N4MN letter on the Minneapolis Land-Use Rezoning Study


Neighbors For More Neighbors (N4MN) organizes for a city full of complete neighborhoods in which all Minneapolitans can access the needs of daily living within a 15-minute walk – even in foul weather and with a variety of physical mobilities. Complete neighborhoods are neighborhoods with a balance of housing, green spaces and businesses that create a human-scale economy where people can flourish. Cities that prioritize complete neighborhoods are hubs of people and energy, places that feel activated and where people are connected. In the City of Minneapolis, today’s zoning code regulations require that many neighborhoods remain incomplete—lacking shops, cafes, groceries and walkable streets—leaving us isolated and taking dollars out of our community. Opportunities to open businesses in more locations also supports Minneapolis 2040’s goals to increase residents and jobs and support small businesses and economic growth.

This letter has been prepared by a Neighbors for More Neighbors working group organized to study the proposed code. The primary authors are Brit Anbacht, Evan Roberts and Zachary Wajda, with extensive review and comments from Andrea Riehl and Margaret Turvey.

More Commercial Uses in Urban Neighborhoods

Recommendation: Allow for conditional commercial uses in Urban Neighborhood zones to achieve the Complete Neighborhoods Goal in the 2040 Plan. 

What does Minneapolis 2040 say exactly?

Urban Neighborhood is a predominantly residential area with a range of allowed building types. May include small scale institutional and semi-public uses (for example, schools, community centers, religious institutions, public safety facilities, etc.) scattered throughout. Like the Neighborhood Mixed Use category, commercial uses can continue serving their existing commercial function. Commercial zoning is appropriate for these properties, while expansion of commercial uses and zoning into surrounding areas is not encouraged.”

The current draft of the zoning plan prohibits any commercial uses from being located in Urban Neighborhoods. The interpretation of the 2040 Plan’s usage of “not encouraged” to mean “prohibited” for commercial uses in Urban Neighborhoods is incorrect and should be expanded to its plain meaning.

“Not encouraged” is consistent with: 

  • Guiding commercial activities toward contiguous nodes through the approval process
  • Regulating the impact of commercial activities on neighboring properties, 
  • Focusing on the magnitude of environmental impacts of different activities
  • Allowing neighborhood input into the establishment of different uses, to allow land use to be responsive to different area needs

Based on Fig. 5 of Appendix B of the 2040 plan, current commercial parcels comprise only 3.9% of Minneapolis. The city was 89% residential only and 83% single family homes only when the 2040 plan was written. These statistics have not significantly changed according to the new maps which still show the vast majority of the city as Urban Neighborhood. We need more potential commercial parcels to move from our current enforced disinvestment towards complete neighborhoods.

More Food Access in More Places

We recommend that the city revise the draft code to allow significantly more opportunities to build moderately-sized full-service grocery stores. The current draft code and existing conditions essentially codify food deserts across the city. 

According to the CPED presentation from August 18th 2022, pg. 45, full service grocery stores are typically greater than 10k sq ft and less than 80k sq ft. We strongly believe that a full size grocery store begins at 10,000 square feet, minimum. Restricting the allowed size to less than 20k sq ft will prevent full service grocers.

Table 1: Size of full-service grocery stores in Minneapolis 

Grocery storeSize (square feet)
Trader Joes, Washington Ave10,700
[Former] Aldi, 3120 Penn Ave N.13,000
Walgreens, 2650 Hennepin Ave S.16,000
Kowalskis, 5327 Lyndale Ave S.21,000
Lunds, 4715 Cedar Avenue S.23,000
Fresh Thyme, 24 30th Ave SE 30,000
Cub, 4600 Snelling Ave40,000
Quarry Target, Northeast Minneapolis120,000
Source: CPED Presentation, 18 August 2022 and Development Proposals available via LIMS.

Table 2: Neighbors for More Neighbors proposed use table for grocery stores.


The draft plan creates setbacks based on the primary district and land use, rather than the built form. Thus, setbacks are a part of the current land use discussion. The height based restrictions in Urban Neighborhood (UN), Residential Mixed Use (RM) and other “lower intensity” zoning areas essentially prohibit fully utilizing the hypothetically allowed height and create strong incentives to combine lots.

In the proposed Commercial Mixed Use (CM1-4) districts in the same corridor built form does not have any setback requirements and could be the width of the lot. Most lots are about 40-45 feet wide. In order to build a viable 6 story building in UN/RM, the developer would have to buy an entire extra lot just for the setback space as the side yard setbacks are 15’ each for an 84’ tall building.

We recommend that the setbacks in 540-29 are applied universally regardless of building height for all UN/RM/etc and 1-3 unit buildings. With front setback of 15 ft., side and rear of 5 ft., and corner side of 8 ft. It is clear from the discussions in 540.890 and 540-28 that these setbacks are considered sufficient for light and well being of adjacent homes. Universal small setbacks are beneficial for creating missing middle homes of varying heights. The reduction of the front yard to 10 feet along goods and services corridors is also strongly supported. Front stoops are beautiful and large yards are not conducive to lively streetscapes. 

Figure 1 and Table 3: Examples of the tallest building that could be built on a Corridor 6 parcel, but in different primary zoning districts. The right-most model is what could be made with N4MN’s proposed setbacks (the same as from Table 540-29). Made using SketchUp.

This letter has been prepared by a Neighbors for More Neighbors working group organized to study the proposed code. The primary authors are Brit Anbacht, Evan Roberts and Zachary Wajda, with extensive review and comments from Andrea Riehl and Margaret Turvey.