TOD at 38th and Hiawatha?

Translation: Transit Oriented Development. Developer George Sherman is poised to fill this vacant lot at 38th and Hiawatha in south Minneapolis with Longfellow Station, a mixed use commercial/residential development.

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In fact, things seem to be moving right along. Last week Minneapolis found $1.9 million in federal dollars sitting around in the city’s till and used it to help Sherman buy the property from the previous developer…whose plan failed.

Anyway, Sherman wants to build 180 apartments, most of them “affordable” which often means subsidized housing. Construction on 10,000 feet of “neighborhood commercial space” is set for late this year.

TOD, as much as moving people, is what light rail proponents promised would be the eventual payoff when Hiawatha line trains began running in 2004.

Boosters of transit argue developers perk up and pay attention when relatively permanent train tracks are laid – a sign the transit service will be there more than a year or two.

Add some stations along the line and developers begin dreaming about the money they might make from building apartments and houses near the station that will be rented and purchased by transit lovers who want an option to owning a gas guzzler.

Oh yes, and cities and counties tend to like TOD because as long as populations increase and the apartments and houses are occupied the development promises more property tax revenue.

Which is why the local governments in many cases are willing to kick start development with subsidies.

Does TOD work? Maybe.

The Metropolitan Council says, “since 2000, nearly 7,700 new housing units have been built along the (Hiawatha) line, with another 6,750 units planned (as of April 2009).”

Will Central Corridor light rail create similar TOD tremors? Stay tuned. The line won’t be complete until 2014, but there’s certainly no shortage of vacant thus developable space along the line.