If you build it, and build around it
...then they will come.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak hopes the recently-approved Vikings Stadium will spur area development. It probably will not. Studies show that stadiums rarely spur economic development and the City of Minneapolis concedes as much.
A recently published Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) document quotes an economist’s conclusion about baseball stadiums: “A [baseball] stadium is not usually enough of a significant development to anchor an area’s economy alone.” And a baseball team plays 81 home games a year compared to a football team’s 10.
Yet just because a new Vikings Stadium may not spur development on its own does not mean that the City of Minneapolis cannot use non-stadium-dependent tools to spur development in the area. In fact, the city is already looking at ways to encourage development through zoning and tax code changes.
The CPED document cited above outlines city goals to encourage and incentivize development of vacant lots that ring the Metrodome. The document calls for intense mixed-use development that will take advantage of existing and expanding LRT access and tie the area to the river, parks, and entertainment amenities. To achieve these goals, CPED will work with the newly-formed Stadium Implementation Committee and will hire a consultant to conduct a ‘Parking Lot Study’ to examine various development sticks and carrots.
CPED’s work—and other similar projects—is incredibly important. Politicians, citizens, and planners must not assume that a new stadium will, by its mere presence, transform vacant lots into attractive mixed use development—look to the Metrodome for proof. Instead, Minneapolis and its partners must be proactive and enact innovative forward-thinking changes to zoning and tax codes so that East Downtown can evolve from a depressing and abandoned parking lot to a vibrant neighborhood.