Minneapolis takes a cue from the Netherlands with city’s first woonerf shared street

Development Midwest News Transportation Urbanism
A woonerf street in Jimbocho, Tokyo. (Rob Ketcherside via Flickr)

A woonerf street in Jimbocho, Tokyo. (Rob Ketcherside via Flickr)

A residential development in downtown Minneapolis is set to give the city its first woonerf, a road type developed in the Netherlands that integrates vehicle traffic and parking with pedestrians, bicyclists and public amenities.

The BKV Architects–designed Mill City Quarter housing breaks ground later this year, starting with a six-story building that will include up to 150 rental housing units priced to be affordable for those making 60 percent of the metropolitan median income or less. Later phases will add more units, say developers Wall Cos. and Lupe Development Partners, including 45 units for those with memory problems and 105 for assisted and independent living.

Mill City Quarter phase one, as viewed from 2nd Street and 3rd Avenue. (BKV Architects)

Mill City Quarter phase one, as viewed from 2nd Street and 3rd Avenue. (BKV Architects)

Taking up the block at the northwest corner of 2nd Street and 3rd Avenue, the development hopes to connects the Mill District—home to the popular riverside Mill City Museum, Guthrie Theater, and soon a massive mixed-use development in the shadow of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium—with the rehabbed warehouses and thriving cultural scene of the North Loop neighborhood.

Bisecting that block is a former rail corridor leading toward Mississippi River trails and a riverside visitor center that Minneapolis’ Park Board has proposed for just downstream of the 3rd Avenue Bridge. Mill City Quarter’s developers have agreed to make that side street into a woonerf with 80 diagonal parking spaces flanking colored pavement demarcating reduced-speed vehicle traffic, green space, bike lanes and pedestrian zones.

Minneapolis’ Park Board approved plans for the “amenity-rich plaza street,” through the $73.8 million development, but expressed concerns over developer and former City Council member Steve Minn’s plans to install a gate at the park end of the woonerf, which he said he’d keep closed during park off-hours, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

By exempting the development from a new parks law that would require them to donate land to public space, the Park Board gave their agreement some teeth—if the developers restrict public access to the land they could be on the hook for $61,400.

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