Resident comments regarding density

West Calhoun Neighborhood Council Meeting, 8 May 2018

My name is Lisa Albrecht and I am 67 years old. I rent an apartment in Calhoun Towers; previously, I lived in an over-55 condo – Kenwood Isles (in uptown), and before that I owned a house in South Minneapolis.  I moved here 33 years ago (from NYC) when I became a professor at the U of MN, and I retired a year ago. I moved to Minneapolis because I believed it was an affordable and livable city. Today, it is no longer affordable and less livable than ever. I am a former chair of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights, having served during the administration of former mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton.

Today, Urban density means bigger is better.  And developers win, not those of us who are jammed into the “urban density” of city life.  Bigger is NOT better, except for the developers who make more money. We do not have the infrastructure locally and in the West Calhoun neighborhood to accommodate more and more people, as well as a hotel on a tiny postage stamp of available land.  Both Excelsior Blvd and Lake Street have too many cars now. If we ever get the southwest light rail line, perhaps we will have fewer cars, but we are an individualistic society, and we love driving our big cars alone.

I believe in what many people call the human spirit.  To be full human beings, we need to not sit in our cars in traffic for hours.  Those of us who drive need not to dodge potholes each spring, and buy new tires regularly (that our city will not pay for). To be full human beings, we need to feel safe when we cross busy city streets.  To be full human beings, we need to have room to breathe. To be full human beings, we need to trust police officers and not fear for our lives (particularly if we are people of color). To be full human beings, we need poor and working class people to have decent and affordable housing in every neighborhood.

Today, our elected officials support expensive urban density to grow our tax base.  More expensive housing doesn’t help poor and working class people. Urban density means building “up,” since we don’t have the space anymore to grow horizontally. We human beings, who live in dense urban neighborhoods, do not need higher apartment buildings so that developers can become wealthier. I left New York City over 30 years ago to escape that model of city life.

I would like our elected officials to explain why they believe that “bigger is better,” and why building more and more tall apartment buildings will help the people of Minneapolis, specifically the people of the West Calhoun neighborhood.  How are we to remain full human beings here where our human spirit can be central to our ways in the world? How do we remain kind and decent people who serve our communities selflessly when we are surrounded by less and less space and more and more greed?