Block Development Charrette:
West Half of Nicollet Avenue, 39th to 40th Street
On Wednesday, August 22, 2007 interested neighbors, property-owners
and members of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association’s Redevelopment
Committee gathered at Mulroy’s Body Shop (3920 Nicollet Avenue S) to discuss
the future of a block that has recently seen three single family homes razed and
now represents one of the largest clear development opportunities in Kingfield.
The following represents sentiments, concerns and hopes of the participants for
what this block could become.
The first step in any development process is to recognize the opportunities
and concerns integral to the particular process. In a large group open forum
discussion, the following issues were identified:
• Increase density
• Supports diverse uses
• All-day occupants could provide “Eyes on the street”
• A development could possibly act as a buffer for the homes on Van Nest Avenue.
• Site well linked with public transportation.
• Offers amenities within walking distance.
• Large enough site to provide for green spaces.
• Large neighborhood support for housing for all phases of the life cycle, particular housing aimed at seniors.
• Adjacent neighbors amenable to idea of zoning the land to a denser classification.
• Location could support a cafe, coffee shop or restaurant.
• Opportunity to create a pedestrian scaled environment.
• Possibility of allowing a slightly larger front setback from Nicollet
Avenue, creating a friendlier streetscape.
• A three-story development would be of an appropriate and palatable scale. More and the immediate neighbors would have serious concerns, less and the city and neighborhood would not achieve it’s desired density.
• Wonderful existing residential character to build upon. having a building that is too long, uninterrupted by visual interest.
• Too much density could become a burden to the built environment and adjacent neighbors.
• A building must have a residential character in order to be appropriate.
• Use must be compatible with adjacent neighbors, and neighborhood at large.
• Existing property on east half of Nicollet Avenue (across Nicollet Avenue from project site) is essentially blank and offers no “Eyes on the street” / life / security. This property must cope with and rectify that.
• Given current housing market forces, any developer must have foresight in order to avoid having a vacant building in the end.
• With a full block in question, there exists the possibility of having a building that is too long, uninterrrupted by visual interest.
• Development should have a softer character, avoiding excessive use of hard surfaces such as concrete.
• Given large project area, care must be taken to avoid a monolithic building mass.
• With the relationship between the area in question and Van Nest Avenue, any development must have a back yard / offer green space to those neighbors adjacent to the west.
• Increased traffic could be problematic.
• Difficulties in the City of Minneapolis entitlement process could trip-up any development.
• Any business proposed for this area needs to be unique to the neighborhood, preventing undue competition with existing businesses and assisting with variety in consumer opportunities.
• Parking would need to be integrated into any development scheme. Street and surface
parking would be unpalatable for neighborhood.
• Building elevations could be unfriendly to streetscape.
• Building heights may be inappropriate for neighborhood scale.
• Solar access for neighbors might be infringed upon (i.e., development might block sunlight from adjacent homes).
• Increased traffic on Van Nest is impermissible.
• Businesses with late night operations are not welcome.
• Security / safety must be enhanced by any development.
• Residential must face residential.
In small group exercises, the participants tried to give voice to their own
vision for the study area. Each group tried to establish the salient features,
business services offered or physical qualities that would create a successful
block. The following reflects each small group’s own vision:
Group A saw a development that offered businesses that primarily
residents of Kingfield would use (little commuter traffic), such as a small medical
clinic, barber or bowling alley (caveat: no late hours / raucous behavior). A
sensible site plan with ample green space, setbacks on all four sides to allow for
solar access to adjacent properties would provide a nice visual amenity to the
Group B envisioned a mixed-use development that scaled its buildings
appropriately to the street grid; taller buildings facing Nicollet Avenue that step
down in height to the Van Nest side. Business services offered might include
daycare or small professional space such as a dental office or medical clinic.
Parking would be located at the ends of the block, replacing or adjacent to the
existing Mulroy’s Body Shop or Ellwood’s Garage. The property limits that face
residential properties would be ringed with a privacy fence and there would be
ample green space throughout.
Group C proposed moving Ellwood’s Garage towards mid-block, allowing
for a restaurant space that would be more active, stay open later, on the south
end of the block. The existing Mulroy’s Body Shop would be trimmed back
several feet from its Van Nest property line to provide for greater street
landscaping / greenery. The mixed-use development would be set back far
enough from Nicollet Avenue to provide a soft streetscape and would provide
office space with senior / adult housing above. Several courtyards throughout
the project site would enhance the softer character of the site. A green roof or
rooftop plaza with an extensive container garden would provide an amenity to
residents. The site would also feature a community garden.
Group D had concerns about the width of the development, as the
development must be sensitive to a commercial corridor on Nicollet Avenue and
to residential along Van Nest Avenue. The development would, thus, reflect two
fronts: a commercial front on Nicollet and a residential front on Van Nest. Entries
to side-by-side townhomes would be staggered to prevent a monotonous facade and excessive localized traffic. Commercial spaces might be a cafe, restaurant
or coffee shop that would complement office space or business that offer
community services. All parking would be addressed internally and green space
would be ample throughout. The building itself would be constructed in a
sustainable and environmentally responsible way. Given their druthers, Group D
also hoped to make Van Nest a pedestrian only street, blocking vehicular traffic.
Group E envisioned a strictly commercial development. Marquis
businesses would include stores such as Trader Joe’s, Turtle Bread or a full-
service grocery store (not a convenience store). Also included in the
development would be a bank or other commercial use with no late hours, such
as a day spa. The building itself would be a single story or, if it had to be larger,
would articulate its facade in a way that would minimize its mass and impact on
the adjacent neighbors. Overall, they wanted to maintain the quiet nature of the
site as it currently sits.
Given the hypothetical nature of any proposed development plan on the
area in question at this point, the group did a wonderful job assessing the desires
of the neighborhood and understanding the context of both the existing built
environment and of long-term strategic planning. The results of the charrette are
meant to provide a rubric for judging any proposed development in the future and
a record of current sentiment about possibilities the site offers.
The Kingfield Neighborhood Association greatly appreciates the hard work
of the participants, KFNA staff and, especially, Mulroy’s Body Shop for hosting.