As Minneapolis 2040 turns heads, developers take stock.

 
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Byline: William Morris

If you zone it, will they build it?

That's the hope of city leaders as the Minneapolis 2040 plan takes effect. The sweeping comprehensive plan amendment, approved on a 12-1 City Council vote on Dec. 7, seeks to address decadeslong trends of inequality, housing shortages and environmental damage.

The highest-profile change in the document is rezoning all the city's single-family residential neighborhoods to allow new duplex and triplex construction a move that has caught national media attention and stoked discussions elsewhere.

But it remains to be seen how eager local developers will be to build triplexes.

"I have a hard time understanding how the economics of that process will work, for sure in certain parts of the city and maybe throughout the city," said Kelly Doran, the founder of Bloomington-based Doran Cos. who has developed and built hundreds of apartments in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

The Minneapolis 2040 plan notes 49 percent of the city's households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and solutions are needed.

The limited land supply is a key driver of housing costs, said David Siegel, president of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities and Housing First. In an interview, he praised the city for taking a creative approach to make more use of the land it has.

Still, it will take time for builders to take advantage of the new rules, he said.

"Are we going to see a giant onslaught of triplexes? I doubt it," Siegel said. "Will we see some? I think we will. I think builders will begin to find ways to adapt to the new opportunity."

For larger developers, the 2040 plan offers both carrots and sticks. The plan puts a special focus on transit-oriented development, loosening the height and density restrictions in key transit corridors to create new opportunities for high-density residential projects.

At the same time, Minneapolis 2040 calls for the city to expand its inclusionary housing policy. Currently, the city requires residential rental projects built on city-owned land to make 20 percent of units affordable to residents making less than 60 percent of the area median income.

Under the 2040 plan, that policy will extend to new housing developments proposed in the city. Developers would be required to make either 10 percent of the units affordable to renters earning 60 percent or less of the area median income, or 20 percent of units earning 50 percent.

A coalition of developers called...

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