About the Author

Scott Neal began work as Edina City Manager in 2010. Prior to joining the City staff, he served as City Manager of Eden Prairie since 2002. He has also held the positions of City Administrator for the communities of Northfield, Minn.; Mt. Pleasant, Iowa; and Norris, Tenn. Neal was the first City Manager in Minnesota, and one of the first in the country, to share his experiences and observations in city government in a blog and has traveled internationally to speak about his experiences with leadership blogging. Follow Scott Neal on Twitter. @edinacityman

No Fair

Scott Neal, January 22, 2014 | Posted in Scott Neal

Many people in the Twin Cities are surprised to learn that the 50th & France business district is not entirely within Edina.  The corporate border between Edina and Minneapolis runs right down the middle of France Avenue in that part of town.  The west side of France is in Edina.  The east side is in Minneapolis.

Normally, we don’t make a big distinction about that.  But, the fact that the business district is not wholly within one city can get annoying at times. Yesterday’s Star Tribune story entitled “Minneapolis seeks more people, no more cars” caused some annoyance, at least for me and a couple of members of my City Council.

Here’s some back story.  Not long ago, a once thriving Blockbuster video store on 50th Street just east of France Ave (in Minneapolis) closed up shop.  The store sat vacant for a while until a new bar/restaurant called the Red Cow moved in.  The Red Cow has been a success, which has created significant conflicts over the demand for parking spaces in the neighborhood.

Neighbors eventually brought a court action, which was rebuffed by the courts, in part because “…the city noted that non-permit parking is available merely a block away, along with hundreds of spaces in a public ramp just over two blocks away.”

Yes, part of the City of Minneapolis’ position on this issue in court was that there are hundreds of spaces in a public ramp just two blocks away – in Edina.  This is annoying to me because we are currently talking about doing over $5 million worth of improvements to those municipal parking ramps, which will be paid for solely by assessments to the property owners at 50th & France, but only on the Edina side of France Avenue.  We don’t have the legal authority to assess these costs to property owners on the Minneapolis side of France Avenue, even though those property owners benefit from our municipal parking ramps, too.

It’s nice that the City of Minneapolis acknowledges the benefit of Edina-provided free public parking in the 50th & France parking ramps. It would be even nicer for them to work together with the City of Edina to create a new Special Services District that would allow Edina to be able to spread the cost of building and maintaining those municipal parking ramps over the properties that actually benefit from them – on both sides of France Avenue.

21 Responses to No Fair

  1. mb says:

    I wish councilmember Bennett wouldn’t be so anti-business on the 50th and France parking issue.

    In the 2/18/14 City Council meeting, fellow councilmember Mary Brindle correctly pointed out that if private businesses are “run out of” 50th and France, the parking shortage issue will become moot. Then councilmember Bennett somehow took that as a personal affront.

    I congratulate Mary Brindle for having the most common-sense of anyone on the Edina City Council.

  2. Andrew Brown says:

    Scott Busyn,
    You might want keep the conversation civilized. City owns the property the lost opportunity revenue & interest from not monetizing the city asset means that as a taxpayer I am economically subsidizing the parking situation and businesses at 50th, as the revenue from a sale of these assets can directly reduce home owner property taxes. Once sold, the property would be in private hands and subject to property taxes that would help fund Edina schools and the City budget, in turn potentially reducing the property tax burden on home owners. In essence the City of Edina is losing 3 streams of revenue by providing this parking, the sale, the interest on the sale, and the future property tax revenues paid in by the buyer of the property. Edina does not need to be in the business of providing parking. As far as the comparison to Southdale and the Galleria, they own their own parking lots and pay property taxes on those lots.

  3. Scott Busyn says:

    Andrew Brown: If you had a brain and read the post, you would realize that 100% of the improvements to the 50th and France parking ramps are being paid for solely by the business owners at 50th and France. No one in Edina is subsidizing businesses at 50th and France. In fact, companies like Lunds and Great Neighborhood Homes contribute 100 times more taxes to Edina’s budget for schools, etc than you do. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you pal.

  4. mb says:

    Ms. Palmisano, the Mpls. council member, was interviewed on one of the local TV stations, channel five, I think. She seemed very dismissive of Edina’s concerns. She said that her “anecdotal experience” is that patrons of businesses on the Mpls side of France do not use Edina’s parking ramps.

    Well, it works both ways. As Ms. Palmisano has no interest in working with Edina to solve this problem, I would urge the Edina city council to keep her rebuff in mind when she or the City of Mpls. need Edina’s help in the future… Mpls. can then fend for themselves.

  5. Rick says:

    Scott, I agree the cities need to work together but I wonder if you have any studies/facts to back up your conclusion that Mpls shops benefit greatly from the Edina ramps. I have patronized businesses on both sides of France for over forty years. When shopping in Edina I parked in Edina (usually ramps). When I shopped in Mpls I parked in Mpls (street or surface lots). I have never needed to park in one city in order to shop in the other.
    I think you need to do a little more homework before you can complain about fairness,

  6. Andrew Brown says:

    As an Edina property tax owner I would rather see the city sell these
    Properties in order to increase the tax base and decease city budget
    Costs. Edina’s priorities need to be the school system, police, fire, water
    and roads/snow plow. Subsidizing businesses like Lunds and Great Neighborhood
    Homes with free parking should not be a priority usage of limited property tax funds.
    Same goes for the old public works property. These funds could be all used to retire Edina’s $20million debt on the new public works building off of hwy 100

  7. Scott Busyn says:

    I love hearing MSP residents say how Edinans should “pay to use the city lakes,” Guess what folks, residents outside of Minneapolis pay for almost 20% of the MSP Park Board budget  which is used among other things to manage the chain of lakes. Plus, Edina get no LGA while MSP gets almost $76 million from other cities. 
    Minneapolis needs to chip in on the parking situation. Councilmember Linea Palmisan seems out of touch with the constituents who frequent the 50th and France District. Her remarks in the Strib reflect her anti-car pro-bike/bus bias. I think she needs to wake up and realize that diners and movie goers at 50th and France aren’t riding the bus. The 50th and France businesses on the MSP side are heavily reliant on customers arriving via car (Bridal shops, General Sports, Red Cow, Athleta, Arrezzo, etc, etc). To not realize this is out of touch with your core constituency. Plus, charging to park would be a disaster as no other competing districts (Galleria, West End, Southdale) charge for parking. Sorry, if you want residents, you need to like cars!

  8. Cedar Phillips says:

    As a Minneapolis resident, there is absolutely no way that I want my money funding free parking garages. I’d feel the same way if I were an Edina resident. I suggest that the local business owners — and city employees — take a look at the successful Old Pasadena district in Pasadena, California; if you can’t visit for yourself, read up on the parking situation in Donald Shoup’s book “The High Price of Free Parking.” Add in correctly priced meters in both Minneapolis and Edina, and pump the proceeds directly back into the district. Offer limited free parking in the parking garages — in Old Pasadena, you get 90 minutes free, and then you pay. By putting the earned money back into the district you have the means to fund street improvements and other benefits that in turn make the area a pleasant place to shop. 50th and France is NOT a mall. That’s much of its appeal. You’re never going to out-mall the malls, so why not instead embrace what makes the district unique and special?

    And while you’re at it, lobby for more frequent bus service (it is already well-served by buses, but the frequency could be increased), pay attention to pedestrian and bike access to the district. Perhaps some of the money used to fund employee parking could instead go to provide subsidized transit passes?

    In any case, if one is going to talk about “fairness,” I fail to see anything fair in using city money to build free parking garages. If Edina chooses to use their residents’ money doing so, that’s their problem. Rather than Minneapolis follow in Edina’s misguided footsteps, I hope that both cities can instead come together to create a policy that is fair to everyone — businesses, taxpayers, neighborhood residents, and customers alike.

  9. Andrew Brown says:

    Too bad the $5 million plus won’t be used on street cars to connect Edina & South Minneapolis to the Hiawatha light rail line or SW LRT. Would actually get more property tax revenue from another business sitting on the same pricey land vs the existing and soon to be greater parking garage system which just drains the city in repairs and maintenance year after year after year. Same old Same old

  10. Scott Neal says:

    I have accepted your offer. Your assistant is working out the details of your schedule. Happy to meet and talk any time, any place.

  11. Julie Tilsen says:

    Guess it’s time to make it official and build the fence around Edina–keep the unwashed out. You don’t want our money.Enjoy all of Edina’s lakes, parks, pro sports teams, D1 atheletics, world class theater, and James Beard chefs… of wait

  12. Nathaniel Hood says:

    I would be very interested to read the City Manager’s responses to the comments above. There were some very good points made above.

  13. Linea Palmisano says:

    I sit here reflecting about how many cities I have been to where I come home excited to tell friends and family what a fantastic… parking ramp I was in. I won’t dare bore you with the facts, but there’s a lot of wrong information asserted here. I urge you to come across the street and take a deeper look, and better yet- have a conversation about it.

  14. Sue says:

    Lets get the facts straight, neighbors did not bring a court action. The Red Cow Owner took the City of Mpls to court. Case still pending in court.

  15. Gary says:

    Lol. You make it sounds like a completely one-sided relationship. Generous Edina and mooching Minneapolis.

    Are you sure you can’t think of any examples of Minneapolis-funded infrastructure that benefit Edinans? Hmmmmmm…

  16. Alex Cecchini says:

    Hi Scott,

    This is a prime example of letting the market determine structured parking needs and setting a price for them. A private business doesn’t care if the parkers shop in Edina or Minneapolis. If the businesses on the Edina side chose to be the ones managing a parking facility, they could choose to limit or validate however they like – refund of $X for using the ramp for less than YY minutes, but only if you patronized my store, etc. Remove the risk and liability (if those businesses fail or struggle for whatever reason, who will pay the assessments?) of managing expensive parking facilities from your city budget and let the people/businesses who benefit from it operate and validate.

    Parking is the quintessential private good – both rivalrous and excludable and should be treated as such. Short-term options abound, including (especially) metering neighboring on-street spaces and charging prices for the ramps Edina still owns. This revenue can be funneled back into the district to improve streetscapes, etc (a benefit that would only accrue to the Edina side of France). Doing this allows the businesses to lower their prices since they’re not being assessed for the parking – a huge advantage over other regional Edina shopping locations (such as Southdale) who all pay for parking (surface or structured). Nearby residents that shop without driving (such as the many apartments and condos within a 1/4 mile) no longer pay for others’ driving habits, and this can be given further to those who use Edina’s growing bicycle system or Metro Transit (2 major lines, one with high all-day frequencies run right through the walkable district – an advantage not really afforded to other auto-oriented places in Edina) to get around. Get the business leaders on board with this by selling the benefits of a locally-controlled improvement district funded by parking revenues; they get a major say in how to continue to improve on the public realm.

    I hope these ideas can help improve 50th and France and the relationship with the Minneapolis side. I’d be happy to help out if you have any questions!

    Alex Cecchini

  17. Lee Zukor says:

    Don’t the businesses on the west side of France (the ones in Edina) also benefit from the folks who eat and shop on the east side? I live in Minneapolis and eat at Red Cow, but when I park in the ramp, I shop at Kowalski’s, Banana Republic, Cooks of Crocus Hill, the liquor store, Breadsmith, and Paper Source – all in Edina. Don’t those businesses want my money? Doesn’t Edina want my taxes?

  18. Peter Tharaldson says:

    While I would generally agree with you, in general the center city has resources which are utilized by others more. One could argue that those parking ramps are simply a fair exchange for use of Minneapolis’ chain of lakes, which are highly frequented by Edinans.

  19. Rachel M. says:

    Wait, so your saying *free* parking isn’t actually free? Maybe it’s time to ask drivers to pay their fair share, at the ramp and via metered on-street. Seems less hassle, and more neighborly than an extra layer of bureacracy to try to yank tax dollars from Minneapolis to pay for something it’s residents never had a chance to vote on.

  20. Dave Ostlund says:

    What a fantastic argument! Maybe we (Edinan’s) should propose reciprocity. Minneapolis pays for our ramps and we pay for MInneapolis’s lakes and parks.

  21. Matt Steele says:

    Maybe the problem isn’t a municipal boundary. The problem is trying to provide “free parking” when there is no such thing as free parking.

    The most fiscally prudent thing to do would be to maintain existing supply of parking in the business district, but dynamically price it (both ramps and meters) so that there’s always an available spot. Then, use the parking revenues to improve the business district (streetscape, etc) rather than assessing businesses for the expense of improving the business district AND providing subsidized car storage for people who may or may not patronize their shops (and those who do patronize their shops may or may not actually need to store a car, and if they do not they are indirectly subsidizing those who do store their car in the business district).

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