Developer targets Dinkytown's main street

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2013 - 12:42 AM
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Doran Companies’ plan for a six-story, 70-unit apartment complex.

Photo: , Doran Companies

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Weeks after activists lost a contentious fight to stop a development in Minneapolis’ Dinkytown area, another proposal emerged Friday that would reshape one of the University of Minnesota neighborhood’s main drags.

The proposal sets up a City Hall debate over the future of the four-block Dinkytown business district, since a City Council member is already pushing for a moratorium on all development there. The outcome has implications for increasing residential density in other commercial areas throughout the city — a goal of city officials — since neighborhood resistance is not uncommon.

Doran Companies is hoping to build a six-story, 70-unit apartment building with ground-level retail on 4th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues SE., aimed at attracting University of Minnesota students. That is the same block where Opus Development Company recently won approval over activist objections to demolish several commercial buildings for a 140-unit, mixed-use building. The council cited the city’s need for density in supporting that project.

But unlike the Opus development on 5th Street, on a quiet edge of ­Dinkytown, the Doran project would be erected along the district’s primary corridor.

“It really couldn’t be placed any worse,” said Kristen Eide-Tollefson, owner of the Book House and a leader of the fight against the Opus proposal, which displaced her business. “The placement and the style and the land use just basically uproots … Dinkytown’s identity.”

The site currently consists of surface parking and commercial buildings of one to two stories. They are occupied by Mesa Pizza, Camdi Restaurant, Dinkytown Tattoo, Publika coffee and tea shop, and a ­woman’s clinic. Kelly Doran, the developer, is asking that the land be rezoned to allow for the project.

“I’m a little bit mystified as to what everyone thinks they’re preserving there,” Doran said, adding that the land is about 75 percent surface parking and the buildings are nondescript. He argues that his project would actually protect more important Dinkytown attractions on the 14th Avenue corner — like the venerable Al’s Breakfast — since it leaves behind parcels too small to develop.

Council Member Diane ­Hofstede, who is locked in a tight re-election race, has introduced a moratorium on all Dinkytown development. If passed, it would likely prevent the Doran project from moving forward.

Hofstede said the moratorium idea was not spurred by this project, but rather the plans that are underway to chart the future development of the area. “I think they should be allowed to complete their work,” Hofstede said. That moratorium could reach a council committee in several weeks.

Doran, one of the most prolific developers in the U area, warned that the city risks ­losing his business.

“We can go anywhere and build things,” Doran said. “We don’t have to build in Minneapolis. And if they don’t want to have it built, fine. We’ll go someplace else.”

The Doran and Opus ­proposals are among many projects springing up around the U, where developers are sensing big demand for student housing. Across the street from the Opus project, on SE. 5th Street, construction is underway on a 317-unit apartment building on the site of the former John Marshall High School. That lies just outside the boundaries of Dinkytown.

Eide-Tollefson noted that their petition, which garnered 3,200 signatures, targeted all rezoning that would bring housing into Dinkytown — not just Opus. “It’s beloved, it has historic character and it shouldn’t be obliterated for housing developments,” Eide-Tollefson said.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732
Twitter: @StribRoper

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