Landlords push to halt 15th Ave. development

Landlords said they felt excluded from the planning process.

Landlords push to halt 15th Ave. development

Ashley Goetz

Despite owning the majority of Dinkytown properties, landlords might not have a say in the redevelopment plans along 15th Avenue. The plan is intended for the three-and-a-half block portion of 15th Avenue between 5th Street and the railroad bridge just beyond Eighth Street. The vision is for mid- and high-rise, high-density housing that could appeal to not just undergraduate students, but also University of Minnesota faculty and people who work downtown. Patrick Burns, a lawyer for many of the landlords in the neighborhood, said the neighborhoodâÄôs âÄúsecretive natureâÄù during the design process will result in time consuming litigation if the plan moves forward. Burns said he and the landlords are in the process of drafting a complaint. A draft of the plan was made available for the public on Dec. 19 on the cityâÄôs website. The public comment period ended on Feb. 1. The landlords, who felt excluded from the planning process, made their case in front of the City Planning Commission Tuesday. The plan was unanimously approved and will be reviewed by the Zoning and Planning Committee on March 12. Then the plan will go before the City Council on March 27. Melissa Bean, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association director, said the landlordsâÄô claims about being excluded are âÄúwithout merit.âÄù Bean said the neighborhood has been told many times by the city that it needs to add density and that this is a logical plan to do that. âÄúIt doesnâÄôt take anyoneâÄôs property away,âÄù Bean said. âÄúItâÄôs basically a vision of where we see future growth and where weâÄôd like it to go.âÄù Jason Klohs, one of the landlords at the hearing on Tuesday, said he has gone to Marcy-Holmes neighborhood meetings but has not been allowed to participate in conversations because he does not live in the neighborhood. âÄúThe reality is, we try and get involved and they shut us out,âÄù Klohs said. âÄúNinety percent of the taxes are paid by landowners, yet we have no say.âÄù âÄúTheir vision is to get rid of the small landlords. They want Kelly Doran to come in and build large buildings, thatâÄôs what they want,âÄù Klohs said, a reference to the developer currently redeveloping the Dinkydome. Klohs said there are three reasons the neighborhood wants to rid itself of âÄúsmallâÄù landlords: parking, noise and bad looking property. He said if the city better enforced the current codes, those three problems would be gone. Klohs said landlords were trying to build density where it was allowed, but the building moratorium, which took effect in August, prevented this. Many landlords said the plan is unrealistic because of the current economy. The Minneapolis-based Cunningham Group prepared the plan for the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. Bean said the association has already sent out information about the plan to developers, but said she didnâÄôt know what the landlordâÄôs role would be. âÄúNobodyâÄôs building in todayâÄôs economy, we know that, but the point of the plan is to have something ready when the economy rebounds,âÄù Bean said. Many landlords pointed out that students wonâÄôt be able to afford to live in the proposed development, but Bean said they want something thatâÄôs not strictly going to be of interest to undergraduates. âÄúWeâÄôre trying to get a variety of populations in and a housing stock that can suit a variety of populations, not just be geared to one model,âÄù Bean said. Dick Poppele , a member of the University District Alliance , said it is part of the AllianceâÄôs vision to promote a more diverse residential population. This is also in keeping with the AllianceâÄôs vision for the stretch of 15th Avenue north of the railroad tracks, across from Van Cleve Park. The Alliance is pushing for a non-student housing development at that location as well. Klohs said he didnâÄôt think it was realistic to expect non-students to live in that part of Dinkytown. Tim Harmsen, who along with his wife Karen owns 50 properties in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, said students coming out of residence halls prefer living in a house, rather than a high rise. Several other landlords at the hearing made similar comments about students not wanting to live in towers. Commissioners Robert LaShomb and Lara Norkus-Crampton both said they wished the landlords had been there three months ago when they opposed the Dinkydome project because of its height. Diane Hofstede, Councilwoman for Ward 3 , which includes Marcy-Holmes, said the plan is âÄúexcellentâÄù and is consistent with the cityâÄôs vision. David Motzenbecker , president of the planning commission, called the hearing a âÄúsquandered opportunityâÄù for the landlords because they did not reference specific changes they would like to see for the current plan. Bean said she was pleased with the planning commissionâÄôs ruling on Tuesday. âÄúEventually 15th Avenue is going to look very different, but itâÄôs going to be much better,âÄù Bean said.