Audubon neighborhood approves development guide

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In a neighborhood survey last year, many Audubon Park neighborhood residents said they worry about the deteriorating and/or abandoned homes in the area. What would they like to see improved? They want better public transportation, more bicycle facilities, more places to shop and more welcoming public spaces. And, of course, they want the Hollywood Theater on Johnson Street back in action again; some said they’d even support an interim use until the building can be restored.

The Audubon Neighborhood Association (ANA) has been working with Dean Dovolis and Rachael Spires of DJR Architecture, Inc., on a neighborhood Master Plan, which they hope will provide future guidelines for neighborhood redevelopment. ANA unanimously approved the plan at its Feb. 4 meeting.

Resident Matt Brown, who chairs ANA’s land use committee, said that the discussions about housing and commercial space were interesting. Many neighbors agreed that they are well served by local businesses, but are concerned about the high turnover they see on Central Avenue.

“We’d like to see more stability,” he said. There was support for additional housing along Central Avenue, he added: “Mostly housing above storefronts. Central Avenue has 500,000 square feet of retail. That’s similar to what’s at the Quarry. To add to that, we would need more residents to support it.”

Much of the neighborhood’s housing stock was built in the 1940s. People said they are especially concerned about rundown properties on two or three of the blocks east of Central Avenue, Brown said.

The demographics
According to census data included in DJR’s report, Audubon had 5,256 residents in 2000, down from 5,667 in 1990. The largest age group was 25 to 44, and the population was predominantly white, although the numbers of minority residents are growing. From 1990 to 2000, the Asian population increased from 69 to 159, the Hispanic population grew from 63 to 380 and the black population grew from 50 to 245.

The average household size was 2.25 people, 77 percent of the residents were employed, and the median household income (in 2000) was $45,090, higher than the rest of the city median, which was $37,974.

The 2000 median house value, however, was lower than the city median: $103,900, as opposed to $113,467.

The number of family households decreased in the 10 years from 1990 to 2000, from 1,415 to 1,187 and non-family households increased, from 992 to 1,060. The number of seniors living alone decreased from 239 in 1990 to 172 in 2000.

Audubon had 2,247 occupied housing units in 2000, and 74 vacant units.

Redevelopment plans
The Master Plan lists four “areas of opportunity” (for redevelopment) in the neighborhood: the housing stock between Central Avenue and Fillmore Street; the Johnson Street commercial node; the Central and Lowry avenues intersection; and the Hollywood Theater. Residents said they would like to see a movie theater, sit-down restaurants, a bicycle shop and many other amenities come into the neighborhood. They would not like to see big box retail or more gas stations.

Many people said they don’t want to see more duplexes added to the neighborhood, preferring instead single family homes and senior housing. They want to see design standards for new single and multi-family housing to “improve overall quality and appearance.”

The plan recommends making the neighborhood’s housing stock more competitive in the city market, and saving and renovating the neighborhood’s older, historic houses rather than demolishing them. It also suggests prohibiting new driveways on blocks that have alley access and no existing driveways.

Many people said they support public transportation, and would like to see a streetcar line on Central Avenue. Bus stops along Central Avenue are “unwelcoming,” according to the plan, and some type of traffic calming would be helpful along Johnson Street and on other residential streets.

Some people said they want more bike trails and bicycle facilities on main corridors and the Grand Rounds routes. The Master Plan recommends streetscape elements, including street furniture and trees, that buffer pedestrians from auto traffic and parking areas. It also suggests the “greening of streets,” particularly near parks and open spaces.

The plan also proposes establishing better neighborhood identity though gateway signs and public art.

Brown said there is a 45-day review period at the city before the plan goes to the City Planning Commission. If approved and adopted by the Minneapolis City Council, it will be part of the city’s new comprehensive plan.

“Audubon is the first Northeast neighborhood to develop a master plan,” Brown said. “We felt the timing was good; it ties in with the Central Avenue plan and the city’s comprehensive plan.”

The neighborhood’s Master Plan can be viewed on ANA’s web site, at www.audubonneighborhood.org.

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