REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK | What does Dinkytown need: Parking? Housing? Retail? Trees?

It's a time of transition in Dinkytown, with the building containing the Book House and House of Hanson possibly up for sale and at least one developer seeming to favor the rezoning of the neighborhood to allow the construction of more housing. (See the E-Democracy discussion for more on this.)

Bill Huntzicker is researching this issue and will soon publish a detailed report; in the meantime, we asked our Facebook readers what they'd like to see happen in Dinkytown. The first responses were unanimous: Dinkytown needs more parking.

"More pedestrian-friendly parks and parking spaces, please." (Chanida Phaengdara Potter)

"Parking and a grocery store." (Cristeta Boarini)

"PARKING." (Joshua Lexvold)

We then asked these commenters to elaborate: "What could/should be sacrificed to make way for this parking? Any specific ideas? Buildings/spaces the neighborhood could afford to lose?"

Chris Meyer, in a comment that quickly garnered five likes, said that the problem isn't too little parking but rather too much.

"Ugh, no more parking. In fact they should get rid of some of the parking they already have. Dinkytown should be an urban, pedestrian-oriented place. They should get rid of at least one lane of curb parking on 4th St, and use that space to complete the missing link for the bike lane there, and expand the sidewalk space."

Scott Shaffer agreed: "Take out some parking, put in more street-level commerce with residential space on the upper floors. Maybe pull a Park/Portland and remove a traffic lane from University and 4th to chill out traffic and make it nicer to walk around there."

Matt Wolf Healer Muyres argued that the neighborhood needs not only fewer cars, but fewer people in general ("More trees, less humans"), and Eugenia Smith expressed a hope that the neighborhood will stay "home grown and independent. Keep Dinkytown historic, pedestrian friendly, and local!"

Other ideas:

Create a communal parking area. Matt Brillhart adds, "There's actually more than enough parking, it's just privately controlled by individual businesses, and that isn't working. As some of the larger lots get filled in by development (this is a good thing), Dinkytown really needs to establish a district parking plan, where all the businesses come together to share parking for the betterment of the area as a whole. If not, I'm pretty sure there are giant U of M ramps just a few blocks away on 4th Street...most people could probably stand to walk a few blocks anyways. The idea that one is entitled to free, off-street parking directly adjacent to the business you wish to patronize is very...suburban."

Build more student housing. "Continuing with residential development may saturate the market eventually, as there is probably a limited amount of students willing to pay the higher rents. However, I believe this development is key in taking some of the strain off of beautiful houses in the Marcy-Holmes and Como neighborhoods that have fallen victim to busy student tenants and lethargic landlords. The new apartments provide more convenient and well-kept dwellings for students, which will then hopefully let others buy and refurbish the older houses in the surrounding neighborhoods." (Chris Iverson)

Keep housing affordable. "I realize the economics are against it, but I'd be thrilled to see some cheaper apartments going up. Like Chris said, there's a limited number of students that can afford the luxury rents, and I've gotta think we're nearing that limit. But there's plenty of students who can afford, say, $500/month for a shared bedroom, and don't necessarily need in-unit laundry, or a game room, or a theatre room." (Joey Senkyr)

Update 1/22: This issue has landed on the front page of the Star Tribune, provoking even more discussion: Eric Roper reports some specifics about the planned six-story residential development. Among the responses has been a "Save Dinkytown" website ("It's Dinkytown, not Megatown").

Meanwhile, responses continue in the comment section below and on our Facebook thread.

"Zoning is an answer," writes Sam Newberg, "but a form-based code may be the best answer. It can help preserve the feel of the streetfront stores while allowing for the market to decide uses."

Meanwhile, Sheila Regan drew Bill Lindeke into the conversation; Bill is an advocate for better bike facilities in Dinkytown and elsewhere. "I think Dinkytown should feel like Harvard Square in Cambridge," writes Bill (though in my experience, Harvard Square is awful for biking).

What do you think? Weigh in on our Facebook page, leave a comment below, and/or bhuntzicker [at] comcast [dot] net (drop Bill an e-mail with your thoughts).

Read more news of the University District in the Daily Planet.


Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

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Jay Gabler's picture
Jay Gabler

Jay Gabler (@JayGabler) is a digital producer at The Current and Classical MPR.

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Supporting long time local business

As the mom of a UofM Alumn, and still patron of business in Dinkytown, I share the concern that many have expressed over the potential loss of long standing businesses in the area. Both of the businesses that would be effected  by the sale at this time are long standing supporters of the neighborhood, as well as students at UofM. Be it the need for food, or books for studies, both of these places support those needs. The Bookhouse is a resouces for well priced everyday books, as well as hard to find out of print books. This is commerce and service that gives back to the community, provided jobs for those working there, and in the larger scope serves customers from out of the area, looking for that treasued find. This is NOT your chain bookstore. There is love and care in these books, and this place and I would be sad to see either of these businesses go. Lets look for other alternatives please.