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Even the best laid (small area) plans can often go ignored

A commercial real estate proposal in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood has sparked a heated discussion about the purpose of a small area plan. The controversy centers on the construction of a Walgreens Drugstore at West 27th Street and Hennepin Avenue South. The store will replace an existing restaurant and computer repair facility.

Neighborhood residents were surprised to hear that the popular restaurant Roat Osha was willing to sell the property for redevelopment. The idea of a Walgreens on the site furrowed brows, but the plan to include a drive-through window caused outright alarm. This is not a major intersection, and 27th Street is narrower than, say, 28th Street. A drive-through window could funnel more cars through East Isles, a neighborhood that prides itself on being a quiet residential area within walking distance of the livelier Uptown area.

The neighborhood's worst fears were realized when the developer revealed the design: a single-story "suburban" design that fails to meet the development criteria laid out in the Uptown Small Area Plan. A recent meeting of the City Planning Commission went so badly for the developer that the commission decided not to vote on the project until mid-April.

The Small Area Plan is part of the City of Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, the city's roadmap (pardon the pun) for development that has been tweaked and updated over the decades. In the mid-2000s, the city went through an elaborate process to develop a plan for how Minneapolis and its neighborhoods would approach development. The process was more holistic and inclusive than it had been in the past, pulling together stakeholders from both the public and the private sector, including, notably, neighborhood residents.

A city plan considers every aspect of what makes a city work while retaining the city's unique characteristics. Land use, transportation, housing, parks and open spaces -- a city plan is more than urban design. As someone put it, city planning is the exercise of municipal imagination.

And that is where the disagreement over the Walgreens design starts.

We'll continue this in our next post.

Source: Southwest Journal, "Planning Commission asks for Walgreens redesign at 27th & Hennepin," Michelle Bruch, March 21, 2016

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