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(Re)Development Ready Guide

A local government guide, outlining (re)development policies and practices, to attract private investment, grow jobs, support a full range of housing choices, and build tax base for the well-being of our region.

Based on national trends, these best practices support a proactive approach that provides clarity, transparency, collaboration, and efficiency to support healthy and resilient communities essential to remaining competitive in a new economy.

(Re)Development Ready Guide

Vision and Plan


Embrace collaborative approaches to solve problems, identify and pursue partnerships, manage development risks, improve decision making skills, and develop clear expectations.

Increase community and policy leaders’ understanding of the benefits of (re)development and private sector investment.

Typical low-density land use patterns may lead to sprawling development that isolates residential neighborhoods from shopping districts, schools, job centers and other amenities and increases the costs of serving the residents with basic infrastructure. Well designed compact development can spur economic growth by accommodating the population density needed to make public transit and street level retail economically viable. Mixed use, compact development can also contribute to improvements in environmental quality through land use patterns that enable residents to access stores and other amenities on foot or bike (or shorter car trips), easing congestion and reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions.With or without transit connections, cities of all types benefit from a mix of housing types (including compact housing) to satisfy demand for various housing products. Additionally, mixed use zones can encourage active living, such as walking or biking, within the district and increase a sense of community among residents.

 For more information on Compact Development,  visit the Housing Policy Toolbox  and ULI Building Healthy Places Initiative. 

Best Practice Example: Chaska
The City of Chaska created Clover Ridge as a planned development within their zoning code. The goal of the project was to provide a mix of housing types within a new traditional neighborhood framework. Clover Ridge is comprised of four different neighborhoods with varying levels of density, price and housing styles.

In one section, sidewalks and street trees are abundant but a more suburban pattern dominates with larger lots, conventional suburban house “styles,” and front-loaded
garages. However, within another section there are much higher densities and choices including some modular built homes and rental housing built next to an elementary school and a centralized park.

These different housing types support the community goal of housing for single individuals, couples and families with children at several price points for area residents and newcomers. In addition, the city deliberately attempts to place some of the more affordable housing closest to the community’s shared amenities. This can help to preserve housing value and enhance the integration of affordable housing into the neighborhood. The plan also places high density lots on the best parcels and a variety of housing types in proximity, but not on the same blocks.

For more information on diverse housing types, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.

Understand market realities.

Market study and demographic trends reports can help formulate a development strategy. Real estate consultants, researchers, and economists can assist cities in understanding market realities and making realistic (re)development plans based on demographic realities and market projections. As an example, the Metropolitan Council commissioned economist Arthur Nelson to analyze demographic trends in the Twin Cities for their Housing Policy Plan. He finds that shifting demographics will alter housing demand. Specifically, a reduction in family sizes and anticipated downsizing among baby boomers will reduce the demand for large single family homes. A tightening of home financing options, a post recession trepidation towards home ownership, falling real incomes, and rising energy costs will likely increase the demand for rental apartments and smaller homes.

Private market information influences development decisions insofar as it helps developers decide where and how to invest limited resources and capital at a time when construction costs have reached new heights. Without public subsidy, developers must charge about $1.85 $2 per square foot for apartment rental projects to be financially viable. Overall, multifamily housing units/apartments cost around $115,000-$300,000 to construct in the Twin Cities (although this can be significantly higher for more challenging properties such as historic renovations and redevelopments that require contamination clean up and demolition). In addition, structured parking spaces are an expensive addition to developments and cost about $20,000-$40,000 per parking space.

Develop a clear vision and reach consensus on the goals for community-wide and site-specific (re)development goals.

A study conducted by ULI MN and the Family Housing Fund on Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developers View indicated that one of the biggest risks for developers is political uncertainty. As one developer stated, “I can deal with known risks, but I have a hard time with the political risks.” The report concluded that developers simply want clarity and efficiency within any given city. 

In addition, according to the Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices tool, a community that integrates “transparency, predictability, and efficiency” into their practices is most appealing to developers. Developers have limited time and financial resources to expend while pursuing a project and they look to invest in communities that have a vision for the community and priority sites. By actively packaging and marketing (re)development priority sites, communities indicate that they are (re)development ready. Communities that have engaged the public and determined desired outcomes for priority sites create a predictable environment for (re)development projects and reduce the risk of rejected development proposals.

Community visioning requires a master plan and capital improvement plan, and may include a downtown plan and corridor plan. A site-specific (re)development vision should include desired development outcomes and specific development criteria. The project’s alignment with the community’s vision and desired development outcome should determine the level of support that a community gives the project.

For more information on visioning, read the full Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices tool and the Metropolitan Council Local Planning Handbook on key components in building a housing strategy. 

Identify the level of financial and regulatory participation your city is willing to provide that supports future opportunity sites in the city. Strive for proactive response.

All communities could benefit from a development approval process that is efficient and predictable, especially in a time of budget constraints. Such a process creates cost savings for the community by reducing redundant review and staff time while improving the morale and retention of public employees by eliminating confusing and stressful procedures.

Developers often must revise approved development plans to reflect new market realities, such as changing a condo development to an apartment development. Such revisions often require rapid approval due to increasingly stringent financing requirements. An expedited review process can make the difference between these projects surviving or being shut down.

Permitting and review policies ensure necessary health, safety, and environmental standards but can lead to delays and cost increases. Expedited permitting and review policies address these obstacles by restructuring regulatory processes to emphasize efficiency, predictability, and cost savings for both the public and private sectors while still protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. Policies that expedite the permitting and review process reduce the time, cost, and risk of development.

For more information on expedited permitting, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.

  • Proactive – aggressive: purchase property, conduct site cleanup
  • Proactive- act using regulatory authority: rezoning to achieve vision, complete environmental review
  • Supportive – site/area identified, no formal regulatory action adopted
  • Reactive – respond as proposals are submitted

Approve (re)development master plan for specific opportunity sites. Prioritize!

According to the Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices tool, the master plan should reflect the community’s goals and path for the future. Making the plans publicly available increases access and transparency. The (re)development strategy should identify priority (re)development sites, neighborhoods, or districts and include a timeline that identifies roles, responsibilities, and benchmarks.

A site-specific (re)development vision should include desired development outcomes and specific development criteria. The community should determine the level of support that it will give the project, based on the project meeting the community’s vision and desired development outcomes.

For communities with planned or existing transit service, the Corridors of Opportunity Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Classification Tool, developed by Reconnecting America in partnership with the Metropolitan Council, designates transit station areas in five types based on market readiness and urban form. Each station area type has its own set of investment and implementation activities that are recommended to improve the market or increase development readiness. The tool recommends incremental strategies to maximize development benefits.

For more information on master planning, read the full Michigan Redevelopment Ready
Communities Best Practices tool.

Update comprehensive plan to be consistent with vision.

The Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices tool states that comprehensive planning documents are a community’s guiding framework for investment and development. The information and strategies outlined in comprehensive plans are meant to serve as policy guidelines for local decisions about growth and development (physical, social, economic, and environmental) of the community. Plans should “set expectations for those involved in development, giving the public some degree of certainty about their vision for the future, while assisting the community achieving its stated goals. An updated master plan is essential to articulating the types of development the community desires and the specific areas where the community will concentrate resources.”

In addition, a City’s required comprehensive plan should be consistent with the City vision for future development which is submitted and review to the Metrpolitan Council  to achieve the goals of the Metropolitan Land Planning Act under Minnesotat State law.  

 For more information on comprehensive planning, visit Metropolitan Council and the full Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices tool.

Rezone property to be consistent with comprehensive plan and vision.

Zoning ordinances should regulate the goals of the master plan and are a key tool to implement plans in a community. Inflexible or obsolete zoning regulations can discourage (re)development and investment while outdated regulations force developers to pursue rezoning or variances. This can disturb project timelines, increase costs, and create uncertainty for the project. Communities should look to streamline ordinances and regulate for the kind of development that is truly desired.

Building proposals that fit within the specifications of local zoning policies may proceed as-of-right. Developers still need to secure a building permit and fulfill customary regulatory requirements, but the approvals process is generally less contentious and/or time consuming than the process for proposals that require an exception from current zoning regulations. Through the revision of zoning policies, jurisdictions can significantly broaden the mix of land uses and types of housing that are allowed as-of-right, reducing the cost of development.

For more information on policies that ensure housing diversity, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.

Determine level of risk tolerance and a policy for using public financial tools.

Difficulties with accessing private capital have increased the complexity of development deals. Equity requirements for developers associated with existing projects sap capital resources for new deals causing a mismatch between capital availability and risk for the development community. There has and continues to be a “reset” in the financial marketplace for developers. Cities should view developers more as venture capitalists rather than as traditional entrepreneurs. It is important that cities craft a response to developers that is collaborative while developing reasonable risks that they are willing to consider achieving community goals. A risk position on the part of the city is not necessarily a bad strategy as long as the city evaluates its risk tolerance and plans accordingly. Establishing policies with regards to the financial role a city would consider for future (re)development opportunities is critically important. Quality, experienced and respected developers will seek out communities that have crafted a well reasoned and predictable partnership model with respect to public/private ventures – especially those cities which are viewed by private lenders as being committed to the ultimate success of a project.

  • Land assembly
    Public land assembly is a proactive redevelopment strategy that allows public control of a property to achieve the community goals for future land use. Land banking is an important tool to allow efficient disposal or acquisition of properties for a broader public purpose. A land bank is a governmental or quasi-governmental entity dedicated to converting vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties to productive use. Regional organizations such the Twin Cities Community Land Bank amass and strategically hold titles for properties for either short or long periods of time. Typically, sites that further community assets or benefits are held. Without a land bank, the process of restoring, redeveloping, or demolishing abandoned or dilapidated properties may require the coordination of several government agencies and involve lengthy approval processes. Delays in reusing properties can lead to a ripple effect of blight and increase the costs for (re)development to communities and future private developers. Land bank authorities address this problem by facilitating the acquisition of properties, holding and managing properties as needed, and disposing of properties in coordination with city planners and in accordance with local priorities for land use. For more information on land banking, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.
  • Tax increment financing—upfront bonds/pay-as-you-go
    Tax increment financing (TIF) is a tool used by municipal governments in nearly all states to stimulate economic development in a targeted geographical area. When a TIF district is established, the “base” amount of property tax revenue is recorded based on the status quo before improvements. To stimulate (re)development within a designated tax increment district, the municipality then makes or funds a developer to make capital improvements, such as new roads, water, sewers, and other public amenities. To the extent such efforts are successful, property values rise, leading to an increase in actual property tax receipts above the base. The “base” amount of property tax revenue continues to be used to fund city services but, over a set period of time, the increase in tax revenue above the base (i.e., the increment) is captured by the tax increment district as revenue, which is used to reimburse the community (or a partner developer) for the cost of the initial and subsequent improvements that spurred the rise in property values and tax revenue. Alternatively, municipalities can issue bonds, backed by the expected TIF revenue, in which case the TIF proceeds are used to pay back the bonds. The incremental increase in sales taxes in the district can also be either captured by the district as revenue or used to pay back the bonds. For more information on TIF, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.
  • Tax abatement
    Communities that offer tax abatements or exemptions agree to eliminate tax increases or otherwise reduce property taxes for specific properties for a designated period of time in order to stimulate a specified public benefit. In the housing sector, real estate tax abatements or exemptions are most commonly used to provide a financial incentive for the construction or rehabilitation of rental homes. Some communities also
    offer some form of tax abatement or exemption to developers and buyers of homes in designated revitalization zones and/or rental property owners who participate in housing subsidy programs. Abatements or exemptions can be structured in a variety of ways including freezing or reducing the property’s taxable assessed value, reducing the rate at which a property is assessed, or reducing overall property taxes owed. Communities with budgetary constraints should properly structure any tax abatement program to leverage and maximize the desired public benefit in order to minimize the overall fiscal impact. Tax abatements can incentivize new development to spur additional revenue producing market rate development, countering any loss in tax revenues and meeting the broader revitalization goals of a community.
    For more information on tax abatement, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.
  • Special assessment bonding
    The League of Minnesota Cities defines special assessment bonding as “a charge imposed on properties for a particular improvement that benefits the owners of those selected properties.” The state constitution gives cities and other governmental agencies the authority to use this mechanism for local improvements. Special assessments are a levy for a particular public improvement that is charged exclusively to the parcels that receive those benefits; the levy is proportionate to the value of the benefits received. For more information on special assessment bonding in Minnesota, visit the League of Minnesota Cities fact sheet. 
  • Infrastructure investment
    Local funding toward public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sidewalks, parks, water treatment facilities, etc. is an important economic development strategy to spur private investment. The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority provides municipal financing programs and expertise to help communities build public infrastructure that preserves the environment, protects public health, and promotes economic growth. Commonly known as the PFA, the authority administers and manages three revolving loan funds and other programs that help local units of government construct facilities for clean water and other kinds of essential public infrastructure that is critical to attract private investment in (re)development.
  • Joint venture investment
    The International Monetary Fund defines public private partnership as a combination of “the deployment of private sector capital and, sometimes, public sector capital to improve public services or the management of public sector assets. By focusing on public service outputs, they offer a more sophisticated and cost effective approach to the management of risk by the public sector than is generally achieved by traditional input based public sector procurement.” Public-private partnerships require the public sector to determine and communicate long term needs (such as public services) which must be approved by the private sector. Approval from the private sector hinges upon satisfactory and sustainable long term performance, encouraging a long-term outlook for both sides of the partnership.
  • Brownfield remediation
    Brownfields, as defined by the EPA, are real property, the expansion, (re)development, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. A brownfield can range in size from small sites such as a corner gas station or neighborhood auto shop to larger sites or structures including factories, train stations, and hospitals.Communities throughout the country are successfully redeveloping brownfield sites into housing, commercial, and public spaces. Locally and nationally cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, provides housing opportunities, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped land, and both improves and protects the environment. Reusing buildings also helps preserve historic structures with unique architectural style and local character. According to a Minnesota Brownfields report  on the Benefits of Brownfield Redevelopment in Minnesota, there are significant economic benefits of redevelopment brownfield land.Most (re)development sites need to conduct due diligence to understand the historic use of the site which may lead to site Phase I and Phase II investigation and subsequent cleanup in order to safely accommodate the desired end-use. (Re)development activities provide numerous advantages for housing opportunities, but the presence of contamination can cause unexpected and unplanned burdens to the site and project timing. These unplanned burdens can significantly increase costs for developers and be the difference between a profitable and unprofitable project.  Federal, state, regional, and county level resources are available to assist with remediation of brownfield sites in order to reduce these risks. This is critical to increasing the supply of housing because any increase in costs either makes the housing less affordable or less attractive for developers.For more information on brownfield sites, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.

Prepare a strategy for collaboration with partners—Metropolitan Council, county, state, schools, watershed districts, key employers, nonprofit community organizations, foundations.

(Re)development is complex and costly in its simplest form. When a project requires approvals from multiple layers of government, the complexity and cost may deter private investment or reduce public goals such as added open space, various level of affordability, and/or mixes of land uses. Preparing a strategy to work in collaboration with partners can help to streamline the approval process and reduce development costs. Before building can proceed in many areas, developers must receive approvals from multiple agencies, each of which regulates a different facet of development, including land use (i.e., zoning), water and sewer systems, and compliance with building codes, among others. Each department often has its own application requirements and administrative processes which occasionally may even be contradictory.
Developers may spend a great deal of time and money fulfilling these requirements before all necessary approvals are granted. If the building process is too lengthy and costly, some developments that are needed to meet the community’s demand may not be built.
Rather than requiring visits to multiple offices, some communities bring together two or more of the agencies that have compatible regulatory functions in one department. Co-locating permitting, licensing, plan checking, and other development related services in one central office simplifies the development process and enables improved coordination and communication among agency staff. For more information on collaboration and streamlining the development process, visit the Housing 
Policy Toolbox.

Determine policies for land use mix, e.g., affordable housing, ownership/rental mix, mix of uses.

Comfortable, walkable neighborhoods arise from a mix of density and uses. While density looks different depending on street layout, design, and many other contextual elements, increasing density can enable small businesses (such as convenience stores) to operate within communities. While every neighborhood is unique, researchers suggest thresholds for community amenities. For example, Julie Campoli recommends that at least 10,000 households are needed to support a supermarket. Incremental steps, such as legalizing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), can be taken to increase the allowable households per lot without changing neighborhoods aesthetics or scale. For more information on neighborhood density and a neighborhood visualization tool, visit the Lincoln Land Institute.

Promote and Plan for Building Healthy Places

Early and intentional planning incorporated into local strategies and policies regarding healthy living at both the building and project scale will contribute to healthier people and communities and enhance and preserve value by meeting growing desires for health-promoting places.  A City can take steps to change how every building and rebuilding, every subdivision and retrofit, will be carried out to promote health.  

According to ULI, healthy places are designed, built, and programmed to support the physical, mental, and social well-being of the people who live, work, learn, and visit there.  The Building Healthy Places Toolkit provides 21 recommendations for enhancing health in the built environment through evidenced-supported opportunities for enhancing health outcomes in real estate developments.

For more information on the toolkit and 21 recommendations for enhancing health and healthy places, visit ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative

Complete design standards and requirements.

Clearly communicated design standards and requirements help to achieve community goals for land use diversity, neighborhood compatibility, street and sidewalk design, building placement, building height, standards for quality materials, parking, etc. The Urban Street Design Guide describes design strategies for creating healthy urban streets which allow alternative transportation modes such as walking, cycling, and transit. According to findings in the report Redevelopment in the Twin Cities A Developers View prepared for the Family Housing Fund and ULI MN, developers are looking for clarity and commitment in approaching a (re)development project.
The full report provides additional opinions from local developers.

Make redevelopment opportunity areas and redevelopment-ready site lists available.

(Re)development ready priority sites and opportunities should be hosted on the web and/or provided to developers when inquiring about development. This indicates that cities are serious about attracting investment and committed to improving their communities. The lower the risk of rejected (or delayed) proposals, the more likely a developer will invest in a community.



Provide ongoing education for local government leadership, city council, and planning commission on current market realities, (re)development goals, and plans.

 Local government leaders, city council, and planners make better and more informed development decisions when they understand land use and development issues. Continued training can bridge the gaps in knowledge when officials and staff turnover and is critical for the efficient functioning of a community’s (re)development processes.

For more information on collaborative efforts, read the full Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices tool and the League of Minnesota Cities Public Officials Training Handbook.

Create an education plan when turnover of elected and appointed policy leaders occurs.

An education plan should identify training needs and track attendance of the governing body, boards, commissions, and staff. The community should track and identify trainings that assist in accomplishing their stated goals and objectives. The ongoing education effort requires a source of funding allocated by elected and appointed officials and staff.

Conduct site visits and tours of other successful projects for policy leaders. Conduct stakeholder engagement sessions/neighborhood meetings; engage underrepresented communities

The most successful plans and proposals gain input from diverse stakeholders beyond the master plan update. These stakeholders may include those who are not normally included. Proactive practices and methods include charrettes, one­-on­-one interviews, canvassing, community workshops, focus groups, social networking, and crowd-­sourcing.

As an example, the Regional Equity and Community Engagement team within the Partnership for Regional Opportunity (sponsored by the Metropolitan Council) produced a Twin Cities Equitable Development Principles & Scorecard with recommendations for equitable best practices in development and larger planning processes. The Scorecard contains categories for land use, economic development, community engagement, housing, and transportation for review with community members, developers, city staff, and other stakeholders. Tools such as the Equitable Development Principles & Scorecard can help to spark productive dialogue about social equity.

For more information on stakeholder engagement, read the University of Minnesota Tip Sheets for Engaging the Public.

Achieve and document stakeholder support for the (re)development plan or plans.

Stakeholders can be notified about engagement opportunities with traditional media such as postcard mailings, flyers, website postings, and newspaper postings and with more proactive practices such as canvassing, social networking, and individual mailings. Proactive participation efforts can utilize community workshops, charrettes, and focus groups to gain input and built support. Community participation results should be communicated in a consistent and transparent manner.

Develop working relationships with developers to foster mutually beneficial trust and collaboration.

The recent recession has seriously affected the development community. Qualified developers who remain in business are selective about the communities in which they work and are looking for predictability and flexibility during times of scarce resources. Cities which embrace collaborative approaches to solving problems, identify and pursue partnerships, manage development risks, improve decision making skills and develop clear expectations will rise to the top during difficult economic times. One way to develop these relationships is to hold workshops with developers. ULI MN’s Navigating Your Competitive Future workshops are designed to foster a dialogue between the public and private sector about the opportunities and challenges inherent in a new economy based upon shifts in the market and changing demographics.

Be flexible. 


Rezone property to achieve (re)development goals without special approvals.

Zoning ordinances should regulate the goals of the master plan and are a key tool to implement plans in a community. Inflexible or obsolete zoning regulations can discourage (re)development and investment while outdated regulations force developers to pursue rezoning or variances. This can disturb project timelines, increase costs, and create uncertainty for the project. Communities should look to streamline ordinances and regulate for the kind of development that is truly desired.

Building proposals that fit within the specifications of local zoning policies may proceed as­-of-­right which encourages investment. Developers still need to secure a building permit and fulfill customary regulatory requirements, but the approvals process is generally less contentious and/or time-­consuming than the process for proposals that require an exception from current zoning regulations. Through the revision of zoning policies, jurisdictions can significantly broaden the types of housing that are allowed as­-of-­right, thus simplifying and reducing the cost of delivering homes that are more likely to be affordable to working families.

For more information on “as­-of-­right” development, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.

Encourage Spaces and Places for Pollinators.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to a healthy environment, yet are declining in many places due, in part, to local landscaping ordinances in new development and discouraging native landscape habitats.   New research indicates that 30% of our daily food and 85% of all plant life is dependant on bees and other pollinators.  Supportive habitats are a vital part of our ecosystem.  Follow a 3-point system to 1) CONVERT under-utilized land for habitat for increased ecological function and support of pollinator population; 2) consider INTEGRATING native habitat into public approval process as part of landscaping requirements; and 3) ENLIST and ALLOW private development to create native habitat plantings.

For a list of bee supportive plants go to the BeeLab at the University of Minnesota and the Xerces Society.

Adopt Complete Streets Ordinances

People of all ages and abilities should be able to safely move along and across streets in a community. Complete Streets are streets that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, regardless of how they are traveling. Complete Streets make it easy for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely move about the city. Implementation of Complete Streets can involve changes to design standards or the adoption of templates such as the Model Design Manual for Living Streets or Complete Streets, Complete Networks.

For more information on Complete Streets, visit Smart Growth America.

As an alternative to rezoning, adopt overlay zoning districts in (re)development areas provided that the language provides clarity, consistency, and flexibility when market demand and community vision align.

An overlay district is a specific geographic area upon which additional land use requirements are applied, on top of the underlying zoning code, in order to promote a specified goal. Overlay districts may be used to allow greater flexibility in development types without undergoing a large­-scale rezoning.

The APA explains that overlay zoning establishes “additional or stricter standards and criteria for covered properties in addition to those of the underlying zoning district. Communities often use overlay zones to protect special features such as historic buildings, wetlands, steep slopes, and waterfronts. Overlay zones can also be used to promote specific development projects, such as mixed­-used developments, waterfront developments, housing along transit corridors, or affordable housing.”

For more information read the League of Minnesota Cities Zoning Guide for Cities.

Adopt reduced parking requirements for areas with access to transit (within a quarter mile of bus or rail).

Adopt reduced parking requirements for areas with access to transit (within a quarter mile of bus or rail). Parking requirements can make (re)development, especially housing at affordable levels, prohibitively expensive to build. This issue is exacerbated near transit, where land values can be relatively high. The MITOD Action Guide states that parking spaces consume 320,­350 square feet, while “high parking requirements increase the amount of land that must be purchased for housing or trigger the need for structured parking, which adds $20,000 to $40,000 per space to the project’s total development costs. Cities can lower the cost of development near transit by adopting parking standards that reflect the greater likelihood that residents in well-­designed, transit­-oriented developments will use transit.”

For more information on reduced parking requirements, visit the MITOD Action Guide.

ULI MN Program Summary: Where Do We Park Those Cars?

Parking strategies developed by the CTLUS Advisory Group.

Examine innovative tools to meet new market preferences, such as:

  • Allow residential uses within commercial (re)development areas (mixed use).
    Developers state that “(re)development requires zoning that is forward-­looking and flexible” but most financial, zoning, and building codes were not designed with mixed use in mind. “Developers prefer that cities tell them what their goals are and what kinds of tools/financial support are available; in turn, they’ll work with the city to problem­-solve and get as close to the goals as possible.”
    Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developer’s View, provides additional opinions from local developers.
  • Allow small commercial uses in multifamily residential zones.
    Small commercial uses add vibrancy and convenience to neighborhoods, increasing the neighborhood value and appeal to various demographics. They are designed to be pedestrian-­oriented (with minimal parking) to minimize the impact on surrounding neighborhoods and be compatible with the surrounding scale and context.
  • Allow accessory dwelling units in fully developed neighborhoods.
    Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are small, self-­contained residential units built on the same lot as an existing single­-family home. Because they are often used by extended family members, ADUs are also referred to as “in­-law apartments” or “granny flats.” ADUs may be built within a primary residence (such as in an attic or basement), attached to the primary residence (like a small duplex unit with a separate entrance), or detached from the primary residence (such as conversion of a detached garage). An ADU will be subordinate in size, location, and function to the primary residential unit. Depending on locality, ADUs may or may not be in compliance with local zoning and planning regulations. While many municipalities allow such units to be rented, others do not. For more information on accessory dwelling units, visit Housing Policy Toolbox. 
  • Allow home-­based entrepreneurial businesses as an incubator for new ideas that create jobs.
    According to the APA’s Commissioner, almost 10 percent of U.S. workers worked at home at least one day a week (derived from Census reports). Of those, three­-quarters were full time at home. Permitting these uses under zoning code is an important regulatory step to their continued adoption. Steps toward regulatory clarity include defining what as-­of-­right accessory uses residents are entitled to, as well as regulations for parking, visitors, employees, hours of operation, deliveries, appearance, and other aspects that might impact residential neighborhoods. Community members and boards or commissions can help to conceive local regulation.




Fast-­track approvals when the project meets certain requirements.

Time delays can threaten the financial solvency of (re)development. Cities can help reduce the cost and risk of development by expediting permitting approvals. Speedier approval lowers the costs of holding land in advance of construction and injects greater certainty into the (re)development process. Certainty can, in turn, lower the cost of financing.

Support flexibility to achieve project goals.

Flexibility in zoning and approval processes can help to achieve community goals in a more efficient and effective way as market and demographic changes occur. Using PUD (Planned Unit Development) zoning and form based zoning are methods to support flexibility. For more information on zoning read the League of Minnesota Cities Zoning Guide for Cities.

Improve predictability of the development review process.

A lengthy and drawn out approval process can add significant cost to a project; particularly (re)development projects. According to the MITOD Action Guide, predictability can be improved by establishing set time periods for decisions on applications and creating multi­agency review committees. These processes emerge by streamlining and coordinating the various approvals processes for development projects without compromising other public interests. A city that takes steps to reduce complex approvals, improve predictability, and streamline will benefit both internally and externally.

For more information on expedited permitting and development, visit the Housing Policy Toolbox.

 Be consistent.


Hold informational introductory meeting with the private sector to review the public process when a project is proposed.

Developers look to partner with cities that are clear about (re)development goals and processes. Early informational meetings signal to developers that the city is serious about partnering on its (re)development sites.

Say “no” early when a proposed project does not meet community goals and vision.

Time is money when it comes to (re)development. According to ULI MN developers, development delays and inconsistency in policy direction and approvals can be very costly. A “quick no” is preferable to a “slow no” or a “very slow yes”.

Create a clear, achievable development review process checklist.

Due to the inherent risk in real estate development, developers select projects in locations where the risks are fewer or more manageable. A clear (re)development review process checklist states expectations and the important benchmarks and tasks in the (re)development process. The (re)development review checklist, coupled with a publicly accessible master plan and information on priority (re)development ready parcels, allows a developer to understand the city’s goals and what kinds of tools/financial support are available. In turn, the developer can realistically assess project feasibility. The developer will work with the city to problem­-solve and get as close to city’s goals as possible.

Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developer’s View, provides additional opinions from local developers.

Conduct “sketch or concept plan” review when appropriate.

Local developers state that the biggest challenge in the development process is political risk. A flexible sketch/concept plan review process can allow developers to iteratively modify their projects based on a dialogue with city staff and/or policy leaders. A reliable and fair review process with developers can help to form a positive working relationship between cities and developers. Most local developers want to work with cities as partners. Some believe that a good working relationship is “essential” for a successful project.

Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developer’s View, provides additional opinions from local developers.



Identify brownfields

Brownfield sites are abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial properties where expansion or (re)development is complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination. (Re)development is risky due to unexpected issues with contamination with infill or previously utilized sites. Providing information about these potential (re)development sites minimizes risk for developers, increasing the likelihood of investment.

Provide information on the following:

  • Environmental studies ­ AUAR, EAW, EIS, Phase I, Phase II

EAW and EIS are part of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency review process designed to disclose information about the potential negative environmental effects of a proposed development and ways to avoid or minimize them before the project is permitted and built.

  • GIS layers for mapping
  • Traffic studies
  • Soil and compaction reports
  • Utilities
  • Property details ­ tax value, property owner of record, liens, assessments, title, etc.
  • Master or neighborhood plans
  • Previous plans for site area
  • Current area demographics and market studies
  • Other (specify).



Conduct joint review of the same project at the same time with planning, public works, parks, and tax assessment departments.

For affordable and mixed income housing projects, Minnesota Housing, Metropolitan Council, Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Family Housing Fund (FHF), Greater Minnesota Housing Funding (GMHF), and the Saint Paul Public Housing Agency (St. Paul PHA) coordinate a super RFP process for coordinated funding applications. In addition, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, City of Minneapolis (CPED), City of Saint Paul, Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) participate in the review of proposals and selection committees.

Metropolitan Council staff coordinate the review of local comprehensive land use plans and programs, provide technical and general assistance. Local Planning Assistance sector representatives act as liaisons between the Metropolitan Council and and local governments.

Conduct sketch/concept plan review with elected and appointed officials before formal public hearing process

Project concepts that have been previewed, vetted and received preliminary support by elected and appointed officials are less politically risky than those without support. By gaining feedback before the formal public hearing process and responding to that feedback, developers can create a stronger project for public review. The support of local policy leaders may reduce the likelihood of failure due to public opposition. Sketch/concept plan review with city policy leaders demonstrates that the city is committed to attracting investment and can establish a positive working relationship with the developer.

Establish a memorandum of understanding between governmental entities related to future (re)development sites.

A memorandum of understanding may be appropriate to outline a future course of action for individual (re)development sites. The document should describe a common course of action that represents the convergence of goals and intentions between parties. A memorandum of understanding for a (re)development parcel might define an agreed-­upon process, state future site goals and uses, detail interim strategies and partner roles and responsibilities, or lay the groundwork for an RFP process. Ultimately, the document signals to developers that all staff and elected officials share a commitment and understanding of the (re)development site.



Examine the cost of doing nothing such as:

  • Increased deterioration of property value
    The recent economic downturn resulted in a historic increase in the number of mortgage foreclosures which affected neighborhoods that had not previously had any issues with vacant or abandoned properties. Deterioration of property value and declining neighborhood prices can leave homeowners with negative equity and unable to sell. According to the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), neighborhood foreclosures can result in visible signs of neglect which reduce adjacent property values, higher local government expenses due to vacant and abandoned properties and reduced neighborhood quality of life. Further, an increase in housing supply from foreclosures leads to a decreased value of the housing stock.
    For more information on foreclosures, read CURA’s report
  • Loss of tax revenues
    According to the Center for Urban and regional Affairs (CURA), demolished structures, vacant lots, and forfeited properties not only decrease the revenue stream, they can increase the cost of maintenance to the city or surrounding neighbors of keeping up and securing the property. Inspections, fire, and police services dedicated to these properties use funds without any revenue source. A secondary impact is the decrease of surrounding property values and property tax revenue.
    Click here for CURA’s full report.
  • Impact on reinvestment related to the perception of decline
    Abandoned houses signify urban decline. The level of investment needed to turn such properties around is generally greater than the market value of the property. Additionally, general health and safety hazards may arise from deteriorated structures when people use vacant buildings for criminal activity. Studies indicate that the presence of blighted properties alone reduces the property values within 500 feet. 
  • Community instability
    Deteriorated structures or vacant lots may invite criminal activity leading to health and safety hazards. Blighted properties may reduce the incentive for neighbors to maintain their own properties, leading to further loss of real and perceived neighborhood value.



  1. HousingCounts.org
  2. MN Pollution Control Agency
  3. Redevelopment in the Twin Cities: A Developer’s View
  4. The Commissioner: Summer 2013
  5. Smart Growth America
  6. Active Transportation Alliance: Complete Streets Implementation Template
  7. Model Design Manual for Living Streets
  8. Saint Paul Transit-Oriented Development Guidebook for the Central Corridor
  9. International Monetary Fund
  10. League of Minnesota Cities Information Memo: Special Assessment Guide
  11. Redevelopment Ready Communities Best Practices
  12. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  13. Metropolitan Council
  14. Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development