Northeast Minneapolis is a better home for artists

During the past several months, the city of Minneapolis and a local developer have been discussing plans for a redevelopment of the Mid City Industrial Area in northeast Minneapolis. Hillcrest Development would like to redevelop the neighborhood into a high-technology business campus, relocating the thriving artist community and various small businesses that currently reside there. Although the area would certainly benefit if some of the underused lots and buildings found new tenants, there are several reasons it should not be redeveloped exclusively into a technology campus.
Currently, the neighborhood is comprised of about 200 artists’ studios, small galleries and other businesses inhabiting buildings formerly used for industrial, railroad-serviced companies. The area would be redeveloped into the “Stinson Technology Campus,” centered around U S West, which renovated two neighborhood buildings in 1996. Hillcrest intended U S West to be the principle tenant, although the telecommunications company might decide to expand in Phoenix, Ariz., instead. The area is bordered by Hennepin Avenue East to the south and Broadway Avenue East to the north, and between Arthur Street Northeast and Roosevelt Street Northeast on the western and eastern borders, respectively.
However, Minneapolis should not reserve the neighborhood for the exclusive use of technology businesses. Instead of evicting an already successful arts community, there are enough underused lots and buildings that can accommodate the new businesses while preserving the artists’ current spaces. The city should also avoid developing a suburban office campus in an urban setting where it would be inappropriate — advice Minneapolis did not heed when it approved The Quarry, the suburban shopping center located near Interstate Highway 35W.
Instead of such a business campus, the city should encourage the development of the thriving arts community and medium-density housing also needed by University members. Although Hillcrest would like to relocate many of the artists’ businesses to several locations on Central Avenue, their current neighborhood is ideal. The proximity of an arts community to an intellectual community — the University — is more appropriate. Neighborhood residents could be involved in both communities, each community enhancing the other, and an entire quadrant of Minneapolis would be reserved for intellectual and artistic pursuits.
Development of technology industries would be better located downtown, as well. Such businesses usually reside only in standard office buildings, while the older, larger, more durable buildings in the Mid City Industrial neighborhood are better utilized by artists. Currently, several downtown neighborhoods are entirely underused — either taken up by obsolete, abandoned businesses or acres of surface parking — where technology businesses would better reside because of the density of companies and the interactions that would result.
Although technology businesses would produce more tax revenue than artists would produce, Minneapolis could still benefit if these business were located downtown. Relocating the thriving — and well-located — arts community would repeal the progress it has established for itself and the benefits it provides for the entire city.