Warehouse District/Theater District

After veering dangerously and boringly close to the realm of the rant in the last two posts in this series, I’m going to attempt a format to make this more readable and on topic.

Overview

The Warehouse and Theater Districts are some of the more recognizable areas of Minneapolis,and also benefit from a very central location and uniquely abundant historic resources.  In my opinion, these three things will propel these neighborhoods to be some of the most successful in the city at attracting development.  Oh, yeah, and there’s a stadium or two on the edge of the neighborhood to get the bankers excited.

But that popularity could be a downside as well – this area is packed with sloshed sleazeballs every Friday and Saturday night, and do you really want to live next to that perpetual disco beat?  Here the city could make an effort to disperse the clubs a little bit – maybe by being more lenient about allowing clubs in other neighborhoods?

The biggest obstacle to development in these neighborhoods, though, is that they are already pretty much developed.  In this regard it is similar to the North Loop, which surprised me as I actually thought there would be much less space to develop here.  But again we get to the design aspect – the Warehouse district’s parking lots are more dispersed, smaller parcels, and more interior to the blocks, and therefore less noticable.

And it is that patchwork quality to the development opportunities that excites me – I love the surprising, heterogeneous quality of cities made of lots of tiny lots crammed together.  I look forward to to the neighborhood this will become.

The Map

Details

  • Federal Reserve Lots – There are several large parking lots around the Federal Reserve building that are great for residential developmentsdue to their proximity to the river and their centrality.  I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect them to be developed, though, as the Fed is a major employer and presumably wants to keep the parking for the benefit of its employees.  Hopefully a compromise with structured parking lined or topped with apartments will work.  Another wild card is the huge lot to the northwest of the Fed – it is actually owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Commission, which is rarely subject to the profit motive of us mere mortals.  But with the exception of no more than 50 feet adjoining the railroad line on the west, it’s difficult to imagine much transit use for this parcel.  An unlikely exception is the possibility of a rail station here – but that is contingent on a great deal more commuter and regional rail lines than currently exist and could likely coexist with high-density residential (see Vienna’s huge new Hauptbahnhof project).  I predict high potential for development here.
  • Twinsville North – Considering the plans that have already been marketed for this area, it is guaranteed that some kind of development will happen in the Cut north of Target Field.  The only question is what happens in that awkward space between the two viaducts?  My own opinion, to be explored in a later post, is that the viaduct is massively overbuilt (since it’s only need for peak traffic, instead of four lanes it could be two lanes that change direction twice a day).  So my hope is that the northern viaduct could be torn down, leaving one large contiguous parcel.  Regardless, there is huge potential here.
  • Parks -  I have two ideas for parks in this area:  the more likely is the parcel adjoining the Hiawatha station between Hennepin and 1st.  The rest of the block could be finished in a way that would frame the 120 feet or so from 5th Street for a classic plaza.  The other idea is for a traffic circle park at the corner of 1st Ave and 8th St.  It could be built in a way that calmed traffic and improved flow through those bizarre intersections, and still have room for a park of close to an acre (about a 220 foot diameter).  Both of these ideas aren’t even close to the realm of reality until we have a Park Board that has some interest in developing urban parks.
  • And the rest?  – This neighborhood, more than most, has lots of small buildings that are already dense, relative to the rest of Minneapolis, but could be denser.  I’m sure I have left most of these buildings off of this assessment, as I mostly just included existing buildings that are a particularly poor use of their site (Ribnick Fur, for example).  So if interest in urban living does take off in Minnesota, this assessment will certainly be too low.

The Numbers

Warehouse 80 un/ac 110 un/ac 140 un/ac
High 2297 3158 4020
Medium 248 342 435
Low 22 31 39
Total 2568 3531 4493

Prognosis

Due to the lack of space to build in the Warehouse and Theater Districts, this area will not be a huge source of new population for Minneapolis.  But what development does occur will be very dense.  While the new zoning under development for the riverfront may limit some blocks there to 6 stories, I think there is high potential for high rises throughout the neighborhood.  Even without a lot of additional residents, these neighborhoods will be full of people for years to come.