Prospect Park housing plans cause neighborhood concerns

by K.C. Howard

A Dallas-based construction company, which has ventured to Minnesota to cash in on the University housing crisis, will soon begin construction on a new student housing complex in Prospect Park.
JPI plans to begin construction in June on the three-story, 612-bedroom complex to be located at Huron Boulevard and 27th Avenue Southeast.
While the new living quarters will provide housing for the overflowing University residential population, the accommodations will come at the expense of neighborhood housing diversity, said Florence Littman, co-chair of the zoning commission for Prospect Park-East River Road Improvement Association.
“If they’re building only student housing, then we don’t have a variety of housing choices,” Littman said.
The Minneapolis Planning Commission reviewed JPI’s building proposal in an informal discussion last night at Minneapolis’ Truth and Taxation meeting, but approved nothing because the proposal was incomplete.
“Unless someone appeals it, (the proposal) will go through,” said Littman. She added that if there was an appeal, the commission will inevitably approve the plan because JPI has complied with all the city’s ordinances.
“This is an area that is designated for growth in the Minneapolis Comprehension Plan,” said Minneapolis City Council member Joan Campbell.
The University area has a 0.5 percent vacancy rate, with only 2 percent of those rental units available in the Twin Cities, according to a September Apartment Search survey.
“We know that there’s a housing shortage,” said Jan Morlock, University director of community relations. “These units will be attractive and priced right to take some of the cusp off the housing market.”
Residents of Prospect Park are also concerned that the increase in the student population will discourage young families from taking root in Prospect Park and enrolling their children in the newly reopened Pratt School, a small public preschool.
“I want that school very much to be successful,” said Jerry Purple, a resident of Prospect Park for more than 30 years and whose own children had once attended the school.