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BPR Interviews: Kevin Reich

Council Member Kevin Reich has represented Ward 1 of Minneapolis, Minnesota since he was first elected in 2009. In December 2018, the Minneapolis City Council submitted to the Metropolitan Council a first draft of Minneapolis 2040, a comprehensive zoning plan which proposes goals for growth in the areas of affordable housing, job creation, and transportation, amongst many others. As a member of the Steering Committee, vice-chair of the Zoning and Planning Committee, and chair of the Transportation and Public Works Committee, Council Member Reich contributed significantly to the drafting of Minneapolis 2040, which is projected to go into effect following the Metropolitan Council’s review of the plan in the first half of 2019.

Please give a general overview of Minneapolis 2040 and how you understand the issues that necessitated the plan.

It’s an opportunity to look at how Minneapolis is growing. We are a growing city, and there’s been a repopulation of the urban core, particularly in neighborhoods that have a diversified and thriving economy that accelerates population growth. With projected and then accelerated population growth, we wanted to meet those challenges intentionally and grow the city on our terms. We invited a lot of input from the community and various departments, and we focused our growth on transit lines and commercial nodes. We also looked at growth in other suburban parts of the city to allow for duplexes and triplexes.

One challenge in creating the plan was that some of the community feedback focused too much on local issues. How well does the plan balance local interests with the overall goals of the plan?

We invited so many perspectives that we had to be careful to retain the core focus, which is our land use and transportation. However, we made adjustments based on localized key insights. There were certain corridors with a strong emphasis on transit. Some of the transit quarters look the same if you look at a map. Based on the local insights they could say, ‘Well, it might say there’s a bus here, but in fact it only serves us on the weekend.’ Does it really have the same growth potential as one with high frequency every 15 minutes? Our overall plan has the bones to it that bespeak a comprehensive plan, but we have a special notation moving forward for more specific policies.

Do you anticipate any shortcomings of the plan in the future? If so, how do you personally think they should be handled?

We have to translate policy guidance into specific zoning laws. We have lots of flexibility for areas to have housing, commercial and even manufacturing more commingled. The challenge is that it’s one thing to say these areas can have mixed land uses, but without a nuanced zoning system in place and certain measures to address market forces, the market forces might dictate one use over the other.

Once you figure out the specifics of the policy, how will you measure progress of the plan?

If 10 years from now we have not created more opportunities for job growth, particularly the kind of jobs that support communities of color, that will be a disappointment. But if the reverse is true and we’ve achieved a growing range of housing options for different income levels, we get a transit system that supports the most vulnerable users, and we are growing a city that supports the kinds of jobs where people can make things, then we’ve accomplished something.

How might the plan be adapted to other cities, like Providence?
Believe in the system. Engagement causes tension points, but if you trust the public, they can move forward. The lesson learned here is that we were actually able to achieve consensus. This isn’t the magic plan — it’s just a framework. Also, try not to let one or two things turn into a battle royale between the community and the city, or between communities that have different ideas. Finally, what are the actual conditions in Providence? Is there population growth? If no, do you want it or not? Certain things follow from those fundamental questions.