University area parking regulations could change

With more apartment complexes being built near the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis City Councilman Cam Gordon is looking to ease parking requirements in the area.

Parking has been a concern for businesses and residents around the University, with new developments and the forthcoming light rail pushing out public parking spaces.

But some say changing parking requirements would put further strain on the area.

Currently, apartments near campus must provide half a stall per bedroom for occupants — with a minimum of one per unit. One of Gordon’s four possible proposals would lower the requirement to a quarter stall.

With plenty of transit options near campus already and more to come, Gordon said students are using cars less than they used to and doesn’t think the current requirement is necessary.

“Maybe the city is demanding more than the market demands,” he said.

Another of his proposals would exempt projects in close proximity to major public transit lines from parking requirements.

“With all the transit locations nearby, the expense and hassle of having a car might not be worth it anymore,” he said.

Skott Johnson, president of the Dinkytown Business Association and owner of Autographics Printing, said he’d want the parking requirements for apartments to stay the same, if anything.

Although mass transit is available nearby, Johnson said most University students own cars and need parking provided by their apartment building.

“I’m always amazed that they say students don’t need the parking,” he said.

Johnson said Dinkytown has lost a lot of public parking throughout the years and referenced the loss of spots at the University Technology Enterprise Center, which will be replaced by a 300-plus unit housing project, as well as the lot where Sydney Hall now stands.

Laurel Bauer, owner of House of Hanson, said she could see why the restriction should be loosened with buses, bike lanes and the to-be-completed light rail nearby. She mentioned most of her business comes from walk-ins.

“There’s the availability for transportation other than private vehicles,” she said.

Bauer reached an agreement in January with the Opus Group, a developer planning to build an apartment complex over her business. She said the Opus Group is showing concern for the parking situation in the area.

“You absolutely have to consider parking with this project,” she said. “And I think they’re doing an excellent job in approaching that solution.”

With apartment complexes springing up in the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood, parking could get squeezed there, too.

“It certainly is worrisome for us, but the developer has reached out and said ‘How can we work with you to solve any issues?’” said Jack Reuler, artistic director of Mixed Blood Theatre.

Kelly Doran, owner of Doran Companies and a developer of multiple apartments in the University area, said he doesn’t think a quarter stall per bedroom requirement would be unreasonable and it could save developers money.

He said more flexible requirements might be best to distinguish between smaller and bigger projects.

“I’ve suggested in the past that perhaps there should be some sliding scale between .25 and .5,” Doran said.

Stadium Village, too

While apartment complexes have replaced some Dinkytown parking, Stadium Village is having problems of its own.

The light rail’s completion in 2014 will reduce on-street parking spaces by nearly 200 and off-street spaces by about 50, according to a study in early 2012 by Biko Associates, commissioned by the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the University.

Although the light rail will reduce parking, the study also estimated that it would ensure far fewer trips by car in the area.

Along with the light-rail construction, the new apartment complex The Station on Washington will be built at the intersection of Walnut Street and Washington Avenue by the Opus Group.

Bronson Wethern, assistant manager at Sally’s Saloon and Eatery, near the new development, said parking around the restaurant is already very sparse.

“A lot of people are parking in the ramp or at meters,” he said. “It gets really expensive.”

Sally’s has a small lot, but it fills up quick, Wethern said.

Of his proposals, Gordon said a combination of the four would be most likely.

Gordon said the proposals will be referred to staff this week, and balancing the needs of businesses, neighborhood organizations and developers will be his highest priority.

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  • Dinkytown is a popular area and most people have an anecdote about how it's hard to find parking there (which lets be honest, in Minnesota, means that you had park a few minutes walk away at most). No amount of regulation will ever ensure that you can find a parking space when you want one, which is what most people care about. What these regulations are about is whether the city is the best judge of how many parking spaces an apartment needs now, and into the future. Surely the best judges of that are apartment owners and residents. If people want to build buildings without many (or any) parking spaces there will be people who will rent those apartments. And they will walk and bike, and they won't have to be forced to pay for parking spaces they don't need. Yes, some students have cars and will want to rent places with parking spots. But the city of Minneapolis, and even the Dinkytown Business Association, don't know and can't predict how many spaces are really needed. Let builders, owners, tenants, and business-owners work out how many parking spaces they need. If parking is the best use of the land, people will pay for it. - by Evan Roberts on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 12:00am