Loring 'Meter Farm' site could be developed

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October 17, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

Gears are starting to grind on the possible sale and development of “The Meter Farm,” a city-owned parking lot between 1st Avenue South and Nicollet Avenue, just north of 15th Street by the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The half-block site currently provides 53 metered parking spaces — thus the “Meter Farm” moniker.

The neighborhood group Citizens for a Loring Park Community (CLPC) would like to see affordable housing there. Area business owners are concerned that development would eliminate spaces in the parking-strapped area, said Bernadette Hornig, senior project coordinator for the city’s department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED). Hornig and CLPC called a Sept. 7 meeting with business owners, neighborhood residents and city officials.

City staff say development is a ways down the road. First, the city must designate the site as “excess property,” said Doug Kress, aide to Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward). If the property were designated for sale, CPED would send out a request for proposals (RFP) to potential developers, Hornig said.

When and if that request comes, CLPC board member Katie Hatt said a group of local property and business owners might be interested in developing the site. None of the parties referenced was available to confirm such interest. Hornig said the Sept. 7 conversation with business owners mostly involved potentially lost parking.

Hornig said the RFP will be open to any developer; it’s too early to tell who might develop the site or what might go up there. The RFP will ask potential developers for details and criteria that have not been ironed out. Kress said Public Works would first study how and where to replace lost parking. He said the department will also consider the possibility that “old 15th Street” — the short public street to the lot’s north — could be narrowed to provide more development room. A row of apartments currently lines that street and faces the lot.

Kress said that CLPC has identified the Meter Farm as a potential Corridor Housing Initiative site. The initiative “foster[s] affordable housing growth along the city’s transit corridors,” according to the city’s Web site.

That doesn’t mean that affordable housing will rise there, however. The city’s RFP will include project criteria that could include affordable housing but also other needs, Hornig said. Developers would be ranked on what they could provide from the list, Hornig said.

Hatt said CLPC would like to see a combination of commercial and residential — including “workforce” housing, typically affordable to lower-income workers — included in the development.

Bob Copeland, CLPC land-use chair, said the city and neighborhood group will look beyond Loring Park for a developer, “but there are people right there who are interested.”

While CLPC has no preferred developer, Copeland said local property and business owners already have working relationships with the neighborhood.