After years of frustration rooted in a lack of parking, Dinkytown is starting to recover.
Dinkytown Business Alliance members met with city officials Thursday to weigh in on a plan that would displace 17 parking spots that run directly through the district to insert a bike lane on Fourth Street Southeast.
Currently, that street’s bike lane drops off between 15th Avenue Southeast and 13th Avenues Southeast. Displacing 17 parking spots would allow bikers to bridge that gap safely, said Varsity Bike and Transit owner Rob DeHoff.
Parking in Dinkytown has been stretched thin by construction in recent years, and adding a bike lane would only further that strain.
So the city would add metered parking on the bridges along University Avenue Southeast and 14th Avenue Southeast, said Mike Mulrooney, DBA president and Blarney Pub and Grill owner.
“The city is really going above and beyond in helping us out with this,” he said.
Mulrooney said the DBA’s support hinges on a separate proposal for an additional 54 metered spots in proximity to the district, which is likely but has yet to get city and county approval.
Minneapolis traffic engineer Tim Drew said to accommodate new spaces in Dinkytown, the city would have to bypass an ordinance that prohibits bridge parking. They’ll sidestep the restriction by adding a “traffic control device,” Drew said, in the form of signs on either side of the bridge.
DeHoff, who also serves as head of the DBA’s Transportation Committee, said by adding the bike lane, Dinkytown will attract more pedestrian traffic without losing precious commuter customers.
Despite the loss of nearly 300 parking spots over the past year or so, Mulrooney said the area has recently made a lot of progress.
“I am confident that it’s getting better and better in the coming months,” he said.
A matrix of area plans
The city addressed Dinkytown’s parking concerns in a small-area plan it approved this summer.
Minneapolis city planner Haila Maze said there are at least a dozen potential approaches to the problem.
One option business owners have brought to the city’s attention is building a parking ramp in place of the county-owned Southeast Library, which Maze said is underutilized.
But the library is still trying to find its target market and its building is potentially historic, Maze said, so that option might be too fluid for serious consideration.
DeHoff said he isn’t interested in working on such long-term plans, but he prefers the “little victories” that come with progress like the new bike lane and potential extra parking.
The University-owned ramp on Fourth Street Southeast, which stands about a block east of the area’s McDonald’s, usually has available spaces.
But Maize said the ramp might not be ideal for all Dinkytown customers, as some restaurants cater to an older generation that does not want to walk two or three blocks to get to a destination.
“That’s the trouble with parking,” she said, “If it’s not priced what people want to pay or it’s a little farther than people want to walk, there’s always the question of how much you can count that.”
Before it approved the small-area plan, the city did a series of studies to explore both concerns and solutions.
One key takeaway from their work, Maze said, is that “there is excess demand and probably always will be excess demand for parking in this area.”