I've been paying close to attention the fight that currently is going on pertaining to the rezoning of land in the Miller Hill area, especially the land that was recently to be rezoned for the Hampton Inn development by ZMC hotels. It's been said now that there are over 365 neighborhood signatures requesting a rezone of the site in the other direction that the original developers wanted to go. Residents are angry because of the statement below of what can be constructed on the site.
The designation currently allows the development of retail businesses less than 15,000 square feet in size, filling stations, restaurants without drive-through windows, hotels, clinics, elementary schools, repair shops, office buildings, apartment buildings, transit stations and government buildings, among other things.
Residents want the site to be rezoned to Mix-Use Neighborhood. Basically what that means is that it would be small businesses that are local that cater strictly to the neighborhood, not the city as a whole. A.K.A. No large traffic drawing developments.
This wasn't meant to be a full post, but here are my thoughts on this (please feel free to comment on this as I would love to see what conversation comes out of this).
I am all for neighborhoods, but the issue that I see rising is the location of this neighborhood. Obviously the reason that this site is currently zoned what it is is due to the fact that it literally lies directly in the heart of Duluth's retail area. People seem to forget that this area where this site sits is one of the most sought after development areas in the entire city for retail and that isn't changing anytime soon. What seems to frustrate me more than anything is that the fact that the city a few years back designated this site as one of the best candidates for retail development in the area. They suggested not rezoning other sites in the area that are currently not zoned for large retail development because they wanted to fill the current spaces first. In fact they designated this site as a prime site for large retail development due to it's size and the fact that it was one of the largest continuous sites in the area. The Miller Hill Mall area is expected to need at least 400,000 additional square feet of retail within the next five years, let alone we are now trying to rezone the sites that are currently zone to handle that type of development so that they are less trafficked.
What baffles me even more is the fact that people are forgetting that Joshua Avenue is going to be expanded right through the neighborhood in the coming years. Traffic is going to surge even more when that happens, let alone we are trying to fight the type of development that that road is trying to promote. Where will the line be drawn? If residents are upset about the fact that a hotel and a restaurant would have been built on the site, for what reasons then were they not upset about the fact that a large retail center (Stone Ridge Shopping Center) was literally built two blocks farther down and that a major road will be constructed in the their neighborhood.
Where is all the retail going to go? I am never for the displacing of people, but the truth of the matter is, many of these homes are lying on the edge of a growing retail area that is ready to burst at the seams. It will only be a matter of time before the retail area passes Maple Grove Road and starts taking over the neighborhoods. It's already happening. Take a look farther down Maple Grove Road and you can already find three sites that currently have houses sitting on them that have be rezoned and listed for commercial development.
I could ramble on for hours. Bottom line is, this neighborhood lies next to a extremely large and well populated retail area. The area needs to grow just like every other area in the city. We could have had more jobs (even if they weren't high paying, they still were jobs) and we could taken a vacant site and spruced it up. To be honest, I think the neighborhood let their best option already pass them by. The Hampton Inn and Suites would have been a nicely constructed building that would have only benefited the area. It would have been a less trafficked site then let's say a site that held a Jo-Ann Fabrics or a Cost Plus World Market. But hey, we passed up the first great option and now are waiting for the next great one to come around. That is if it does.
This one is going to be an interesting one.