Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Time to Develop on the Target Midtown Parking Lot

Dateline: 10:03 am January 7, 2012 Filed under:

It is a common rule of thumb that stores and malls achieve maximum parking usage on the last Saturday before Christmas. If this is true, then take a look at this photo, taken at 1:30PM on Saturday, December 17th, 2011, of the Target store parking lot in Midtown, at Lake and Hiawatha.


It sure seems like we don’t need this much parking. This particular Target, which was renovated recently, is located in an area of the city that allows for a lower percentage of trips to be made by car. For one, I suspect the automobile ownership rate is lower in this area on average than many other areas of the Twin Cities. Second, it is located near the Lake Street station of the Hiawatha light rail line, and along Lake Street, a high-frequency bus route.

The site is the former location of the Minneapolis Moline farm implement factory, and was redeveloped in the 1970s in to a suburban-style Target, attached interior mall and a grocery store. Like so much 1970s development, it was an excercise in urban awfulness. But, except for the interior mall, the Target and Cub Foods are economically successful, so one cannot argue economic blight, just urban blight. For one thing, with so many people clearly arriving by bus or rail, the fact that the entrance to Target, even after renovation, is still nearly a full block from Lake Street, is a real shame.

Along came a light rail service in 2004, and with it a plan to transform the heavily surface-parked big box area in to an urban village. One 80-unit building with ground floor retail, Hiawatha Commons, has been built so far to the north of the Target and Cub parking lot, so progress has been made. Now the clear lack of demand for parking in the Target parking lot indicates the physical potential for an attractive mixed-use building near the northwest corner of Minnehaha and Lake. Retail could work well on the ground floor (after all, there is plenty of parking behind the building!) and the market could support affordable or market rate apartments at that location (a short walk to light rail, Target and two grocery stores, for starters).

Clearly we don’t need that much surface parking, so why not pursue new development that will improve the character and urbanity of this emerging transit village? Good development at this particular location will set the right tone for the future of the area.

Speaking of surface parking, we have this from Gordon Price’s Pricetags Blog, showing aerial views of surface parking in various cities. I will always recall my first visit to Portland in 2000, and walking through the downtown on a seemingly endless quest for a surface parking lot. How impressive, I thought.

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