Ten developers specializing in redevelopment and infill development in the Twin Cities region give their perspective on the development process in a recent study funded by ULI Minnesota and the Family Housing Fund. While the report’s findings and recommendations are specific to the Twin Cities region, they may resonate with developers and public officials working elsewhere as well.

In “Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developers’ View,” Stacy Becker presents the results of interviews with developers about how they choose projects and which incentives work best.

Not only is not much expected to happen in the next five years, the developers predict that “future market conditions are expected to look quite different.” The developers interviewed “foresee smaller homes, more rental housing, and more housing in the urban core and developed suburbs.” They warn about the implications of the region’s auto-oriented culture and worry about taxes and fees for water, sewer, and other services rising faster than incomes.

When it comes to the region’s plans to expand its light-rail network, developers agree that light rail is an amenity, but some believe that “it alone is an insufficient reason to pursue a project.”

The developers also drive home the importance of positive working relationships with cities. Positive relationships, they advise, are two-way streets. Cities need to better understand market feasibility and to recognize that clarity and commitment can go a long way toward getting the development that their citizens want. Otherwise, as one developer comments, city planning can end up being like “hitting the piñata with your eyes closed.”

The report closes with three recommendations:

  1. Officials in each city should examine their redevelopment processes and improve them with the goal of creating more constructive working relationships with developers.
  2. Get smart together: conduct educational seminars that will help cities better understand and prepare for market, demographic, and fiscal realities.
  3. Work together to reformulate three or four key redevelopment tools to replace or update tools like eminent domain, zoning variances, and tax increment financing.

The complete report, “Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developer’s View,” was compiled by Stacy Becker and funded by the Family Housing Fund and ULI Minnesota.