CNO Submits Comments on Streetcar-Era Commercial Nodes

At its June meeting, the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization’s Board of Directors decided to submit comments to the City of Minneapolis regarding the future of streetcar-era business intersections, such as Corcoran’s business node of 35th Street and 23rd Avenue South. The comments, drafted by CNO’s Economic Development Committee, were intended to help the City consider how it will support similar business nodes as it crafts its 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

The intersection of 35th Street and 23rd Avenue South is an important commercial and social hub for the Corcoran Neighborhood. Like many other small commercial intersections in the interiors of neighborhoods, that corner sprung up around a streetcar line that once zig-zagged through Corcoran. Today, the 22 bus line follows the approximate route of the streetcar and makes a turn at that intersection.

The mix of local independent businesses at the intersection are valued by our neighborhood for the goods, services, and jobs they provide, as well as the positive foot traffic they generate.  Many of the local business and property owners on this intersection work hard not just to generate profit, but to support local initiatives and serve the community’s needs.

Since 2014, CNO has engaged neighborhood residents and business owners surrounding in identifying the value in that node as it stands, the obstacles faced by business owners there, and a positive vision for its future.  As a result of that engagement, CNO has begun collaborating with business and property owners at the node coordinate joint marketing initiatives, events, and investments in the intersection.

One major challenge that the Economic Development Committee has identified at the intersection is that it is not currently eligible for the City’s economic development programs that are intended to help businesses, such as its’ façade improvement matching grants. Other similar commercial nodes that are wedged in the heart of neighborhoods and sprung up around historic streetcar lines face the same challenge.

This comments to be submitted to the City lay out principles that CNO believes the City of Minneapolis should take into consideration for supporting the future of streetcar-era nodes similar to the one at 35th Street and 23rd Avenue. Some of those principles include:

Maintaining diversity and accessibility: Many commercial nodes in the interior of neighborhoods serve as entry points for small and early-stage businesses. The City should ensure that its tools and resources are made available to help these small businesses thrive and grow.

Design pedestrian-oriented streetscapes and a vibrant public realm: One of the best things about streetcar-era nodes is that the businesses in them often serve neighbors within walking distance. The City should take care to ensure pedestrian safety at these nodes and do what it can to calm motorized traffic. Additionally, where welcomed by local businesses, the City should consider methods for encouraging the use of sidewalk furniture and other amenities at these intersections.

Guide new development: Given current market conditions, CNO believes that significant new construction at the intersection of 35th Street and 23rd Avenue is unlikely in the near future. However, if new development were proposed, CNO encourages the City and developers to seek neighborhood input. New developments should include a mix of uses, contribute to the pedestrian experience, and prioritize locally-owned businesses in new commercial spaces.

These comments will be considered by City planners as they develop the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. In the meantime, CNO will continue working with businesses and residents at the intersection of 35th & 23rd to help it meet the needs of the neighborhood and thrive. Stay tuned for future articles exploring more of the history and future of this intersection!

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