Get involved in Dinkytown

Locals need to have their voice heard on the changing neighborhood.

Rex Vogen, Daily reader

 

Dinkytown has seen its fair share of changes, both large and small. In my 12 years here, I’ve filled roles from University of Minnesota student, Marcy-Holmes resident and Dinkytown barista. Businesses have opened and closed, students have come and gone, but in many respects Dinkytown remains the same. It has a well-defined character and history that mark it as a unique and valuable location. Given the recent trend to put large, expensive, high-density housing in the area, no one could doubt that at some point Dinkytown would be met with a new wave of change.

Earlier this month, the Opus Group announced its plans for a new six-story, mixed-use complex to go up along Fifth Street Southeast across from the University Technology Enterprise Center building. The plans for the new complex lie in stark contrast to the small-town character of the area and the principles set out in the Master Plan for the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood, a document drafted in 2003 by the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. It would, at the very least, displace, if not close, businesses such as Book House, The Podium and Casablanca Hair Salon, preventing their return by imposing prohibitive rents. It would reduce parking that businesses such as Café 421, Loring Pasta Bar and the Varsity Theater, to name a few, rely upon to do business. Aesthetically, it would radically alter the look and feel of the area, towering two stories beyond the neighborhood plan’s maximum height and spanning the entire block along Fifth Street. In short, this is no minor change and should be accompanied with input from the locals it’s meant to serve.

Dinkytown will change. But what kind of change is desirable? What level of agency should the neighborhood, local businesses and visitors have in planning the area’s future? These are the questions that must be addressed in the next few weeks as the Opus Group prepares its case for the Minneapolis City Council. Ground has not yet been broken, and the necessary permissions have not yet been granted for this project to go through. The public has the opportunity to tell the City Council what it thinks, meaning the proposal is far from a done deal.

If we Dinkytowners don’t speak our mind to the City Council, this project will set a precedent for future development. On the other hand, if we allow the city and Dinkytown to move forward with a small-area plan, we can take control of Dinkytown’s future. It’s on us to act now to prevent the area from losing the qualities that make it Dinkytown in the first place.