Hoping to lower the cost of housing, Minneapolis may soon stop requiring apartment developers to build hundreds of parking spots.

The measure passed through a key City Council panel Thursday with significant support, but has also attracted vocal criticism from the council’s president and a number of Uptown residents. It would nix the city’s typical one-spot per-unit minimum — created in 1959 — for projects near high-frequency bus and rail stops. There are no such minimums downtown.

Parking is among the most expensive but largely hidden costs of new developments. Apartment buildings popping up around the city typically feature underground garages, which cost about $25,000 per spot to build.

“Parking is an amenity that’s expensive, and the cost gets passed on to those with or without vehicles,” city planner Aaron Hanauer told the city’s Zoning and Planning Committee.

The new rules would apply to areas with higher-density zoning, meaning the largest impact would be in neighborhoods between downtown and Lake Street — where frequent transit and dense housing is most prevalent. But even supporters don’t expect quick change. Banks still require ample parking before financing a project and residents in many newer buildings still demand parking spots.

“We’re not telling developers not to build parking,” Council Member Lisa Goodman said. “We’re just simply saying we’re not going to tell you what the minimum or maximum is going to be.”

Goodman, who chairs a committee that oversees housing subsidies, said the change would allow affordable housing developers to reduce the approximately $1.5 million needed to fully park a 50-unit building, for example.

A 4-1 vote sent the proposal, authored by Council Member Lisa Bender, toward a final vote on July 10. The lone ‘no’ vote came from Council President Barb Johnson, who said the change will likely lead to parking-free developments in north Minneapolis. Johnson said she intends to seek an exemption for the North Side.

“There are a lot of people who don’t feel safe riding public transportation in north Minneapolis. It’s not a situation that exists across the city,” said Johnson, adding that “if there are 15 people in north Minneapolis that know about this proposal, I would be shocked.”

Specifically, the proposal would eliminate parking requirements for residential developments within 350 feet of a bus or rail stop with 15-minute frequencies. A quarter-mile away, developments under 50 units would still have no requirement, while buildings featuring more than 51 units would receive a 50 percent reduction. The university area — which has separate parking guidelines — is exempt.

Dan Oberpriller, president of CPM Development, said parking often determines the density of a project. “When you start the building process, you start with parking,” Oberpriller said.

CPM is seeking to build a 124-unit building where Cheapo Records is located in Uptown — with 154 parking spaces. The average for Uptown projects is 1.1 to 1.3 parking spots per unit, he said.

He predicted the change would have its biggest impact on smaller developments of 12 units or less.

“What often ruins the project in a 10-unit, in a 5-unit apartment building is the cost of parking,” Oberpriller said. “Because the parking structure is so … expensive, the costs of excavation, and it’s inefficient. And it really ruins a lot of urban infill development.”

 

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