Dinkytown requires compromise

Students should make their voices heard as the neighborhood crafts its small area plan.

Daily Editorial Board

On the heels of House of Hanson’s closure, more controversy is brewing in Dinkytown.

Prolific area developer Kelly Doran revealed plans for a 70-unit apartment complex along the neighborhood’s main drag last week. The next day, the City Council narrowly struck down a moratorium on development in the area proposed by Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Hofstede.

Although it’s unlikely the measure was aimed at Doran specifically — as some have said  — it was misguided and rightfully failed. Development moratoriums are rare, and such a drastic move has made the process of planning Dinkytown’s future reactionary and political when it should be collaborative and sensible.

Student housing development around the University of Minnesota will only accelerate in the next two years. Hofstede is locked in a tight race for her City Council seat, and it’s in her interest to act on student opposition to changes in Dinkytown. However, rather than painting these changes as inherently threatening, Hofstede should be encouraging students to make their voices heard as the neighborhood crafts its small area plan to guide development this fall.

In turn, developers should be conscious of maintaining Dinkytown’s character when proposing new projects in the area’s four-block core. Doran’s new project has a good start, but could be better designed to fit in with surrounding buildings and be less obtrusive on Dinkytown. New apartments sprouting up near campus have been fairly homogenous, and in an increasingly crowded market, developers have incentive to design their projects around the unique character of the area.

Much of Dinkytown, including the site Doran is eyeing, is made up of unsightly parking lots. By working together on the neighborhood’s small area plan, students, community leaders, developers and the city can better use this space without disrupting the area’s character. To give input on this process, students should attend the next public forum to discuss the plan Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Varsity Theater.