To Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, members of the City Council and authors of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan:

What were you thinking?

The preamble to the 2040 plan goes into great detail about historic redlining (racial discrimination in mortgage lending) of the North Side, and how this created in part the concentration of poverty and the paucity of homeownership, subsequently leading to the lack of jobs and amenities for North Side residents. You then propose a plan guaranteed to exacerbate all of these problems. For instance:

Housing density

The 2040 plan allows developers to put fourplexes and sixplexes along major corridors. Residents of the North Side cannot afford to build such units; new construction is expensive and requires access to lots of ready capital. These units will not be owned by neighborhood residents. They will be built and owned by large developers, all of whom live somewhere else, with easy access to lots of capital from out-of-town banks. These houses will not be built around Lake of the Isles. You can be sure that most of the increased density will go into the North Side, where property values are low and where well-financed developers can afford to buy up and bulldoze perfectly good homes in order to provide great tracts of inferior rental housing. Homeownership will go down. Neighborhood stability will get decimated. Poverty will be concentrated further.

What were you thinking?

Increasing homeownership and starter homes

City plans to subsidize new construction are perverse. Scores of “starter homes” already exist on the North Side. These are older, often smaller, existing houses, usually in need of some repair, that are well within the financial reach of residents wanting a starter home. City funds available for massive subsidies to out-of-town developers (for tearing down existing housing stock and building “affordable” housing) would be better directed to homesteaders looking to buy or improve an existing house. You need to subsidize renovation, not bulldozers.

Jobs

Homesteader rehabs create neighborhood jobs. This doesn’t need a new city plan with a massive bureaucracy to work; it happens organically. New housing requires lots of expensive equipment that small local contractors and part-timers don’t have and can’t afford. Conversely, the large companies want nothing to do with rehabbing a single home. Small neighborhood contractors do this work. They hire local people to help them. Nearly all of the improvements and home repairs in north Minneapolis’ Old Highland neighborhood, where I live, were made by local people. These are real jobs, paying real money. It doesn’t make sense to use city money to subsidize the rich when those funds could be directed to a neighborhood desperately in need of jobs.

What were you thinking?

Heritage preservation

The 2040 plan makes no mention of preserving historic structures on W. Broadway and elsewhere. Instead, in the name of progress, you wish to recreate an urban demolition plan throughout our neighborhoods, reminiscent of the Gateway debacle of the 1960s.

After years of consultation with neighbors, developers and local business owners, Minneapolis created the West Broadway Alive plan, to guide growth along the W. Broadway corridor for the next 15 years. The City Council passed it. It is current law.

If any of the 2040 plan authors had read this plan — or even acknowledged its existence — that was certainly not made clear. I don’t know if this is arrogance, ignorance, incompetence or just sloth. But the residents of Minneapolis deserve more thoughtful action from our elected representatives.

What were you thinking?

 

Bruce A. Center lives in Minneapolis.