A sweeping plan designed to handle booming enrollment in Minneapolis schools over the next five years goes before the school board for a vote Tuesday evening, meaning changes for almost a third of district students.
The plan arrives back at the board with two final changes from the revised version the board got last month:
• A competitive-entry elementary program for advanced students proposed for the Wilder building on Chicago Avenue has been dropped, but an undefined pre-kindergarden to fifth grade program would open there in 2015.
• A middle school in another portion of that building has also been scrapped in favor of expanding Sanford Middle School in 2016. The district previously backed off a shift opposed by some parents of middle-school Spanish immersion students from Anwatin Middle School to Wilder.
The proposal represents the biggest change since the district’s massive restructuring of attendance patterns in 2009, when it was still reacting to declining enrollment.
It’s designed to accommodate the 3,400 students the district projects it will add by 2017, and is aimed at creating some programs to attract students back from charter and other schools. Some of the changes respond to parent feedback in two rounds of community meetings held since the latest proposal was unveiled in September.
Some of those proposed changes include expanding the Spanish immersion program to a third elementary school at Sheridan (2015) and to Roosevelt High School, adding a second magnet at North High School (2015) focused on technical fields, possible later addition of an arts-technical program at Sanford and Roosevelt, and more early childhood programs.
The proposal affects about 10,500 students, although many won’t see much change. Fewer than 500 would shift buildings involuntarily, mainly the move of older special education students in the Transition Plus program to the district-owned former Brown Institute building at Hi-Lake (2015), and the move of a French immersion program to the Cityview building (2015). Some students will follow different paths from elementary through middle and high schools, such as the addition of Roosevelt for Spanish immersion students (2014). Most downtown-area students starting school will be routed to reopened Webster (2015) school and then Northeast Middle and Edison High schools, rather than heading to Southwest High School. Still others will see new or expanded programs in their buildings, such as the proposed fourfold increase in classrooms at Sullivan and Andersen (2014) for students new to the country who don’t speak English. Sanford’s new gym would allow existing gyms to be converted to classrooms.
Overall, the proposal adds 1,400 more seats than the anticipated enrollment, more than half of those in the district’s north and northeast zone. Some parents there has been unhappy about unclear pathways and programs in the proposal. Adding more seats represents an effort to meet the needs of students through a variety of academic approaches, said LeAnn Dow, the district’s project manager.
The proposal handles the biggest enrollment imbalance in the district’s southwest zone by expanding Southwest (450 students) for 2016, sharing of classes at adjacent Ramsey Middle and Washburn High schools (450) starting in 2015, shifting downtown students to northeast (300) and the new Wilder preK-5 school (450). The Wilder program will be defined with parents in the feeder area once that is defined, Dow said.
Major points in the proposal: Expansion of Southwest, Sanford, Seward Montessori (2016); reopening of Franklin Middle (2015), Cityview, Webster and an expanded Cooper school (2017); new early childhood programs at Wilder, Webster, North and Davis Center; eventual addition of arts-technical programs at Sanford and Roosevelt; addition of all-day kindergarten at five southwest schools without it; bus passes for students from outside Minneapolis willing to open enroll in 2014 to high-poverty schools; locating one of Harvest Prep’s sister charter schools at Lincoln building (2014).
The proposal defers to 2017 the idea of a college prep or audition-based arts high school, which some parents felt would weaken existing high school arts programs. A proposal to open a school that would help immigrant students through their college years was also deferred.
Skyways constitute a major public cost of the proposed development adjacent to the new Vikings stadium.
But about $10.3 million will pay for skyways to connect the entire development to downtown Minneapolis, using money from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is overseeing construction of the stadium and helping fund the parking ramp.
The stadium legislation only required that the new parking ramp be connected via skyway:
"2,000 parking spaces within one block of the stadium, connected by skyway or tunnel to the stadium, and 500 parking spaces within two blocks of the stadium, with a dedicated walkway on game days"
Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said the skyways will help attract major sporting events that garner significant economic revenue for the city and region. She has been in talks with the NCAA and people affiliated with the Superbowl.
“it’s very clear that part of what’s exciting people about our stadium is the fact that you could stay at hotels in the downtown core and be able to – in the winter, when most of these events take place – be able to walk through the skyways to get to the stadium,” Kelm-Helgen said.
The term sheet (page 5) says that Ryan Cos. will build skyways connecting the city-owned Haaf parking ramp to one office tower, the two office towers, and the office tower to the new parking ramp. A final skyway would run from the parking lot to the stadium, though the MSFA could elect to have it designed and constructed by another company (see diagram).
Not all of the authority's funds are public. The entity's global budget is a mixture of funding from the city, state and Minnesota Vikings.
That many new skyways runs somewhat in conflict with city officials' goal to create a vibrant street scape around the stadium and inside the new park. In 2012, Rybak said the city shouldn't build new skyways because of their detrimental effect on street-level vitality.
"I don't think we need any more skyways," Rybak said. "I don't think that they help at all."
Correction: This post originally stated the $10.3 million figure has increased since June, when it was $6.4 million. The June $6.4 million figure only accounted for skyways not required by the legislation, therefore excluding the costs to build a skyway from the new parking ramp to the stadium. The June plan envisioned different skyways connecting into the stadium, making the costs hard to compare.
Neighborhood activists seeking strict height limitations on new developments in Linden Hills were overruled by a key City Council committee Monday.
The city's zoning and planning committee stripped references in the Linden Hills small area plan to height measured in feet -- a final vote is expected later this week. That scuttles the desire by some residents to limit new developments along three commercial nodes to three stories.
Instead, developments along those three commercial nodes can be three or four stories, depending on their underlying zoning. But council member Betsy Hodges, who represents the area, successfully advocated for a staff direction that would encourage smaller buildings.
Residents initially drafted a plan that limited all mixed-use development along commercial areas to three stories. That's partly because the plan was spurred last year by two mixed use developments featuring four and five stories.
City staff pushed back, and the restriction was changed to 44 feet at three nodes and 50 feet at another.
The report said 44 feet could accommodate three- or four-story buildings, but city staff said four-story mixed use buildings would likely not be possible within those limitations. The city planning commission, which initially stripped the height language, said it was overly prescriptive and not the appropriate method of limit height.
“Without the 44 foot language to guide future development, we’re back to where we started with all parties struggling with each other,” the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council wrote of the planning commission action.
At the request of Hodges, the following staff direction was also passed along with the plan:
"Encourage overall building heights and floor-to-floor heights that reflect the adjacent architectural context and encourage buildings that are shorter than the current Zoning Code maximums for 3 and 4 story buildings (42 feet and 56 feet respectively) in the Linden Hills Small Area Plan."
Outgoing Council Member Meg Tuthill asked why there was a rush to pass the plan, given that seven new council members would arrive in several weeks. She said there should be more "clarification for the community."
Council Member Lisa Goodman, one of six incumbents returning, said this council has more experience with Linden Hills development concerns.
"To be candid, I actually think you'll get the opposite outcome with the new council," Goodman said. "So I actually think we should pass it today with this recommendation by Council Member Hodges that will give the guidance we need. Who knows? The next group of people could say there shouldn't be a height limit. This is a very pro-density group of people."
Pictured: Initial plans for Linden Corner, one of the projects that spurred neighborhood ire, a development moratorium and the small area plan.
City crews are installing 375 'meter hitches' around downtown and along Lake Street, restoring the parking meter to its honored place as a favored bike lockup spot.
The metal rings will provide even more security than the old big-head meters, which at least served as an obstacle to anyone trying to slide a locked bike up and off a meter standard. The new meter poles with only a slender number display were not a deterrent.
The 375 hitches now being wrenched into place are being paid for with a $37,000 federal non-motorized transportation grant. That's on top of the 180 installed last year, paid for the city and local businesses.
About 250 of the current batch had been installed before the snow arrived Tuesday. But Atif Saeed, parking systems manager for the city, said the work will continue even with winter setting in, because the demand will likely be there.
"Bikers surprise me in this town, sometimes," he said.
Car sharing is growing every day in Minneapolis.
Months after announcing that they were expanding their fleet, Zipcar will soon start parking vehicles on city streets in addition to existing parking ramp locations (seen above). They will join Car2Go, whose Smart cars can be parked in any on-street parking spot throughout the city.
Unlike Car2Go, which specializes in one-way travel, Zipcars are intended to be reserved and returned at the same location (see existing locations here). A city staff report has recommended 17 locations where they will be parked.
Zipcars also differ from Car2Go because of the variety of vehicles, which range from SUVs to sedans and hatchbacks.
The vehicles cost $8.75 an hour to rent, or $72 a day, without a monthly commitment. For $50 a month, Zipcar subscribers pay reduced hourly and daily rates.
One of the largest car sharing companies in the country, Zipcar will pay the city about $40,000 for the right to use the spots. The city will also provide signage indicating which spots are reserved for Zipcars.
The city's transportation and public works committee will review and vote on the proposal next Tuesday. It then needs approval from the full city council.
Here are the new locations:
View Zipcars in a larger map
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