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August 23, 2004 // UPDATED 3:28 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Loring Park community leaders want a new car-sharing program as part of their efforts to attract more housing to their stretch of Eat Street.

Loring Park is crafting a set of development guidelines for Nicollet Avenue between West 14th and Oak Grove streets. The guidelines call for high-density, mixed-use developments that add more affordable housing and street-level retail to the area.

Citizens for a Loring Park Community's (CLPC) board of directors approved a plan Aug. 9 for zoning variances that would increase housing density along Nicollet Avenue. Among other things, neighborhood leaders want affordable apartments and especially condos starting at $120,000, live-work studios for artists and a mix of housing for all age groups.

Car sharing is designed to make driving affordable and reduce the number of cars per resident.

It isn't carpooling; people share one or more cars but can travel alone if they want to.

One program, "hOurCar," would feature three or four cars that support about 60 drivers, said Mary Morse, executive director of the St. Paul-based Neighborhood Energy Consortium, the program's sponsor.

There would be two pay plans for riders. For less-frequent users, drivers would pay $5 a month, $6.95 for each hour of use and an additional 45 cents per mile. More-frequent users would pay $20 per month, $4.95 per hour and 39 cents a mile.

CLPC President John Van Heel said the car-sharing program is a way to keep Loring Park pedestrian-friendly amid more housing.

"We are looking at ways to limit the need for a car in the neighborhood," he said. "It just makes sense."

The neighborhood group wants to court developers willing to pay for the $20,000 Toyota Prius gas/

electric hybrid cars used for the car-sharing program. Developers would also be asked to provide parking spots for the vehicles.

About 40 percent of Loring Park households don't rely on cars for commuting, according to the 2000 Census. Van Heel is in that group, relying on his bike and bus to commute to his job at BKV Group, an architecture and design firm at 222 N. 2nd St.

Morse expects the hOurCar to roll out this fall, if additional funding comes through. It would be the Twin Cities' first community-oriented car-sharing program, she said, and the first one to rely on environmentally friendly cars.

"Loring Park is an ideal location," Morse said, citing the neighborhood's proximity to Downtown, parking crunch, access to transit and dense residential population.

The consortium will select a site in St. Paul or Minneapolis for the first car-sharing hub, Morse said.

For more information, visit www.hourcar.org.