The Major Overhaul of New Hope City Center is Going to Cost You

February 2, 2013 at 8:24 pm 6 comments

by Jason Bradley

If you live in New Hope, have you seen the redevelopment plans unveiled last year for the City Center area? If not, boy, are you in for a surprise! Are you aware that $50,000 of our tax money was gifted by the Hennepin County Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) grant program to complete the study linked above? This 81 page document is the summation of their wild-eyed dreams for the area of New Hope that now houses the old K-Mart building, Lifetime Fitness, the municipal pool, and Mountain Mudd over by 42nd and Winnetka. If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you will see the same terms popping up like TOD, mixed use, sustainability, and so on. These buzz words indicate the influence of the Met Council to turn the entire Metro area into an endless landscape of similar high-density housing over ground floor businesses, caressed gently by bike paths and mass transitways, and it will strip any individuality or charm your city has left.

Am I being melodramatic? Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill? I don’t think so. I see the same things happening city after city in an effort to not upset the Met Council. In fact, this document doesn’t even hide the fact that the Met Council has set certain standards for them. They decided to proudly publish their allegiance in the text.

The pages titled “City Center Vision and Goals” call for environmental sustainability, a mix of high density residential types, diverse business and commercial uses, green spaces, and an interconnected transit system. They go on to cite a survey from the National Association of Realtors that has some interesting findings. 87% of those polled cited “privacy from neighbors” as very important or somewhat important. 53% wanted to be “away from it all”, while 34% wanted to be at the “center of it all”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you have high density housing in the town center do you have more privacy, or less? Are you away from it all, or in the center of it all? Despite these facts, it goes on to state how important it is to promote walkability, because people from Generation Y (born in between 1980 and 2000) want to walk everywhere. Well, let’s make sure then, that we redevelop our communities based on the walking habits of all of the 12-18 year olds that will be renting an apartment or townhome. The rest of Generation Y (19-33 year olds) may enjoy walking places, but they are a small portion of the available population, and their tastes will change as they get older. Me, I’m not in Generation Y, and I don’t want to walk as many places as I used to. I like my privacy, and I’m still upset that Northwest Family Physicians and the City of Crystal turned my quiet neighborhood into commotion central without seeing how we felt about it first. I know, I’m sounding like the crabby “get off my lawn” guy, but these City Planners can’t seem to comprehend that most people in this immediate area aren’t looking to live in an urban environment, but a suburban one. The constant march toward urbanism is not why most people moved here. It was because we’re close to most things, but we don’t have to look at them.

The study also says that “the suburbs will have to evolve to be attractive to Gen Y”. Like I said, your tastes change as you age. You get away from the college dorms, start a family, and realize that you’d like things to be a little quieter, with a safe place for your children to play. More people in your family mean more groceries. It’s hard to walk home from the grocery store when you are feeding a family of four. It also says that master bedrooms should be moved to the first floor, so that the elderly can avoid the stairs as they age. You mean that they will be okay with avoiding the rest of their home, as stairs become a problem? Not likely, but that’s what’s being proposed. In fact, the study uses a measurement called the “Floor Area Ratio” (FAR). It states that the Met Council’s recommended standard for buildings in a town center is 0.5 FAR. What does that mean? One lot is equal to 1 FAR, as is a two story unit that takes up half of a lot. So for a 0.5 FAR, you could have a one story building on half of a lot, or a two story building on a quarter of a lot. By building vertically, you can fit more 0.5 FAR buildings into a smaller area. Its stated goal is to limit surface parking and encourage multi-story buildings. 30-50 units per acre are needed to make redevelopment economically viable, and Met Council standards are 15 units per acre, minimum, in order to get bus service. The Community Business district building maximum height is set at 48 feet, or 4 stories. The R-4 (or high density housing) outlined on the map has a maximum building height of 72 feet, or 6 stories. 6 stories! Can you think of any buildings in the area that are that tall? That sure seems like a major change to the look and feel of the city.

What else are they proposing? They outline Indoor recreation and social rooms, rooftop outdoor recreational facilities, and transit within 300 feet of an entrance. They also demand that non-residential buildings, street side, shall have a façade that includes clear glass and doors. Now New Hope is in the architecture business too. They go on to meticulously describe what is acceptable for an awning, balcony, façade, exterior materials, landscaping, parking, lighting, etc, etc. They also demand that businesses shall provide bicycle parking within view of each business front entrance (1 bicycle per 20 parking spaces or 2 total, whichever is greater). Want a fence? Too bad. “In no instance shall chain link, wood, vinyl or barbed wire fence be permitted.”

What we have here is a total redesign of the city center of New Hope. Did you hear about this? Well, it’s been approved by the Council! Do you have any idea how much this is going to cost you? Is it worth it to you to tear this area apart and build up to six story apartment buildings and up to four story commercial buildings? Do you like that the City can control the design of private businesses and residences? So much for private property rights. It fits right in line with the ICLEI ( agenda, via the Met Council. Again, it’s the same concepts, same terms, same everything. If you want your city to have local control, instead of being designed from some group far away, then you had best elect people to your City Council that do not embrace this delegation of authority. Stand up, New Hope, and fight back!


Entry filed under: Agenda 21, City Government, Environment, Met Council, New Hope, Transportation. Tags: , , , , .

Minnesota GreenStep’s Real Agenda Part 2 Minnesota GreenStep’s Real Agenda Part 3;

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael Libby  |  February 3, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Three times as many Americans are killed in *unintentional* accidents involving motor vehicles, than are killed on purpose in homicides. Motor vehicle “accidents” are the leading cause of death for Americans under 24 years of age.

    People think moving to the suburbs will keep their family safe, but because the suburbs require everyone to drive everywhere and to own as many cars as there are adults (forget taxes, most families spend way more on cars)… the end result: your family is probably LESS safe than you wanted.

    I applaud the City of New Hope for looking for ways to improve this portion of their city, as well as taking local action using practices studied widely across the country and being coordinated here in Minnesota by programs like GreenStep and especially in Hennepin County via the transit oriented development. Anything that we as a society can do to help transition away from our car-centric patterns is a step forward, in my opinion.

  • 2. wants2know  |  February 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I can understand Michael’s point of view although I can’t help but wonder why there is so much interest in rushing back to 19th century technology and lifestyles. It has long been part of the human condition to establish a home away from centers of commerce as their disposable income increases. Development of the internal combustion engine made this increasingly possible. Not all suburbs require or even encourage total dependence on personal motor vehicles for residents.

    Suburban living lends itself to many desirable aspects of environmentally friendly living. The ability to garden and preserve the produce you grow is less expensive is local, and vastly reduces food transportation costs. It encourages families to develop stronger a work ethic by demonstrating to children the meaning of “enjoying the fruits of your labor”. The very act of gardening helps you to slow your pace, learn patience and exercise. Suburban living should and can encourage a connection to the natural world missing in transit oriented development with limited green space. Children benefit when they learn about the environment through practical hands-on experience right in their own backyard.

    Acres of townhomes and TOD developments have led to children who have grown up with no connection to nature. They no longer understand how food is produced, where it comes from or the effort it takes to produce it.

    we are blessed to live in a vast country with more than enough space to allow our citizens to live self-reliant lives while learning the value of being self-reliant.

  • 3. Michael Libby  |  February 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Self-powered carriages (aka “cars”) were actually invented at the same time as trains. Both forms of transportation originally used the exact same technology: steam engines. They have both evolved considerably since then.

    This plan for New Hope (and many other places) doesn’t envision a rush back to any previous technology or way of life, except where it hopes to create a more integrated village approach to community. I wonder if it will work as well as expected, but it is not likely to be worse than what we have so it’s worth trying.

    But I want to underscore something: nothing in this approach prevents people from being connected to nature, gardening, or developing strong work ethics.

    No one is proposing to get rid of Bassett Creek park or the large nature area by the Crystal airport or the Mississippi river or any of the many other nearby places where families can go to directly encounter nature. And this plan for part of New Hope doesn’t either. This plan for New Hope talks about plans for an area that is about 50% unused parking lot and empty big box stores (see ya K-Mart, I guess the people voted with their dollars and they don’t care for cheap goods unless they need to drive all the way to Wal-Mart or Target to get them).

    In fact, there is already a boatload of high-density residential property in this area. What this plan says is, let’s make this City Center area something more exciting, more flexible, less big-box (less “too big to fail” type stuff), and more useful for all the people who already live near it. No one is proposing to build Cabrini-Green in Crystal or New Hope.

    And definitely no one is proposing that we do away with the bulk of the what we already have in Crystal and New Hope. The only proposal is to help make a central commercial area be more usable to all different kinds of users and more connected to the wider metro area by supporting transportation modes other than cars.

  • 4. wants2know  |  February 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Steam engines and steam powered horseless carriages developed at about the same time. The development of the internal combustion engine really introduced the average person to efficient personal transportation. Mass transit that depends on rail construction is expensive to build, expensive to maintain and operate and it usually doesn’t go where you want to go and not necessarily when you want to go. I have experienced this form of transportation in many different locations and countries and have found this to be true in each of them. LRT is either not full enough to break even or so congested that it is hard to find a seat. At times it is even hard to find a place to stand. This is true in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Washington D.C, and Tokyo. There is little to no time saved compared to driving and it is much harder to transport groceries, packages or luggage.

    If you think there are not big changes proposed for Crystal, I suggest you read the Comprehensive Management Plan and the 2030 Plan.

    The idea that you must go somewhere else to experience nature i.e. a park, a preserve, etc defeats the purpose of learning to follow the rhythms of nature. A trip to a park or a preserve is another thing listed in an already over scheduled lifestyle.

    I can readily agree that we don’t need a big box store with a large paved parking lot. Frankly I avoid them as much as possible but the reality of vibrant city centers is an ideal not reality. For all practical purposes, West Broadway through Crystal should be such a center. It is in easy walking distance of single family homes, higher density apartments and condominiums and rows of shops and yet the shops are quite empty and the grocery store went out of business even though there is transit readily available. Why should we think that we should continue to build city centers with money we don’t have that people don’t use? What makes you think redesigning the area on the same basic model will be different this time?

  • 5. Paul Seefeld  |  February 4, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Michael – What do you think about this… Monsanto, whom I am not a big fan of and most on the left are not a fan of either, has joined Agenda 21, which is the head of the GreenStep. How does that make you feel?

  • 6. Michael C. Libby  |  February 4, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Paul. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Agenda 21 isn’t an organization that one can join.

    Beyond that GreenStep is a public/private partnership specific to Minnesota, which does have some odd funding sources (like the WalMart Foundation). But GreenStep is not “headed” by Agenda 21 (which, again, is not an organization). GreenStep is headed by the MPCA, which is an agency within MN’s executive branch, which was created and requires budget approval by the MN legislature.

    And most of those “on the left” are in favor of a number of things that conservatives oppose that would greatly limit Monsanto’s ability to distort the role of government and to undermine the so-called “free” market. So if you are not a fan of Monsanto and their role in pushing an agenda you don’t care for, you might want to reconsider for whom you vote.

    Most of those “on the left” favor requiring labeling of GMOs. They favor restricting corporate campaign contributions (and certainly not allowing them to be done in secret). But it is conservatives who are the bedrock of the giveaway of government power to corporations like Monsanto. Conservatives were behind the flawed “Citizens United” Supreme Court decsions. Conservatives are the traditional opponents of regulations on food labeling and consumer protection. Well, I say “conservatives” but the reality is that it was Republicans, who are anything but conservative. Just as the Democrats are often “liberal” in name only.


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