Beating the Blight of Surface Lots!
Surface lots are the bane of urban downtowns. They are both a visual blight (who wants to look at giant sea of cars?), an economic blight (ROI per square foot is low compared to business-based usage), and a lifestyle blight (what kind of urban life is possible when you have parking lots scattered everywhere?).
Surface lots persist, however, because they usually make money for their owners. Parking is usually in strong demand in city centers, and Minneapolis is no exception. Owners of parking lots gladly charge monthly rates and make decent money on their investment. From their point of view, this is a great business to be in.
(On a side note: This is/was an issue back in Cleveland as well. There was a very interesting proposal to change property taxation rules so that taxes are based on potential property value rather than real property value. That is, normally you're simply taxed on the value of your real estate. Instead, you would be taxed on the potential profitability of your real estate. Since downtown land--because it can house office buildigns--is so much more potentially profitable, you have to pay higher taxes. This encourages owners of surface lots to develop their land!)
Anyway, moving on. Downtown Journal reports that Minneapolis is seeking to develop a surface lots at South 2nd St and 4th Ave South. This is the giant lot immediately south of the RiverWest condo building. It is quite a sizable lot, I assure you. This could be a great opportunity to put in more housing and ground-level retail. The city will require any new development to have at least 200 parking spaces, of course. At any rate, I'm optimistic. Downtown growth is a good sign!