Moving to the Twin Cities in the fall, where should I look for places?
February 2, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I was recently admitted to the University of Minnesota for graduate school. I'm trying to find out what neighborhoods are good and close to the university that fit the kind of place that I'm looking for. Problem is, there's a ton of neighborhoods and areas to live in.

I'm looking for an area of town that's not goose heavy. I don't drink anymore and that means nothing to me. Nor does the whole 'indie' music scene. I'm more about jazz, hip hop, instrumental and classical music. I'm going to school for writing, so I'd like to be in an area that has a lot of quiet creativity, none of the ostentatious hipsterness that I've found here in Austin.

I'm looking for a two bedroom, ideally, since I'll be moving with my girlfriend up there and I'd like to have a room for study and writing and such. She'll be working, I'll have a small stipend per month, so we'd probably have enough to pay up to 1100 a month on a place, though I'd prefer something cheaper.

I know there's huge ethnic, multicultural community in Minneapolis which is what I'd be most comfortable with. I'm black and would prefer to be in a place with a community or population where I don't stand out all the time like I feel I do in Austin or like I did growing up in Iowa. I prefer more multicultural areas in general, they are always much more interesting, comfortable, friendly places in my experience. And the food is much better.

Any ideas? Any suggestions where to look? I've been looking on craigslist, found some okay stuff in Seward (I think?) and Cedar-Riverside.
posted by Modica to Travel & Transportation around Minneapolis, MN (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Seward is cool. I lived there for 5 years and will probably move back over there if I stay in the area. It is probably the most diverse neighborhood in the Twin Cities. It's very easy to get to the U from over there and it is in your budget.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 6:15 PM on February 2, 2014

The only reason Seward would give me pause is that I'd find the bus commute tiresome--you'd spend more time walking to and waiting for the bus than you would on the bus. If you're towards the western edge of Seward, there's a pedestrian bridge over 94 at 22nd Ave and I think 19th Ave or so crosses the interstate, at which point the walk to campus is not bad. I know some people who walk to the East Bank from roughly Franklin and Cedar and I knew someone who walked from about Franklin and the river. It's the in between bit I'd find irritating. I think Seward probably tops Cedar-Riverside in most respects except proximity to campus.

Anything along Franklin east of maybe Blaisdell east to Minnehaha (at which point you're in Seward) probably counts as multicultural and will be in your budget. (So that's part of Whittier, Stevens Square, a neighbourhood whose name escapes me and Ventura Village. Landlord and apartment quality are quite variable in all of these. Along this stretch of Franklin, west of 35W is generally nicer than east of it.) You want to be fairly close to Franklin to make taking the 2 to campus easy. Aside from the trek to the 2, I'd add Elliot Park to the list (you could take the 5 and change, but I'd get sick of that quickly).

Some of Northeast may have appeal, but I know almost nothing about Northeast.

I'm really happy with my landlord in Stevens Square, so me-mail me if you want their information. All this assumes you want to avoid biking in winter and want to prioritise avoiding changing buses. If you're willing to entertain either of those, you've got more possibilities.
posted by hoyland at 6:35 PM on February 2, 2014

Seward probably wins here, but Northeast Minneapolis is great, too. The light rail will be opening this summer between downtown Minneapolis and St Paul, so don't be afraid to check out places in St Paul (and the food is excellent along University Ave).

On preview, hoyland makes good points about the bus routes in Seward. So I'd definitely keep St Paul in mind.
posted by Maarika at 6:37 PM on February 2, 2014

I ride the bus to work now for about an hour to work, an hour from work. Not too big a deal. Transfers are annoying, though, just because of the possible chance of missing the transfer.
posted by Modica at 6:40 PM on February 2, 2014

I would certainly consider Seward, although if you're looking to avoid hipsterness that might be an issue ( I would say, however, it's not 'ostentations hipsterness'.

Along the lines of hoyland's comment, it would be helpful to know how you expect to handle transportation. One thing to note is that the 'green line' light rail is opening this summer connecting downtown St. Paul and downtown minneapolis and it will go through the U, which makes transportation from a number of neighborhoods along university avenue quite feasible.

I'd recommend Prospect Park on the far east edge of Mpls on University Ave (although more quiet with mixed university / family vibe than young and exciting) and st. paul along the light rail.

Upon preview, much of what Maarika said.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 6:40 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would live in Marcy-Holmes. It is cheap, safe, and mostly full of other grad students. There's not a lot to do, but it's close to the U. But far enough away that drinking/music/partying won't quite spill over.

I would not live in Seward or Cedar-Riverside. They are too dangerous. Granted you may have a different standard of dangerousness than I. But there would be constant drama with people hassling you, neighbors getting mugged, cop cars blocking the street at night.

Rich students live in Uptown. There's a ton of stuff to do, and also great express buses to the U. But you probably cannot afford it on your stipend, unless you have some other source of support.

The new light rail line may change things. There are a lot of new and newly renovated buildings around the future Gateway Station area, obviously trying to court U-affiliated people. But that is a wildcard, we don't really know how the neighborhood will develop.
posted by miyabo at 6:48 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if I'd wanna be around a bunch of other grad students, all that grad school-ness can drive a person crazy. I need some noise, some sirens. I'm very much a city person and I really want that feel of being in an active urban environment.

Ventura Village sounds really interesting. Very diverse, very multicultural, but it also sounds like it's been trying to come out of problems it's had in the past several years. I want to work with minorities and disadvantaged youth. It's what I do now, mentoring 'at-risk' middle school kids in a rough area of town and I love it. I want to keep volunteering with that sort of thing since I also plan to get an additional degree later in Social Work or to go into Substance Abuse Counseling with that same population. Just from what I'm reading about the place, it seems like the area might have a lot of opportunities for that.
posted by Modica at 7:15 PM on February 2, 2014

Modica, check your memail, sent you a specific suggestion over there.
posted by instead of three wishes at 7:27 PM on February 2, 2014

I lived in Seward for four years and really, really loved it. (My heart kind of aches for it now...) I'd move back in a heartbeat. In much of it, you'd be close enough to Cedar-Riverside to take advantage of cultural and mentoring opportunities there with a pretty short commute, so it may give you the best of both worlds if those are still your top two choices.

There are also ways to commute to the U from Seward by bus without relying on the somewhat tiresome, snaking route that the 2 takes to get to campus. If you live a bit further into the southern and eastern part of the neighborhood (as I did), or close to 25th Street, you could take the 9 up to 20th Avenue and then take a brisk 5-minute walk across that bridge. The 7 also cuts north through Seward (along 27th Avenue) and up Riverside, although it only runs about once every half an hour. Both of these are much more convenient if you'll be based on the West Bank of the U than the East Bank, though.

I had several friends in grad school who lived in Northeast, and while it's a wonderful area, it is much more difficult to commute to the U from there. If you plan on driving to/parking on campus most of the time anyway, that might not matter, but it's a pain otherwise.

Best of luck, wherever you end up!
posted by Austenite at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2014

Sounds like anything around Franklin is where I want to be.

Whittier, Ventura Village/Phillips, Seward, Cedar-Riverside, all of that sounds like the place to be for my desires. Thanks for all the input so far! If there's other ideas for where I should look, please let me know!
posted by Modica at 7:49 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

These neighborhood recommendations all sound great, but I wanted to point out that while you ride the bus for an hour now in Austin, you do not wait for or ride the bus in sub-zero temperatures. It has been in the negative 30s with windchill several times the last month or so. They canceled school five times in January because it was too cold for kids to wait for the bus.

Wherever you look, test out your commute and think about how it will feel in the winter if the buses are delayed by half an hour and it's actively snowing.

ETA: Just saw in your profile that you are in Iowa? Your reference to Austin threw me. Still. It's been COLD here for bus riders. Don't overlook it!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:03 PM on February 2, 2014

I've been in Austin for almost two years now, but I grew up in Iowa. Spent 22 years there. The cold is the cold. No way around it. Went to college in Iowa, walking through the ridiculous snowfall and the wind sending that -20 wind chill right into your face. It sucks somethin' fierce. But I will have a car for days like that, if need be. I'd just rather not drive and deal with parking and all that hassle.
posted by Modica at 8:15 PM on February 2, 2014

Congrats, Modica! One suggestion I haven't seen yet is the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Most famous for Mayday festivities, it's an awesome and diverse 'hood where almost all the activists I know/knew in town seemed to live. There is an express bus to and from the U at rush hour time on Cedar, and some friends on facebook were just discussing other MetroTransit possibilities. I can't find the thread. But it can be done! Best of luck with the move.
posted by kickingthecrap at 8:20 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it sounds to me like you'd be interested in Whittier: between Franklin and Lake, between Lyndale and 35. I used to live on 1st Ave and 25th St. It's more diverse than some other neighborhoods south of Franklin (uptown, seward). Lots of families, immigrants, grad students, young professionals, but without rampant condo development. Nicollet has some cool stuff - some cafes, restaurants, Ice House for jazz, a climbing gym, and some pleasant bars. The 2 goes along Franklin to campus, and it's also close to the Greenway. Close to MIA, well-served by grocery stores. You should be able to find a 2br for under 1100.

Some quick thoughts:
Cedar-Riverside is a very small neighborhood. It's mostly these highrises that are predominantly Somali, and a couple intersections that are mostly bars.

Seward is nice. Lots of grad students, lots of young families who drive hybrids and shop at the co-op. Cafes. Very nice neighborhood feel. It's not dangerous, like another poster said. Nor is it particularly diverse.

Echo that you can look at neighborhoods along University. The new light rail line will run right through the U's campus. But I don't know much about those neighborhoods.

Dinkytown is an undergrad fest, with all the amenities for undergrads. Marcy-Holmes never seemed pleasant to me. Just large roads, apartment buildings, and proximity to frat houses.

Uptown used to be cool. There's an express bus to campus. There is a bunch of condo development. There are a lot of people who drive in from the suburbs to get drunk at the bars and restaurants. The further from the intersection of Hennepin and Lake, the better.

Parts of Phillips/Ventura Village can be rough - ie, some fairly open drug dealing in Peavey Field, some drunks along Franklin.

Powderhorn: diversity, communities, families, punks, activists, cheap housing, food desert.

I don't know anything about Northeast.

Happy to talk further if you'd like - feel free to message me.
posted by entropone at 6:53 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you live in Marcy Holmes west of 6th or 7th St SE, it gets considerably quieter. There are students yet but more residents as well. I've lived in Marcy Holmes for five-ish years now and enjoy it a lot. Additionally, the 2 bus to campus starts out in Marcy Holmes and you can get to the Minneapolis campus in under 15 minutes. Also incredibly easy to bike in better weather too. Diversity is just so so, you'll see a lot more diversity in the grad students who live in the neighborhood.
I've come across this site in terms of renting just in the neighborhood. Haven't used it but it might be useful?
posted by mlo at 7:29 AM on February 3, 2014

I live in Seward and love it, but I wanted to add a couple things to what people mentioned above: Seward is very multicultural, in large part because the section of it that is adjacent to Cedar-Riverside has a high East African population. However, the part of the neighborhood south of Franklin is mostly white. I am involved in neighborhood groups, and there is a conscious effort to bridge the gap between these parts of our community, but I just think you should be aware that it's not "multicultural" in the way that everyone is living on the same street.

Seward is one of the most politically liberal areas of Minneapolis (one of the most liberal voting blocks in the US, actually). People are politically aware, passionate and committed to issues. They are also very community-oriented, and there are a lot of opportunities to get involved if you are interested (neighborhood newsletter, arts events, festivals, etc). There are a lot of small businesses on Franklin, several really good neighborhood restaurants, a lovely grocery co-op, a "makers" organization where you can join and have access to cooperatively used large machinery and tools, lots of artists studios, a clay center, a meditation center, a great independent hardware store--you won't have to leave the neighborhood if you don't want to.

I find the community very authentic, but I could see where people could make fun of its liberal idealism (perhaps similar to Austin or Portland?).

I don't find the neighborhood unusually dangerous at all--it's a mostly residential neighborhood. Franklin and Lake St are busy roads with buses and a couple of bars, but I really don't think safety is a big concern here. I have never been hassled in Seward or seen anyone mugged, and I am a small woman who takes the bus alone every day. I don't feel really comfortable waiting at the light rail bus stop on Franklin at night alone, but that's the only time I would be worried. I find East Lake Street to be more threatening at night--I used to leave work over there and bike home, and did get hassled and bothered on my way.

If you live on the North side of Seward by Franklin (as I do) the University is a fairly easy walk. Otherwise you can take the #7 bus. I would check the bus lines and think about your commute as you look at potential places to live, since that can make a big difference if you don't have a car. You absolutely will not want to drive to class regularly because parking around the U is terrible and expensive! I like my location because I can take the 2 West to Whittier/Uptown, the 7 to downtown and soon will have the light rail to St. Paul.

Based on your preferences, I would avoid Uptown, Whittier and Dinkytown, as they are mostly undergrad-age rental areas and are more rambunctious and crazy in the evening. I lived in Whittier and did like it, but Seward has many more people who are living here for the long haul versus younger renters, so there is a stronger community feel. The rentals in Seward are mostly duplexes, and are just within your price range. They are in high demand, though, so you will have to be on the lookout.

Northeast is an awesome neighborhood with many of the same good qualities Seward has (small businesses, community connections, artist haven), but the commute is definitely not as easy. Maybe the area of Northeast along University, but that tends to be undergrads again.

Powderhorn is similarly awesome but trickier to commute from--though I see kickingthecrap mentions an Express bus. They also don't have a good grocery store, but do have some great neighborhood cafes. It's less expensive than Seward.

Cedar-Riverside is a great place for food and world class live music at the Cedar, but the rentals are mostly high rises and it is more urban than residential. There is a large community of East African people there.

I would be happy to answer any more questions you have--I love introducing people to my city! Welcome!
posted by ialwayscryatendings at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2014

I forgot one more thing! The Phillips neighborhood between Seward and Whittier. The American Indian Cultural Corridor is in Phillips, and there is a high Native population there. I would say it is truly multicultural, with a lot of immigrant and minority populations, plenty of African American people and a lot of racial diversity generally. Lake Street has a lot of Mexican shops. There are restaurants along Franklin and East Lake on either side of the neighborhood, and the Midtown Global Market is a great food destination and a place to get groceries. It's a less expensive place to live, too. I know there are some public housing developments as well. I don't know of music venues there. Definitely not "hipster."

However, the Phillips sections of Franklin and Lake Street are both rougher areas, especially at night. My experience with public transit at night there has sometimes been a bit threatening, and I wouldn't want to walk around there at night alone (daytime is fine). I think the residential areas between Franklin and Lake would be okay, but it's something to consider. Some of the other busy crossroads, like Bloomington, are a little rough too. It has a higher statistical crime rate than other areas of South Minneapolis. You can check Minneapolis crime information here (This reminds me that there has been a recent spate of people breaking into duplexes to rob them during the day in Seward).

I haven't lived in Phillips myself, but I have a coworker who has lived there for a long time, raised his family there, and is really invested in the community ties he has made. He loves it.
posted by ialwayscryatendings at 9:52 AM on February 3, 2014

Hahaha, I guess I made a typo in my original post that I didn't see until I checked my MeMail.

I meant "booze" heavy, not "goose" heavy.

So Whittier is more undergrad than Seward? It seems like the opposite would be the case, that Seward is where a lot of the transient hipster types would be, so close to downtown and with all these hipster-y things to do/see/going on.

But really, it seems like everywhere along Franklin would be good. Phillips and Whittier sound best. That bit about all the folks driving hybrids, shopping at the co-op, ehh. That's the kind of thing that I have a bad taste in my mouth about.

I am going up to visit in Mid-March so I'm gonna check some places out in person too.
posted by Modica at 10:53 AM on February 3, 2014

I guess I read you wrong the first time. If you don't like co-ops and hybrids you won't like Seward.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2014

So Whittier is more undergrad than Seward?

It's hard to judge. My impression of the 2 is that there are more undergrads in Seward, concentrated in a couple of large-ish apartment buildings on Franklin. However, Whittier is fairly large and I feel like it could be split into two distinct pieces and there's a bigger undergrad presence the closer you get to Lyndale--most of the people on the 2 (who live far enough from Lyndale that they're not taking the 113) seem to be either normal people or grad students. However, MCAD is at 25th and 3rd, so I imagine there's an undergrad presence in the immediate vicinity (and since they're MCAD students, they're not on the bus with me). There is, however, a decided thing of people from Minnesota having their first apartment in either Stevens Square or Whittier. My building is definitely a mix of a bunch of people who've been there for years and undergrad/recent graduate types who move on fairly quickly. It does seem like the undergrad demographic is growing, however.

Close to MIA, well-served by grocery stores.

This was about Whittier. I'd disagree. You've mentioned having a car. If you live in any neighbourhood along Franklin, assume you will be either shopping at a co-op (expensive), a not very good Aldi or driving to buy groceries. (There is a decent-sized Asian supermarket at 28th and Nicollet or so. Depending on your food preferences, it might suffice.) I've mostly shopped at the Wedge because it beats the Aldi and is walkable, but it's expensive. The Uptown Rainbow is fairly expensive, not very good and the bus runs every 20-30 minutes on weekends, but doesn't keep its schedule very well, so you spend a lot of time waiting for the bus. I've been experimenting with taking the 18 to the Cub at 59th lately, which is fine, but a tad time consuming.

However, the Phillips sections of Franklin and Lake Street are both rougher areas, especially at night. My experience with public transit at night there has sometimes been a bit threatening, and I wouldn't want to walk around there at night alone (daytime is fine).

I walk from Franklin and Chicago to roughly Franklin and Nicollet at about 9.15pm at least semi-regularly during winter. I walk partly because I don't want to spend the time to wait for the 2 and partly because I don't feel particularly comfortable waiting for a bus there at night. It's not my first choice of place to walk and I wouldn't have headphones in whatever, but it's okay. I might feel differently in summer, when there are people doing stuff besides trying to get inside as quickly as possible, but I bike in summer, so I'm never there.
posted by hoyland at 12:43 PM on February 3, 2014

Well, I'll chime in for Northeast Minneapolis, which is where I live. I've always considered myself a south Minneapolis person, but I mostly love it here (the only thing I don't like is the longer distance from most of the places I go to, which mostly seem to be on the west side of the city). One of the things I love the most is that I feel safer here than I did in most places around south Mpls that I was looking at while searching for my house (and I've lived all over south Mpls). I regularly take my dogs for walks at night and I'm never even the slightest bit nervous in my neighborhood. I didn't know NE very well when I moved here but I'm getting to know the little nooks and crannies and there are some great little areas here. You might like the arts district. It sounds like you might have already ruled it out based on other things, but if you are interested, I'm willing to tell you anything I can.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:48 PM on February 3, 2014

I agree with hoyland's assessment--Stevens Square/Whittier has a lot of people in their first apartments out of college--including myself a few years ago! I lived right by MCAD, so a lot of my neighbors were students from the art school (which might be the type of pretentious youngsters you want to avoid..). It might be different in different areas, but my experience of Whittier was definitely one of lots of young renters going to school, working customer service jobs, throwing loud house parties at night and living the post-college life. There are more apartment buildings, so the population is more dense. Parking was more difficult (especially during snow emergencies). I also had to call the police a couple of times when I lived there due to drunken people passed out in the street, overhearing domestic fights from my neighbor's house, my upstairs neighbor getting high and playing ridiculously loud techno music at 3 in the morning on a Wednesday and other things. One of my friends was mugged near Franklin. I would say it's generally safe, but another place I don't feel comfortable walking around or waiting for the bus in at night. Nicollet is a major bus line straight into downtown, so there are a lot of people who don't actually live in the neighborhood hanging out on that corridor. Despite how Seward may look close to downtown, it's much more of a straight shot from Whittier because the bus line is direct down Nicollet. From Seward, the bus has to go through Cedar-Riverside and curve through the warehouse area where the Guthrie is located to get to downtown.

My personal experience was of moving from Whittier to Seward when I wasn't really interested in that scene anymore, and finding Seward to be more late 20s/early 30s renters in duplexes mixed with families or other people who own their homes and have been here for a long time. It is not a party neighborhood the way I found Whittier to be (but it could just be my experience and who I knew/know and where I was and now am in my life. confirmation bias.).

Another thing is that the Whittier portion of Nicollet is known as "Eat Street" because traditionally there were a lot of small, family-owned, immigrant-run restaurants lining the street. Many of those are still there, but now there are also a few more upscale places mixed in. It's a great eating destination. I do worry that it's gentrifying, though, and I hope the small places will survive next to the new places. I love the food at Ice House and Eat Street Social and the coffee at Spyhouse. I am excited that the Wedge Co-op is planning to open a corner store there, because I still work in Whittier. I am concerned that the small places will get priced out though, and that the character of the neighborhood is changing. The immigrant communities who run the restaurants don't seem to live in the neighborhood from what I could tell, though Whittier's tagline is "the international neighborhood."

I agree with BabeTheBlueOX that if you aren't into co-ops and hybrids, Seward may not be for you (at least the southern part). Definitely check out Whittier, Phillips and Seward when you visit, though, and visit Northeast even if you don't think it would work to live there because it is lovely. You will be able to tell a lot more through first hand experience. Congrats on getting into school!

tl;dr: I have found fewer geese in Seward than in Whittier.
posted by ialwayscryatendings at 7:31 PM on February 3, 2014

Let me comment for like the fourth time... (ialwayscryatendings keeps prompting me to say things--blame them! I do think they're suffering from confirmation bias wrt the number of parties. I probably am as well, but in the other direction. That said, Stevens Square and Whittier are likely a bit different, even though they seem like they should be fairly similar.)

I walked down Nicollet to 26th and back last night* and when I got home almost came into this thread and said "Whittier is on the verge of gentrification, if it's not already happening". Most of the new stuff is going into storefronts that have been empty for a while, though the new Wedge is replacing an Asian grocery store that only closed recently, so I don't know if that closed of its own accord or got priced out. Apartment rents are heading upward. My rent increased significantly this past year, but I won't know until I get my lease renewal notice if that was a one-time recalibration (my rent had increased $5 in the last five years and was low to begin with) or if that's the way things will be now.

*Which I think is a safe enough thing to do, for the record. I did have to cross the street to avoid a passing a guy who seemed to be having an argument with the universe while blocking the sidewalk and I figured it was easier to not interrupt him. The bus stops at Franklin/Nicollet tend to skew towards the intoxicated at night, which makes them not great.
posted by hoyland at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2014

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