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Development becomes a big issue in Minneapolis City Council race
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Lara Norkus-Crampton says she's concerned about overdevelopment in Uptown. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Public safety and crime may be the biggest issue in the race for mayor of Minneapolis this year. But in at least one of the city's neighborhoods, another issue is dominating the campaign. In the city's 10th Ward which includes the popular Uptown neighborhood, some residents are worried more about development than crime. They're worried that the neighborhood is being overdeveloped. Some say taller buildings could change the face of Uptown and they're putting pressure on the city council candidates to stop those plans.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Ward 10 in Minneapolis is one of the most popular areas in the state's largest city. It includes the Chain of Lakes and the trendy Uptown area. But many residents are concerned the neighborhood is becoming too popular. Lara Norkus-Crampton is a resident of the ward.

As she walks throughout Uptown, she stops in front of Calhoun Square, a building that includes shops and restaurants. She says she likes the neighborhood the way it is with no buildings taller than five stories. But there are plans to add a 10-story building across the street, and Norkus-Crampton is worried other tall buildings will follow.

"I like to be able to see the sky," Norkus-Crampton said. "I was just having lunch on a second story restaurant. I could see the sky from there. If everything is four to six stories, I won't be able to see the sky anymore from there. It doesn't sound like that a big deal but it is a big deal. Aesthetically, it's a very big change and people are not happy about it."

Norkus-Crampton and other residents are putting pressure on city council candidates to take a stand on commercial development in Uptown. Candidate Scott Persons says it's become one of the biggest issues in the race for the open City Council seat.

"There's understandably a skepticism of change in any community," Persons said. "Development is a very visible part of that change so folks want to talk about it."

Persons heard that talk when he supported a plan that would allow a 13-story building in Uptown. He says he's not sure if he'd support other similar projects in the ward.

The dilemma for city planners and the six candidates running for the council seat is that people keep moving to Minneapolis. Thirty-thousand more people are expected to move into the city by 2030. The candidates have to walk a delicate line between accommodating the new people and not upsetting current voters.

Candidate Allan Bernard says it's an issue that should be important beyond the boundaries of the 10th Ward.

It's not a matter of not in my backyard as it is preserving the jewels of Minneapolis," Bernard said. "People come from all over to enjoy our lakes.

Bernard says, if elected, he won't support any buildings that obstruct the view of the city's lakes.

Developer Stuart Ackerberg was caught in the middle of the debate when the Minneapolis Planning Commission defeated his proposed 13-story building. The commission said it would support a 10-story project. Ackerberg says he's trying to meet the concerns of the community.

"The reality is the population continues to grow," Ackerberg said. "More and more people want to not only live in Uptown but also want to office in Uptown. The whole concept of living and working in the same micro community continues to grow and there aren't that many options to do that in Uptown."

Some candidates are trying to gain favor with voters by not taking money from developers and are speaking out against the projects. Ralph Remington says the city needs to re-examine which projects are acceptable in the neighborhood and stand firm when developers don't want to follow those plans.

"The developers are driving the planning," Remington said. "What we need in Uptown and in Ward 10 specifically, is a master plan. A five-year comprehensive master plan."

Other candidates say they support a plan that would set maximum and minimum heights for buildings. Gay Noble says she'd prefer to see larger projects built along the main roads.

"We shouldn't be building the one story buildings on our major transit corridors," Noble said. "If we're going to be a city moving into the future, that density needs to be on that corridor and not in our neighborhoods."

While most candidates say they're taking a stand against development in Uptown, Tom Moore welcomes it. He says the city could use the taxes.

"You look at the other cities in the United States and they would kill for some of the growth and development that people want to bring to Minneapolis," Moore said. "What you have is well intentioned people who want to protect their neighborhoods and their lifestyles."

Harry Savage, one of the other candidates in the race, says development is an issue but he's more focused on public safety and lower taxes.

Mayor R.T. Rybak is also trying to address concerns about commercial development in Uptown. His budget proposal calls for four more city planners to help ease the concerns of residents and meet the demands of developers.