Minneapolis leaders consider new parking ramp regulations

- As the future of Minneapolis is prepared to meet the skyline, the city’s planning commission wants to hold those who lay out its blueprint to higher standards.

Tuesday’s planning commission meeting focused on Minneapolis housing, its racial disparities and downtown’s parking ramp structure regulation.

“For about 10 years we’ve regulated large new public parking facilities in much of downtown Minneapolis to be located underground or as part of a transit facility,” Jason Wittenberg, the planning manager, told Fox 9.

During the second half of the meeting, Wittenberg pitched a new proposed regulation backed by council member Jacob Frey to the rest of the commission.

“We don’t require that businesses provide parking any longer or that residential uses provide parking in downtown, so when it is provided, we want to make sure that it’s designed in a way that’s thoughtfully integrated in new development that minimizes the impact on someone walking downtown for example,” said Wittenberg.

The goal is to back away from stand-alone ramps that take up an entire block, like the one on Washington Avenue South, and instead build more “parking podium structures” like the Mill Quarter parking ramp – built to flaunt its residential and retail uses along the street front.

“We are concerned about the impact on someone walking down the sidewalk," said Wittenberg. "We want people to be engaged when they’re walking through downtown and have really interesting things to look at when they’re walking through downtown.

Council member Frey, meanwhile, also wants to do away with single-use lots and limit restrictions.

“It used to be that we'd require all public parking to be below [ground] and all private parking then could be above [ground]," said Frey. "In new structure of the ordinance, we're saying do whatever is most convenient and easiest for the structure of the building."

In terms of structure, the planning manager also suggests the city instead build ramps with flat floors instead of slanted ramps, to encourage conversion. But architect Robert Loken warns re-purposing an already established structure is costly.

“It's much more realistic that they'd be demolished if there's not a need for them,” said Loken.

With eyes to the horizon, the planning commission is prepared to soon welcome what the consulting architect considers “disruptive technology.”

“Like driverless cars,” said Loken. “And people’s preferences about driving, that could change."

The city planning commission will host a public hearing on the downtown parking ramp regulation proposal sometime in October.

They anticipate formal changes to the regulation by the end of the year.
 

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