So one of the things I think about when I’m walking around is how to accommodate increased population density in Minneapolis. Not because I think that population size is a good measure of a city’s vitality or success – since most American city’s borders no longer extend with growth, it is a meaningless measure.
Instead it is a selfish thought: I prefer to use transit to get around, and in order to build a good rapid transit system with current levels of car ownership, the population density will need to be roughly doubled.
In my mind, the population allocation would be about 50,000 each to North and Northeast, and 100,000 each to Downtown and South (and I think South could probably take even more). Can you tell I play SimCity?
Downtown is currently estimated to have about 30,000 people, of whom around 20,000 were counted in the last census (which makes the estimate seem reasonable, considering the explosive growth in residential buildings downtown in the last decade). So is there even room for 70,000 more people?
That’s what I aim to find out: I will use bing maps’ polygon generator tool, which automatically calculates the area of the polygon in square feet, to create a map of all the developable parcels downtown.
First I divided Downtown into 8 districts:
All of these neighborhoods have identifiable characteristics that distinguish them from one another, although of course the borders are hazy. Although East Downtown, and Twinsville don’t exist yet, they are areas that are currently distinct from their neighbors. And I’ll admit, I made up the Market District because I abhor multiple modifiers (like East Lyndale Ave North), and the North Loop plan gives it the boring moniker “Upper North Loop.”
At this point I’m not sure what average density to calculate these parcels at. 80 units/acre seems to reasonable, as it would represent a balance of low-rise and mid-rise (four and eight stories, respectively, in my definition) with a few high-rises (ten stories or higher) thrown in the mix.
But a transit-supportive urban policy should really focus high-density development downtown. If only developments of six stories or higher are considered (floor area ratio is really a better measure, but I’m not sure I’m qualified to guess at what is realistic – FAR=8?), then average densities could be brought to 100 or 130 units per acre. I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect much more than that – Minneapolis will never be Manhattan and I probably wouldn’t want it to be.
So look out in the next few weeks for a district-by-district breakdown of what kind of population increase can be expected. And cross your fingers that it will total 70,000.