A bus barn that could be coming to the Columbia Park neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis is drawing the ire of residents who believe the facility’s proximity will damage their quality of life.
The Metropolitan Transportation Network (MTN), a school bus company based in Fridley, wants to build a 55,000-square-foot office and bus maintenance garage at NE. 37th and University avenues. The site plan includes 111 bus parking stalls and an additional 65 spots for employee vehicles.
The move from Fridley would add 110 full-time positions and 200 seasonal jobs, according to the plans. The property is zoned for industrial use, and Hennepin County awarded development rights to MTN last year.
Now the company is seeking permits for the maintenance facility and an increase in the maximum weight of vehicles parked within 100 feet of housing. If approved, the project could break ground as early as spring.
Project developers representing MTN sought feedback on the requested permits and other design features at a Minneapolis Planning Commission meeting last week, where Commissioner Matt Brown expressed concern about the requests. Issues including the size of the building, its location on the property, entrances and exits for the buses, and landscaping also were discussed.
Cass Markovich, a neighbor who attended the meeting, said in an interview that she moved to the Columbia Park area because it was clean and free of pollution. Markovich, who has asthma, said she was concerned about the impact bus fumes could have on her and the residents of a senior apartment building across the road from the proposed bus barn, in Columbia Heights.
“There are many people with health issues in this area,” Markovich said.
Minneapolis officials have received at least 20 e-mails from residents who expressed concern about added traffic headaches and buses idling at 5 a.m. on winter mornings, according to city staffers.
D’Angelos Svenkeson, chairman of NEOO Partners, the development firm representing MTN, said at the meeting that his client had been searching for a large enough industrial site in Minneapolis for the bus barn for 2½ years.
MTN did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Darielle Dannen, who lives down the road from the site, called the issue a matter of public health and said she worried about how it would affect property values.
“This is a neighborhood with tons of starter homes, lots of young families,” Dannen said, and the bus barn would significantly change the neighborhood’s livability.
“I cannot imagine living in my neighborhood, with bus backing-up noises ... and idling buses at the end of my block. It’s a very residential neighborhood, right by Columbia Park, one of the larger parks for the city of Minneapolis,” Dannen said. “This would be just a really dramatic difference for all of us.”
Svenkeson said MTN recognizes the neighborhood’s concerns with traffic issues that already exist.
“Our project doesn’t necessarily add any relief. But hopefully our project can spearhead some relief at some of the intersections and help get some more planning and work done around this area,” Svenkeson said.
A soil study on the property has been completed, though traffic, noise and pollution studies still need to be done, Svenkeson said.
Markovich, a retired teacher, is familiar with the noise and diesel smell of school buses.
“When you think of 111 buses starting up in the morning, that are right across from a neighborhood ... the stench is going to be incredible,” she said.