found a way to find what students care most about when it comes to Dinkytown. The feedback comes at a key time with the plan’s third and final community outreach meeting taking place on Nov. 18 at Varsity Theater.

In surveys by the Creative CityMaking partnership, respondents ranked restaurants, biking and walking accessibility, and unique character as the area’s most important qualities.

To conduct the surveys, a team met students at the University of Minnesota Community Involvement Fair in September and talked with patrons in Dinkytown.

Almost two-thirds of the 340 respondents to the “Dinkytown Zine” survey were born in 1990 to 1999. The second “Dinkytown Community Survey” had about 1,000 respondents. Both are preliminary results now, but Minneapolis principal planner Haila Maze said the two surveys will be an important piece of the small area plan.

Strategic communications junior Kiara Lenford said she’s been coming to Dinkytown since she was a child and would’ve given her input if she knew the area was planning its future policy.

“I’ve never heard of how to get involved,” she said. “I definitely would want to have a say in what they’re going to do.”

Lenford said she thinks students aren’t responding because they don’t know, not because they don’t care.

The city can only do so much to gather opinion, Maze said, and Dinkytown proved to be especially difficult.

“It’s no surprise we can’t get everyone’s input on every plan,” she said. “Getting every person involved in every process would be exhaustive amounts of work.”

Maze said the city applied a different approach to bring students into the discussion on this small area plan. The new initiative was a success, she said, and the city hopes to use it as a model in the future.

“It’s a lot of people whose opinion hasn’t been asked in the past. That was an exciting part of it,” Maze said.

Respondents in both surveys said they wanted to see a grocery store in the area more than anything else. A new grocery store is already coming to the Marshall, a 326-unit apartment complex under construction at the former site of the University Technology Enterprise Center, Maze said.

After a supermarket, respondents said they would like to see more restaurants.

Dinkytown Business Association President Skott Johnson said there’s a limit to how many eateries the area can support.

“I can see their point,” he said. “On the other hand, from the restaurants’ point of view, you can only divide the pie so many ways before it gets painful.”

Johnson said he was reassured to see so many students respond to the survey.

“We tried to reach them through a multitude of ways,” he said. “I understand it’s not going to reach all of them. I think the people [who] it really matters to know.”

In the “Zine” survey, only 16 percent of respondents said they had contributed to city planning efforts in the past.

Dental student Ben Schneider said students are hard to reach when it comes to long-term projects because they don’t see themselves as permanent residents.

It was beneficial for the city to go the extra mile and get student participation, he said, because they frequent the area most.

“I think that’s what it takes when you’re dealing with undergrad students,” Schneider said. “If it’s not in your face, you’re probably not going to spend time on it.”