Businesses, community groups fight Dinkytown rezone for development, argue for preserving the character of the neighborhood

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Plans for a new apartment complex on Fifth Street and 14th Avenue have been moving quickly, but the efforts of Dinkytown advocates at City Hall could slow it down.

The group Save Dinkytown presented a petition calling for an environmental review of the project to the Minneapolis City Planning Commission last week.

Now, the effects of developer Opus Group’s planned 140-unit apartment complex on the neighborhood will be reviewed by the Council Committee on Zoning and Planning before the City Council can approve the project and the rezoning it requires.

Save Dinkytown collected more than 100 signatures on a petition that stated the still-unnamed development could negatively impact the “unique history, aesthetic character and identity of Dinkytown.”

The state’s environmental policy says the state has a responsibility to “preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage.”

The Opus Group’s project would require a rezoning of the current neighborhood commercial district to a community activity center district, which allows more mixed-use residential and commercial development. The new apartment building would replace House of Hanson, Book House, the Podium, Duffy’s Dinkytown Pizza and Casablanca Hair Design.

The complex would have 9,500 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor , according to city documents. Matt Rauenhorst , senior director of real estate development at Opus, said Opus hasn’t come out with its retail prices yet, and tenants will drive the rates.

Opponents of the project said in the petition the cost of this new space would “push [the] traditional small business base out. ”

Book House owner Kristen Eide-Tollefson said any delay to the project is good.

“We’re relieved that there’s a little more time,” Eide-Tollefson said.

Save Dinkytown’s petition says the large scale of the Opus project would “diminish the apparent significance and character of the historic business district,” while destroying the “Dinky” in Dinkytown.

Imed Labidi , a University lecturer and Casablanca customer for 10 years, said he’s sad to see these small businesses go because of their “sentimental value.”

“The character [of Dinkytown] will completely disappear,” he said.

Rauenhorst said he thinks the new apartment complex will rehabilitate Fifth Street and add to the character of Dinkytown.

As some businesses keep fighting to stay in Dinkytown, others say they’ve been fighting to keep their businesses afloat.

Laurel Bauer, owner of the House of Hanson, said the Opus project would improve the neighborhood.

She said it was a very difficult decision to sell the grocery store that has been in her family for over eight decades, but trying to stay in business has been a “fiscal nightmare” since CVS Pharmacy came into the area.

“I’m trying to bow out gracefully,” Bauer said.

Susan Duffy , co-owner of Duffy’s, said the cultural and historical aspect of Dinkytown won’t go away with the new developments.

“It’s an area that embraces changing times,” she said. “This will save Dinkytown.”

Also in the Daily Planet:

Dinkytown: “Why do you need a plan if development is already happening?” (Bill Huntzicker, 2013)

And Bill Huntzicker’s ten-part series on “Development in Dinkytown”:

Part 1: “There’s a nice vibe; it’d be a shame to mess that up”

Part 2: Threatened by success

Part 3: The House of Hanson and the price of convenience

Part 4: The Book House fights for its life

Part 5: A friendly zone

Part 6: Keeping the town dinky

Part 7: Park it…where?

Part 8: Memories and hopes

Part 9: Seeds of renewal

Part 10: “If they lay one finger on Al’s Breakfast, I’ll be at the barricades”