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Even the best laid (small area) plans can often go ignored, pt.2

We were last talking about a proposal to build a Walgreens Pharmacy on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis. Walgreens' existing store at W. 24th Street and Hennepin is the pharmacy chain's latest target for redevelopment in the city. Rather than updating its older stores, the company has been building new stores nearby -- the E. Lake Street store is just one example.

The design for the new Uptown store was presented at a recent meeting of the city's Planning Commission, and it was not greeted with enthusiasm. As we said in our last post, the neighborhood objects to the single-story design as too suburban and out-of-sync with the Uptown Small Area Plan. The plan calls for multi-story, mixed-use development along commercial corridors, not a design with, as a neighborhood representative said, "a striking lack of density." The current design, critics complain, clearly violates the plan.

The problem is that the Small Area Plan is aspirational, not regulatory. All of the plans developed under the Comprehensive Plan are. While the city may use a plan as a guide when fashioning land use and zoning regulations, the plan is a guide, not a blueprint. According to both the Small Area and Comprehensive plans, their primary goal is "to raise investor confidence, form partnerships, and inspire new ideas." 

In Minneapolis, these plans are visioning documents, tools that serve as a guide for the City’s development so that it occurs in a coordinated, efficient, effective and sustainable manner in a way that balances opportunities and promotes a high quality of life for residents and visitors.

Opponents of the current design may agree, but they counter that while the current proposal may not fly in the face of regulation but it certainly flies in the face of the neighborhood's character and, more importantly for Walgreens, what the neighborhood needs. Council Member Lisa Bender may have asked the most pointed question at the recent hearing: "Why are you building a building that the neighborhood doesn't want here?"

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

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