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05.14.2014
Green Central
Minneapolis' multimodal transit station and public plaza hopes to catalyze real estate development.
Courtesy Perkins Eastman

A new multimodal transit station and public square in downtown Minneapolis opens May 17, transforming the area off the Minnesota Twins’ left field into what its designers are calling “the Grand Central Station of the Twin Cities.”

Retail and restaurants will front directly onto public spaces designed to drum up the buzz of commercial activity and give the area a sense of place, linking downtown Minneapolis with a rapidly developing loft district in the nearby North Loop neighborhood. New York–based Perkins Eastman called the concept “open transit”—a principle of placemaking and real estate development that draws its inspiration from New York’s Grand Central Station.

“We want to make it so attractive for people to go there that they’ll go even if they’re not taking transit at all,” said Peter Cavaluzzi, principal at Perkins Eastman affiliate EE&K and a design lead on the project. He pointed out that less than half of Grand Central’s 750,000 daily visitors actually board a train.

 
 

Unlike the beaux-arts beauty of Grand Central’s cavernous terminal, the design for Target Field Station looks outward to the surrounding urban context. Minneapolis may have legendary winters, but its residents identify with a love of the outdoors, as can be seen in the city’s thriving bike culture. At Target Field Station, formerly called The Interchange, a promenade and two levels of public plazas take the place of Grand Central’s Main Concourse and subterranean spaces.

The site’s “Great Lawn” covers 286 parking spaces, offering public green space for community events and pre-game gatherings for the adjacent Target Field baseball stadium. A small amphitheater dubbed “The Cascade” calls to mind Minneapolis’ Saint Anthony Falls or, more literally, the Bethesda Terrace Stairs in New York’s Central Park. The design also looks to Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater, whose inspiration can be seen not just in the geometry of The Cascade’s steps, but in its function as a thrust stage for performances.

 

“We made the station itself a backdrop to a live performance stage,” said Cavaluzzi. “We’re mixing culture and transit in a way that hasn’t been done before.” Descending from the Great Lawn space, The Cascade flows down below the LRT line, finding a stage between an elevated rail and underground parking.

The theater’s backdrop includes the station’s signature architectural gesture: a swooping elliptical canopy for the light rail station. “Because it’s a station interwoven with the urban fabric, it’s very much about placemaking,” said Michael Imranyi, a Perkins Eastman senior associate and key player in the project. “We thought of the station canopy’s shape as a very iconic and singular form. It’s very clear in terms of its geometry.”

It is also clearly positioned over the intersection of 5th Street and 5th Avenue, which the designers identified as the project’s focal point. “As part of our design we said, ‘let’s put the center of gravity, the center of the universe right at that intersection,” said Cavaluzzi, “and bring all the energy to that one location so that it can function as a grand arrival and gateway both to downtown and to the North Loop.”

 
 

In their goal to use transit infrastructure as a catalyst for real estate development, the project team has had mixed success so far. Excitement around the project’s May 17 opening is high, but recently a proposal to develop one of three adjacent parcels into a mixed-use building fell through. The largest parcel is targeted for a 250,000-square-foot development, but initial plans to anchor it with Hennepin County offices were abandoned. A café is under construction for one of the adjacent parcels, which fronts directly onto Station Square.

During winter, steam from the neighboring Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) will melt snow and ice from walkways and stairs, filtering the water through Station Square’s green space and reusing the excess in HERC’s power plant facility.

As an urban nexus, the project will connect more than 500 trains arriving and departing daily via the METRO Blue Line (Hiawatha LRT), METRO Green Line (Central Corridor LRT), and Northstar Commuter Rail, as well as more than 1,900 daily bus trips passing by just one block away. Bike trails and pedestrian crossings crisscross the design.

Chris Bentley