Traffic moves fast down Lowry Avenue in northeast Minneapolis, a corridor marked by abandoned buildings, unassuming single-family homes and the occasional dive bar.
All of that may soon change. The area, which has remained relatively affordable as luxury apartments and housing prices rise elsewhere in Minneapolis, has begun to draw new residents and developers alike.
Three major intersections within a mile of one another have been targeted for housing developments in spots where buildings have sat abandoned for years. Meanwhile, Hennepin County has partnered with the city and others to implement a redevelopment plan on Lowry, a county road, between Central Avenue and the Mississippi River.
“It’s a slow progression,” said Minneapolis Planning Commission Vice President John Slack. “But I do think that people are starting to see Lowry as a really viable corridor to be on.”
Still, residents can point out challenges. Changes to the street in the 1960s made more space for cars and less for pedestrians and bicyclists. The narrow sidewalks are impassable in places — especially in winter, when they fill up with snow and push pedestrians into the busy street.
“Lowry’s always been a terrible street to walk on, to bike on — even to drive on isn’t that great,” said Jared Hoffman, president of the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association board.
Based on community input, the Hennepin County redevelopment plan focuses on improving the streetscape by widening sidewalks, adding boulevards and reducing the number of vehicle lanes. There are plans for stormwater management along the corridor, and bicycle lanes on adjacent streets.
The plan also notes the opportunity for commercial and residential redevelopment at six key intersections along Lowry.
The City Council and Hennepin County Board adopted the plan in 2015, but limited resources have kept it from getting off the ground.
“We don’t have a timeline yet — it’s a complex, multifaceted project,” said Patricia Fitzgerald, community and economic development manager at Hennepin County.
New development cropping up along Lowry may provide the energy needed to get the county project moving, said Slack, who consulted on the plan.
Minneapolis recently put out a request for proposals, due next month, to redevelop two vacant buildings on Monroe Street. A liquor store on Marshall Street is on its way to becoming a mixed-used development complete with a five-story apartment building. And construction of a 36-unit, affordable housing complex on 2nd Street is already underway.
That building is a project of Clare Housing, a nonprofit that provides housing for low-income people living with HIV. The group’s first apartment building opened on Central Avenue in 2005.
Executive Director Chuck Peterson said the 2nd Street site was chosen because it’s in the city’s core, close to public transit and other amenities. The county’s redevelopment plan is a perk, too, he said.
“I liked that it was part of that growth plan,” Peterson said, “that there will be in the future even more amenities and more people and a really good mix of income levels and diversity in the neighborhood, as well.”
Residents are hopeful that Lowry’s evolution will bring new life to the area, and maybe even attract higher-end businesses and housing.
Data cited in the Hennepin County plan show the median home sale price in Northeast is about $20,000 less than in Minneapolis as a whole. The average quoted rents per square foot in Northeast are about half of what they are in the rest of the metro area.
Bottineau neighborhood coordinator Nancy Przymus said she’s happy with plans for the new Clare Housing project, but would also like to see more market-rate development going forward.
“We are pretty well saturated with low-income housing,” she said. “We just can’t absorb any more and remain a viable community.”
Council Member Kevin Reich, who represents the area, said resident opinions on what kind of development is needed vary by neighborhood, and even by age. The hope, he said, is to strike a balance between old and new, affordable and market rate.
Dan Jaros grew up in Northeast, and his family has owned Tony Jaros River Garden since 1960. The bar is located at Marshall and Lowry, one of the intersections that Hennepin County identified for redevelopment.
Jaros isn’t too worried about changes to the neighborhood, including the apartment building expected to crop up across the street.
“I hate to see the old places go, but I’ll be here,” he said. “It’s been changing ever since I was in second grade. I’m 60 now.”