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Despite its predictions about growth in the outer edge of the metro, the report says development in the next 30 years will increasingly be infill in the older, more accessible parts of the region. Highly mobile young professionals want to live where there’s a diverse population, strong arts and entertainment, recreation and even transit systems that allow them to get around without a car, the report said.
Significantly, the report does not anticipate extending the farthest reaches of the sewer system — which enables development in new territories — beyond an earlier 2030 plan, and says that highways must largely be maintained after more than 50 years of expansion. “While some gaps remain, the region’s highway network is essentially complete and must now be rebuilt,” the report says.
The new focus is on fixed-route transitways like light rail, the report says, which it recommends enhancing with development of local bicycle and pedestrian systems.
The city of St. Paul’s comments on the report urge the Met Council to take a more proactive economic development approach and push for higher density goals outside the city. “There is little guidance or direction to these communities to prevent continuation of the same pattern of single-family residential subdivisions where residents must use a car to get to virtually any destination for work, shopping, recreational or cultural activities,” the city said in draft comments, which must still be approved by the mayor.
Minneapolis leaders are largely supportive of the plan’s policy themes but believe the city can accommodate much more growth than projected. Johnson pointed out that the city, particularly the North Side, is awash with vacant land ripe for development. But she is also skeptical of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ goal of adding 100,000 new people — a bar she believes is unrealistic. While the city once housed more than 500,000 people, she said, many of them were packed tighter into single-family homes.
Starling said an earlier forecast projected more growth in the urban core. But homebuilders pushed back, as did both outer suburbs and those in the inner ring.
Starling noted that they are forecasting significant growth in Minneapolis — more than the city has seen over several decades — but available land and market demands limit those numbers. While there has been a lot of recent demand to live in Minneapolis, she added that several years of growth do not necessarily translate into a 30-year spurt.
The homebuilders, meanwhile, are applying opposite pressure. “We’ve had a lot of conversations with them where they said, ‘But we’re building so many homes in … Lakeville, we’re building so many homes in Shakopee, Chanhassen, Victoria.’ If you take the number of homes that we’ve built over the last year, multiply that out by 30, you get much higher growth than what these forecasts are indicating,” Starling said.
Myron Orfield, a regional planning expert at the University of Minnesota, said Thrive MSP 2040 was a “do-nothing” plan that envisions more of the same rather than trying to guide the area’s growth. “This document is unimportant because there’s nothing to it,” he said. “But potentially … more than any governmental document it could shape our future in a positive way.”
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732