Columbia Heights 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update


Columbia Heights 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update
In March 2017, Columbia Heights began work on a major update of its existing 2030 Comprehensive Plan to help set the stage for future growth and development out to the year 2040. The plan addresses future land use, transportation, parks, economic development, housing and infrastructure. A Review Committee comprised of 15 Columbia Heights residents and businesspersons is coordinating the work of Hoisington Koegler Group Inc., the project consultant and City staff.

The plan update is occurring in four phases: 1) understanding what is desired; 2) exploring opportunities; 3) creating a draft of the plan and 4) review and approvals. Phase one is complete and Phase two will be completed in the next few weeks.

To gain an understanding about issues of interest to Columbia Height residents and to help frame the plan, the first phase involved face to face meetings, written surveys and online surveys to gather input. Social Pinpoint, an online interactive tool was used to gain insights into what the community perceives as its strengths as well as areas that need work. While it was open, the first round of Social Pinpoint tabulated over 750 visits by people who on average spent about 10 minutes reviewing information and providing comments. During this initial stage of the planning process, City staff and consultants also actively sought input by attending a number of community events including the Circle Terrace Eat and Greet; the Dog Day Afternoon Event, the Fire Department Open House; the Huset Park Community Picnic and the Immaculate Conception Fun Fest. Information about the Comprehensive Plan was also included in materials prepared as part of neighborhood packets for National Night Out on August 1st.

In addition to the online survey, City staff and the project consulting team conducted an open house at the Columbia Heights Library on September 19th and participated in the Taste of Columbia Heights community celebration on November 17th. City staff met with approximately 15 ministers representing various religious faiths in the community and individually with a member of the Somali and Latino community. Throughout the first two phases of engagement, display boards promoting the online survey tools (Social Pinpoint and Survey Monkey) and providing general information on the Comprehensive Plan, were set up at various locations including: City Hall, Public Safety, the Public Library and at Murzyn Hall-Recreation Department and the Murzyn Hall Senior Center. Also, paper versions of each survey were available at City Hall.

One of the focal points of the Comprehensive Plan update involves a look at potential changes in land use in Columbia Heights between now and 2040. Being a fully developed community, Columbia Heights is not expected to see large areas of change but rather, changes will likely continue to occur at specific locations along major roadways such as Central Avenue, University Avenue and 40th Avenue. Accordingly, the Review Committee has been examining possible future growth alternatives at major intersections throughout the City. At key intersections, future land use scenarios have been developed exploring alternative forms of infill and redevelopment including new housing, retail uses, offices and other employment opportunities. Alternatives have also focused on improved pedestrian amenities, added pedestrian safety measures and enhanced bicycle facilities.

Sketches depicting future alternative concepts for each of these areas are included in an online survey that is being used seek community input. To provide your input, please take our survey.

The intersection of Central Avenue and 40th Avenue is seen as a significant future opportunity area for Columbia Heights. This intersection is viewed by most residents as the center of the community’s retail activity and an area that still retains some of the original storefronts on the west side of Central. If redevelopment occurs in this area in the future, many survey respondents have commented that it should include retail and office uses along Central Avenue and expanded housing opportunities abutting the west side of La Belle Park. Retention of the existing transit center is also highly desired with hopes that it can serve future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service along Central Avenue.

Early in 2018, the Comprehensive Plan effort will shift from Phase two to Phase Three. From January through March, Phase three will include preparation of drafts of each of the Comprehensive Plan chapters which will be evaluated by the Review Committee. Draft chapters will be posted on the City’s website and community input will be sought at a number of community events and meetings in April through mid-May. After comments have been received, a second draft of the Comprehensive Plan will be assembled for review by the Planning Commission and City Council as part of the fourth and final Phase of the process. After receiving an initial approval next June, State Law requires that the draft plan be submitted to adjacent communities and other governmental jurisdictions for review and comment. At the conclusion of a six month review period, the City will be able to formally adopt the plan. The final plan is expected to be in place by the end of 2018. From that time on, the Columbia Heights 2040 Comprehensive Plan will articulate the City’s future vision and it will be used to help guide decisions by the Planning Commission and City Council. It will also serve as the basis for any subsequent changes in codes and regulations that are needed.

More information about the Columbia Heights 2040 Comprehensive Plan can be found on the City’s website here.