In Dinkytown development debate, NIMBY charge doesn’t help

Matthew Yglesias sure has a thing for Minneapolis.

A week or so after extolling its virtues (accurately, it should be pointed out) and suggesting everyone should move there, Yglesias is back in Slate today with a critique of people who don’t want Dinkytown to change.

Marketing is great, but I always look to fundamentals. For example, the last time I was in Minneapolis I had a good time hanging out at a couple of bars in Dinkytown.

Dinkytown not only has a hilarious name but it’s located adjacent to the University of Minnesota and across the river from downtown Minneapolis. That’s a great location for an urban revival. Most people in the Minneapolis – St Paul area are going to want to live in the suburbs, which is where most people live in every American metropolitan area. But a thriving urban core is a great amenity for any metro area, and a centrally-located neighborhood like Dinkytown should be at the thriving core of your thriving core.

So it’s no surprise that there’s interest in doing things like building a new six-story mixed-use apartment and retail structure in Dinkytown. Sadly, though, the proposed building has been blocked by local NIMBY types.

Yglesias says the cool things about Minneapolis — its ability to have an urban core — only works “if you let people move in.” He acknowledges that his assessment came after he visited a few bars in Dinkytown.

His ire about NIMBYs is aimed primarily at opponents of big development who think it will lead to pushing out smaller business owners in favor of the chains, and that working people will be pushed out in favor of those who can afford city-high rents.

It’s not unlike the concern about what happens to the people and character along University Avenue once light-rail begins running, or the chainification of Grand Avenue., in Saint Paul.

There’s certainly a discussion to be had about balancing development and a neighborhood’s character, but the NIMBY charge is a conversation-stopper.

Minneapolis is going to change. But there’s legitimate concern that it not end up looking like everywhere else. Once a neighborhood’s character is gone, it’s gone for good.

Update 2:09 p.m. - A classic James Lileks smackdown of Yglesias.