One of Minneapolis’ most walkable areas may one day be friendlier and more attractive for people on foot, under new rules nearing approval at City Hall.

The City Council’s zoning committee signed off this week on rules that discourage low-density, auto-oriented design in the greater Uptown area. The new pedestrian district would require new developments to limit the amount of surface parking facing major streets and install a lot of sidewalk-facing windows, while barring drive-throughs and new fast-food buildings, among other design guidelines.

Council Member Lisa Bender, a co-author of the plan, said it is a response to constituent complaints about suburban-style proposals for single-use buildings like Walgreens and Wells Fargo.

“These regulations are really about more traditional urban designs,” Bender said. “It’s more like the buildings that were traditionally found on the streetcar corridors, for example.”

The new pedestrian district generally follows Hennepin and Lyndale avenues S., from W. Franklin Avenue to W. Lake Street, and Lake Street from Lake Calhoun to Interstate 35W. A similar but less restrictive district was already in place around Lake Street from Irving to Lyndale avenues S.

Some elements of the new district echo all other pedestrian districts around the city, including a requirement that buildings be no more than 8 feet from the front property line.

Other components of the Uptown plan have been applied elsewhere, such as a requirement that new buildings be at least two stories, and no mandate that commercial properties provide off-street parking.

The Uptown district will also have some entirely new rules, such as forcing new buildings on corner lots to have doors facing the major streets and barring buildings on corner lots from having driveways that cross sidewalks along those major streets.

The plan drew some criticism from existing property owners at a meeting earlier this month, including Paul Oberstar, owner of Paramount Collision Center on W. Lake Street and Pleasant Avenue S.

“It is my opinion that creating more [development] barriers on this part of Lake Street is premature and not necessary,” Oberstar said.

Others were buoyed by the changes. Alex Cecchini, a member of the city’s pedestrian advisory committee, said more windows and fewer parking lots will improve public safety.

“The changes that are in this … they will make the commercial area safer, more accessible and more attractive for people over time,” said Cecchini, who lives in the Uptown area.

Nancy Anderson said the plan doesn’t do enough to address the safety of street crossings, noting she is “scared to death” of cars that do not stop at stop signs when she walks along W. 25th Street. She added that the light at 25th and Hennepin Avenue S. doesn’t give her enough time to cross in the wintertime.

“Cars are just raring to go,” she said. “They can’t wait to kill me. So I don’t know what this is going to do to help that.”

The full City Council is expected to vote on the Uptown area pedestrian district at its meeting Friday.


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