Proposed large-scale Dinkytown apartment met with concerns, support

Students expressed concern over the project’s affordability at a recent neighborhood meeting.

Dinkytown residents ask questions regarding a proposed development from CA Ventures and ESG Architects at the University Lutheran Church of Hope on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The development would replace popular businesses such as McDonalds and Dinkytown Liquor.

Jack Rodgers

Dinkytown residents ask questions regarding a proposed development from CA Ventures and ESG Architects at the University Lutheran Church of Hope on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The development would replace popular businesses such as McDonald’s and Dinkytown Liquor.

by Caitlin Anderson

A proposed large-scale development in Dinkytown has received mixed reactions from community members.

The mixed-use building proposed by developer CA Ventures and ESG Architects would sit on the current site of McDonald’s and Dinkytown Wine and Spirits, among other businesses. Further project details revealed by CA Ventures at a Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association meeting on Sept. 10 raised questions about plans for the development.

“It’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s a good dialogue,” said Ryan Sadowy, senior director of development for CA Ventures. “We’re trying to do the right thing long-term.” 

Sadowy said CA Ventures currently favors a 25-story option over another proposed 16-story model, but this has not yet been decided. Other updates introduced at the meeting included details for bus stops, public art, a public plaza, wider sidewalks, greenery and enhanced lighting along the sidewalks. 

McDonald’s will come back to the space, and local businesses or nonprofits are encouraged retail tenants through a subsidized rate, Sadowy said. 

While these amenities may be beneficial for the Dinkytown community, students still stressed the need for the project to include affordable housing.

“There were questions that … were really valid, that CA Ventures definitely needs to consider when they’re creating their plan,” said University of Minnesota student Jessie Ernster, who attended the meeting. 

Students don’t always fit neatly into affordable housing policies, with many federal and state guidelines excluding the demographic from qualifying. A recent city of Minneapolis affordable housing policy excluded student housing, with officials citing this as a gray area. But Ward 3 City Council member Steve Fletcher and members of the Minnesota Student Association, who both attended Tuesday’s meeting, are currently looking into ways to include students in this policy.

“I’m a little bit skeptical that they are going to be able to put together a proposal that addresses affordability,” Fletcher said. “But I’m curious to see what they come up with.”

Sadowy said affordable units will be included in this project, but has not yet clarified the number of units.

For University student Samson Ghirmai, lack of housing affordability affected him personally when he was apartment-searching his sophomore year. 

“If you’re going to say something is affordable, you need to have that number before you start construction,” Ghirmai said. 

Other residents also chimed in on the developer’s request to amend the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan to fit the project’s density.

“Would you bring to us a project that complies with the comprehensive plan instead of asking for … an amendment?” said Marcy-Holmes resident Cordelia Pierson during the meeting. 

Attendees also mentioned issues with increased foot traffic and the effects of pull-up car-sharing. CA Ventures has plans to give transit passes to its residents.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Chris Meyer, who represents the University area, said the project’s density makes sense with the level of transit in the area.

“It is really such a good transit location, it is the best in the neighborhood,” he said.

Meyer said he supports the project not only because it will get rid of a surface parking lot and drive-thru, but because it will help to dedicate $750,000 for neighborhood parks through a city program. 

Community members will have a chance to speak one-on-one with project leadership at an open house on Sept. 25. Meyer said he’s happy to see so many students engaged in the conversation. 

“Students are going to be critical,” Fletcher said. “And they should be, because it’s being built for them.”