I’ve been obsessing about whether 80 units per acre is realistic for my project about how many more people we can cram into downtown Minneapolis. In my first post, I speculated that the city may need to institute some development controls to get the density up. Now I’m not so sure.
My last post, about the North Loop, compared the Holden Building with the Rock Island Lofts as two examples of buildings that use their entire site, and I briefly mentioned the Heritage Landings as a new building that devoted a good chunk of its site to parking. You may be surprised to see their density characteristics:
|Rock Island Lofts||0.68||61||90|
(it should be noted that I’m only counting the eight-story chunk of the Holden building, not the one-story piece)
It is interesting that the density doesn’t necessarily correspond with the site coverage (it seems to have more to do with unit size), but also interesting that 90 unit/acre seems to be a floor.
So I looked into some other buildings – the earliest being the Landings – the much-maligned suburban townhomes that cut off the neighborhood from the river – and the Mill City Apartments. The Landings fulfill their suburban reputation, measuring between 4.9 and 6.4 units per acre, depending on whether you count the roads within the development (which I think would be fair, since as a Planned Unit Development, the developers decided how many roads would be built, and how wide they would be – too many and too wide, in my opinion). That’s roughly comparable to suburban neighborhoods built in the 20′s-40s.
The Mill City Apartments, built in 2001 is sort of a prototype new urban building – it has an urban form (tall and oriented towards the street, with parking in back) but is built of cheap materials and detailing, reminiscent of a 90s strip mall. It also has relatively low density, mostly because of the large amount of surface parking (more than half the lot) – it has the density of the typical mid-century walk-up at 35 units per acre.
But it seems that as the years went on, densities increased. I’m not going to pretend this is a comprehensive list, but many of these details are harder to find then you might think:
|Building name||Acres||Units||Density||Yr built|
|Mill City Apts||1.13||40||35||2001|
|Rock Island Lofts||0.68||61||90||2004|
|Mill District City Apartments||1.26||175||139||2010|
(Edit: I’ve updated the chart due to David’s information about the number of units at Zenith. If anyone else stumbles upon this entry, I welcome any additional corrections.)
Please note that some of the info on # units and most of the year built data come from real estate websites – not the most reliable source. I think it is interesting how high the densities have climbed, especially considering that many of the projects here are in Uptown, rather than Downtown.
To me, it indicates that 110 units per acre is a more plausible assumption for average density. But just to be safe, I’ve decided to calculate at 80 units per acre and 140 units per acre also.
I hope we get zoning in place and city incentives to build at 140 – but considering there is currently no floor on density and few incentives, it is encouraging that the market regularly supports high-density development.