Luxury Apartments: They’ll Grow Us to 500,000 Residents, But Will They Grow Local Culture to Match?

Yes, it’s been a long impromptu hiatus, but I’ll see if I can keep the momentum going for the meantime

Minneapolis’ new mayor Betsy Hodges has boldly set a goal of growing to 500,000 (or more) residents by 2025. Many are talking about whether that’s too fast to be sustainable or if it’s even realistic, but no one is bringing up point about whether Minneapolis is going to sell its local soul for a big number. What kind of people are we bringing in, over 100,000 of them too, to reach this goal? Are they going to be the bike-loving co-op shopping, local band listening, theatre going, GLBTQ accepting lot that we have now, or will we see that become diluted?

We already have a sneak peak of what kind of residents this yet-to-be 1/5th of the population is like.

1. They love their cars.

Notice the multi-story garages that have been coming part and parcel with some luxury apartment developments in Downtown and Uptown? There are so many that I don’t need to cite an example. New developments like these are not attractive to residents like myself who don’t even ask about parking because we’re happy to ride our bikes or the bus. A parking space for what? We live in the city because we don’t need or want a car: we want to live an urban lifestyle. Currently, the city is catering to a suburban lifestyle which just so happens to be based in Minneapolis boundaries. Take the proposed Eclipse where the developer is seeking a variance for extra parking spaces.

2. They’re not into the local culture.

The Whole Foods in the 220 Hennepin apartment building is quite symbolic about the taste of the 100,000+ people the city is wooing to its densest neighborhoods: chains. Uptown, the other fastest growing area in the city, has seen a surge in chain establishments. You’re not going to find Electric Fetus’ new cousin in any of these new luxury builds. Nor will you find many interesting affordable restaurants (World Street Kitchen is the only one coming to mind) or quirky standbys the likes of Galactic Pizza which delivers your pie via superheroes or Ecopolitan with its focus on the utmost ethical eats (vegan, in this case raw). Bars? I can’t think of one that sits on the first floor on one of these, let alone one worth frequenting. And you can forget about any live music venue like 331 or Triple Rock ever surfacing: any remote possibility will have a genre starting with the word “smooth” or “soft”. While tons of new residents are being added they are at the same time adding just as little to improve the local culture.

3. They stay in their upper-class clique.

In a co-op, neighborhood bar, or local cheap ethnic restaurant, the luxury apartment dweller is sighted about as often as a wolverine in Michigan (virtually never). They stick to chains (malls for weekend shopping when they want diversity), yuppie lounges where drinks are typically $10 and up and hopefully of the “ultra” variety, and if they want to dabble in the authentic Vietnamese fare which abounds in Minneapolis thanks to its unusually large Vietnamese and Hmong population they will only dabble in a watered-down fusion version in a sleek setting devoid of Vietnamese and/or Hmong clientele. And when they’re looking for Mexican fare, instead of a quality local Mexican-run restaurants on Lake Street or Central Avenue they’ll pay $14 for guacamole (with lime omitted!!! Who in their right mind makes guac w/o a healthy dose lime and salt!!!). It’ll be in a similar setting with accompanying high prices that only a very small percentage of Mexican-Americans can afford and to add insult to injury you’re paying money to a place that’s brazenly butchering your language in the name of the restaurant itself.

OK, so before point #4 turns into an exponentially longer rant, I think you can see my point; growing our population to and above our 1950s peak level is a worthy goal, but only if it doesn’t result in watering down our liberal local culture that embraces the “other” and worthy virtues like minimizing harmful lifestyle choices that harm the environment, consciously supporting local businesses, and being accepting of GLBTQ individuals and whole-heartedly welcoming cyclists on our streets instead of honking at them (there’s a reason Mpls is ranked way higher for bike-friendliness than NYC). Well-monied upper-class types, whether from the Twin Cities metro or even Manhattan don’t typically embody such an ethos and opening the floodgates to let that demographic get us to this goal will have a predictably negative impact on our culture.

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2 responses to “Luxury Apartments: They’ll Grow Us to 500,000 Residents, But Will They Grow Local Culture to Match?

  1. The luxury apartments of today are the middle market apartments of 25 years from now and the affordable units of 60 years from now. You need to look beyond the next decade. If you’re worried about the lack of affordable housing, limiting or disparaging development further up in the market is counterproductive in the long run. You’re better off offering suggestions to add additional development options that are more affordable. There’s still plenty of surface parking lots to develop. There’s plenty of room to develop all segments of the market

  2. Except that’s not at all my point. My point is that the culture that by and large comes part and parcel with the luxury apartment crowd is banal, regressive, and largely prefers corporate blandness to much more unique local establishments that are worth patronizing for their quality. They’re not interested in an urban lifestyle (getting around in a non-suburban/non-car fashion), or anything that strays from the mainstream (anything interesting). If a luxury mixed-use apartment building Downtown or Uptown with a few retail spots filled them in with say, a local bookstore, a punk-rock bar, and a relatively inexpensive Venezuelan restaurant I’ll certainly be wiling to eat my words, but based on what’s gone into existing luxury apartment retail spots it’s extremely unlikely.

    As we speak Portland is attracting more non-mainstream folk than it can handle. We could be opening our door to them and have them grow our city, but so far we’ve only really made an effort to cater our housing to the stereotypical yuppie of the 80s/90s. Even fixing up North with a focus on vacant commercial structures would go a long way to accommodate this crowd which could care less about whether their apartment comes with a gym, parking garage,etc. They’re the people who don’t want to have to own a car in the city and would sooner rent in an existing, but likely abandoned building that needs a good rehabbing. At least balance out the kind of people you’re adding to the city.

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