COMMENTS of the WEEK | Midtown Farmers’ Market site development


There’s a serious and complex discussion underway about development possibilities for the Midtown Farmers Market site at Lake and Hiawatha in Minneapolis. It’s the kind of discussion where not just competing interests but competing visions and rival values for urban life come into play. It’s a planning challenge that can’t be reduced to good guys vs. bad.

That was clear in a blog we reposted from Streets.MN, by Sam Newberg, on April 2, and also in an informed critical comment by Cadillac Kolstad, received the same day.

Newberg’s blog sketched the main features of ideas put forward by a design group and  volunteers working with the Corcoran Neighborhood Association. He presented his own critique as well, especially contrasting the “map view” of the project with “attention to how buildings relate to the streets.”

Kolstad’s comment criticized the plan from a wider perspective. From his knowledge of the site, he raised specific questions about activities and structures already there that would inevitably be displaced. “Demolition and redevelopment,” he argued, would be “solving a non-problem.”

Taken together, the blog and the comment highlight considerations that arise in any urban development or redevelopment project. Newberg’s article is at Transit-oriented development at Lake and Hiawatha. Kolstad’s comment, lightly edited for length, is here — you can read and respond to the full comment and the article here.

Cadillac Kolstad • Another plan ignoring existing realities, creating more pollution and relocating jobs and businesses already in existence, in the name of “Urbanism” and “Transit.”

The plan does not incorporate the former Brown institute, a giant building already there, planned to be demolished. This building is used by 20 organizations including Minneapolis Public schools. Demolition and redevelopment solves a non-problem. All the organizations there make sense on a transit corridor.

Why are we discussing demolishing an employment center and serving more than 1,000 individuals daily? How is this good public investment or sound land use or urban planning?  I certainly hope that any plans include an analysis of reuse. There is ample space to add more structures and keep the Farmers Market, while incorporating this building. It would easily lend itself to adaptive reuse.

The environmental impact of wrecking such a building will be significant. At a little over 50,000 square feet, demolition will release the equivalent emission of more than 640,000 gallons of gasoline. All that embodied energy will be wasted. What’s more, demolition uses more energy. And the more than 4,000 tons of debris will fill 26 railroad boxcars or more…

It is also sad that to build the “Y” and its huge parking lot, the city permitted demolition of mixed-use buildings and multi-family homes. We need jobs and destinations other than housing near public transit. What if we focused on more housing near jobs and amenities so people could walk to work, shop and recreate? When transit-oriented development is discussed ridership comes up, but where the jobs are is rarely addressed.


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