This Suburb Bans Car Businesses to Spark Walkability

The Minneapolis City Council has imposed a six-month “emergency” ban on any car-related retail outlets opening up in the suburb of Columbia Heights.

The move comes after residents and other business complained that the suburb was turning into something resembling a gigantic automobile business mall, rather than a city suburb where people actually live and buy things other than cars and spare parts for vehicles.

They cite the suburb’s six-lane Central Avenue as an example: when you start at its intersection at 42nd Avenue, you find on just one side of the avenue, Central Auto Repair, next door to O’Reilly Auto Parts, which is right next to the Holiday gas station, which is next to Precision Tune Auto Care, which gives way to Midas, which is neighbor to Car Wash, which stands next to CarX Auto Service, the neighbor of Auto Max, which is next door to Atlas Body Shop, which shares a street front with Advance Auto Parts.

At a recent city council meeting, local officials voted 4-1 for the ban in an attempt to give city planners a chance to study possible zoning changes that would give the suburb at least some hope of being pedestrian friendly and offer something to buy other than new and used cars and auto parts.

Residents have been grumbling about the auto business glut for sometime, but became very vocal after the recent arrival of a small, shabby auto shop which opened across the street from the suburbs architecturally fancy new library.

City mayor Gary Peterson says, “Residents think we have too many auto places. Central Avenue has always been an auto-related corridor. It has an auto history. But we want to make sure we are planning for our downtown area, planning ways to make it more sustainable with salons, offices, restaurants.”

Community development director, Joe Hogeboom says, “We are really trying to focus on making that street more walkable, more appealing, more attractive. The revitalization of Central Avenue is the big goal. There are many pieces to it.”

He says the key to changing Columbia Heights from being Autoville USA, to being a place where families would want to live and shop in a completely redesigned streetscape. He says it needs to be safe for pedestrians, but there needs to be adequate public bus services to bring the pedestrians because there’s no public parking. All parking in the area is reserved for customers of the auto businesses.

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