Posts tagged with "Minneapolis":

Placeholder Alt Text

James Corner–designed pedestrian street, the Nicollet Mall, gets budgetary rethink in Minneapolis

MinneapolisJames Corner–designed Nicollet Mall redevelopment project has hit a speedbump as an initial construction bid has come in at over $24 million over the $35 million construction budget. The Nicollet Mall is a 50-year-old pedestrian and transit street in the heart of Minneapolis. Historically the commercial center of the city, the mall was given over to pedestrians, buses, and taxis in 1965 in an attempt to bring shoppers back from the suburbs, and the growing popularity of enclosed malls. Edina, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis, is home to the first enclosed modern mall in the U.S., designed by Victor Gruen in 1956. The Nicollet Mall was given a makeover in the 1980s as well, but it has been nearly 30 years since the Mall has seen any major improvements. The new plan, based on a competition winning design by James Corner Field Operations, incorporates a series of event spaces along the street to engage the public. A two-block mirrored canopy walkway, a “reading room,” improved transit stations, and a theater in the round will activate the 12-block stretch of the downtown public space. Each end of the Mall will also include a “Wood” where more intensive green spaces will include larger native trees. The overall planned budget for the two year project is $50, but with only one construction company submitting a bid for $59 million for the construction alone, the projects organizers are having to rethink parts of their plan. The first step that may be taken is rethinking material choices for the project. One of the main sticking points in the budget is the plan for eight acres of the Mall to be paved in custom concrete tile pavers. Officials say that the main design elements for the project will not be sacrificed though in the new plan, and more bids will be solicited in February based on an altered design. To entice a more varied size of contractors, instead of one single bid, it is also likely that the project will be broken down in to smaller, more manageable segments. Major construction is still expected to begin in spring of 2016, with the completion date set for summer 2017.  
Placeholder Alt Text

The long history of a tall sidewalk: How elevated skywalks have failed cities in the United States

Skywalks, or elevated sidewalks, continually resurface as an urban solution to alleviate pedestrian traffic, provide additional retail space, and offer a safe alternative to sharing space with automobiles. However, each time a skywalk is actually realized, problems abound. The original elevated sidewalks are in Chester, England, and are believed to have been built in at least one iteration in the 13th century. Historians are unsure if the elevated sidewalks were implemented for retail opportunities or as flooding precaution, or both. Protected as a heritage site today, the Chester Rows inspired several master plans in the United States, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. In 1913, Scientific American published “The Elevated Sidewalk: How it Will Solve City Transportation Problems,” which made the logical claim that humans and cars shouldn’t be in the same place. Imposing traffic regulations would slow cars down, and having people and cars sharing the streets is dangerous. The proposal was to make Manhattan a “city of bridges” with pedestrians moving safely above ground while cars sped underneath. Yet this never happened in lieu of the signs and traffic regulations we use today. In the '60s, the idea of the elevated sidewalk resurged in nearly two dozen towns, including rather unlikely places such as Cincinnati, Ohio, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Morristown, Tennessee. The Minneapolis Skyway system was built in 1962 and had the added benefit of providing a climate-controlled path through the city in intense weather. For that same reason, St. Paul also implemented a similar Skyway. However, the pros are offset by some solid drawbacks—property disputes mean that it is often confusing as to who is responsible for maintaining the skywalks and a lack of commercial real estate along the walkways renders them desolate and perceived by the public as dangerous and crime-filled. Poor planning means that the sidewalks can be confusing and require maps; one example in particular is the “skyway to nowhere” on Wabasha Street in Minneapolis, which doesn’t connect to anything at all. Inspired by Minneapolis, the city of Cincinnati created its own robust skywalk system that opened in 1971 to help downtown retailers compete with enclosed malls and make it easier to navigate the downtown area. More segments were added well through the '90s, and for awhile, appear to be used quite regularly. But by 2002, the skywalks were falling into disrepair and the city’s “2002 Center City Plan” found that they actually were causing downtown economic activity to decline. The plan reported that when pedestrians bypassed the street, it made the downtown look abandoned and thus, a less desirable place to linger and spend money. In 2005, then-mayor Charlie Luken told The New York Times that the Skywalk is "ugly" and the space underneath is "yucky." The skyway is slowly being dismantled one chunk at a time. Morristown is particularly fraught over its elevated skywalk system, called the SkyMart, that was built in 1962 after the downtown was flooded and the commercial district was nearly wiped out. As was commonly the case around the country, the walkway system did not succeed in competing with malls, proved to be expensive to maintain, and, overall, did not live up to the expectations of the civic leaders. In one camp, supporters believe it is unique to the city and a “national treasure.” The other side deems it to be a hindrance to progress, unnecessarily expensive, and underused. It was submitted to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1990s, but it was denied. Recently, the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance posted an article on Facebook in support of the SkyMart. Comments in response offer insight into the local’s perspective. “Oh, are there businesses on the second level?” asked a commenter. “Yes! Downtown Crossroads Association’s office is on the skywalk,” responded another. “One?” the original commenter replied. There was no response. This seems to be the wide sweeping problem in all cities with elevated skywalks. Instead of bustling hubs of commerce and safe, weather-protected passageways through cities, they are deserted, confusing, and/or dangerous. Similar issues arise in tunnel systems built in cities like Dallas and Houston. "It was the worst urban planning decision that Dallas has ever made. They thought it was hip and groovy to create an underground community, but it was a death knell," Dallas Mayor Laura Miller told The New York Times in 2005. It’s a little unclear to us why this seems to be the case over and over again. Successful skywalks exist in Hong Kong, Copenhagen recently installed a popular bike skyway, and Mumbai is currently building out its skywalk system that, while controversial, is actively being used. Population density of American cities versus Asian or European cities or simple human preferences of habit could contribute to their failure. Let AN know: Why do you think skywalks have been unsuccessful? Alternatively, if you know of a successful skywalk, tell us about it in the comments below.
Placeholder Alt Text

Hargreaves unveils Downtown East Commons, a park in the shadow of the Minnesota Vikings

Last year Minneapolis broke ground on a major mixed-use development centered around a park next to the under-construction stadium that will house the Minnesota Vikings football team. Now dubbed “The Commons,” the 4.2-acre park was the subject of a public meeting last week, at which its design came into clearer focus. Designed by San Francisco's Hargreaves Associates, the site has a lot going on, in the words of MinnPost's Marlys Harris: “a café, promenades, a Great Lawn, a lesser lawn, a water feature, play areas for kids, a stage, garden-y places, trees (of course), places to compete at bocce and chess, kiosks, an ice rink in winter, tables with umbrellas, moveable chairs, public art and benches and terraces where public snogging could occur.” It will also accommodate fan festivals and other Vikings-related events on game days. Hargreaves fielded a reported 2,750 survey responses while designing the park, whose budget is projected at $22 million. Only a small portion of that has been raised, and public officials have said the space will be financed by private donations. As public discussion of the democratically designed space continues, budget adjustments may align with Harris' call "to survey the public on what they could live without." One remaining question is whether Portland Avenue, which currently bisects the park site, will remain open to automobile traffic.
Placeholder Alt Text

Plans for 30 miles of protected bike lanes in downtown Minneapolis put bike plans in your city to shame

A plan to add 30.7 miles of protected bike lanes to city streets by 2020 goes before Minneapolis City Council this month, potentially bringing the total of dedicated bikeways to 44 miles over the next five years. Bike infrastructure in the Twin Cities is nationally recognized, but not everyone in the region is convinced it's a wise investment, reports the Star-Tribune:
Protected bikeways represent a victory for cycling activists and are a gamble that at least $6 million in new taxpayer funding will increase ridership.
Most of the new bike lanes are proposed for the downtown core. None of the protected lanes scheduled to be completed by 2017 lie north of 26th Avenue North or south of East 28th Street—a decision transportation officials said makes sense if the goal is to increase ridership and improve access to the greatest number of people. Government financing at the city, county, and federal levels has topped $6 million. All of the protected bikeways recommended through 2020 are estimated to cost somewhere between $6.4 million and $11.6 million, but the Star-Tribune pointed out that the city estimates the cost of reconstructing a single mile of major street for general traffic at more than $8 million. Another 12 miles are proposed for construction after 2020. PDF: [planned long-term bicycle network]
Placeholder Alt Text

Minneapolis planners pick 36-story tower for Nicollet Hotel block

City planners in Minneapolis have named a winner in the public competition to redevelop a downtown lot that had locals reevaluating the place of tall towers in the Twin Cities. After first rejecting an 80-story tower proposal that would have become the tallest building in Minnesota, the planners picked a 36-story tower and hotel complex proposed by United Properties, based in suburban Bloomington, Minn. "The Gateway," a 36-story tower and hotel complex, was recommended by city planners for Minneapolis' Nicollet Hotel Block. (United Properties) United is owned by members of the family that also own the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise, who came under fire when the construction of the Twins stadium, Target Field, received substantial public financing. By contrast the new tower will be privately funded. The project, dubbed The Gateway, offers 300 units and a full-service Hilton hotel designed by Duluth-based LHB Corp. United is partnering with FRM Associates—the property owner of Marquette Plaza—to extend Cancer Survivors Park, a nearby green space, connecting it with a “year-round, street-level activity park” at The Gateway's base. That park is supposed to connect with a trolley car planned to open in 2018. Although the proposal awaits approval from city council, the city planners' recommendation virtually guarantees its success. Their selection of United's proposal reverses plans to present the remaining proposals to the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association on February 16—a move that has stirred some controversy among local skyline-watchers who favored the 80-story proposal in an online poll. The Gateway was the second tallest of the four proposals. Since 1991 the site at the northern end of downtown's Nicollet Mall has been a surface parking lot and bus stop. “This end of Nicollet Mall really starts to get very quiet as the day ends, and it needs a catalyst to bring new life and new vigor,” Bill Katter, executive vice president of investments for United Properties, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Placeholder Alt Text

HGA Updates a Minneapolis Landmark

Slate-clad addition to the American Swedish Institute evokes contemporary Scandinavian design.

Minneapolis-based architecture, engineering, and planning firm HGA faced a tall order when the American Swedish Institute asked them to design an addition to the building known locally as "The Castle." The turreted Turnblad Mansion, constructed in Minneapolis' Phillips West neighborhood in 1908 and home of ASI since 1929, lacked the kinds of multi-purpose spaces required by ASI's cultural and educational programming—and was suffering wear and tear from a steady stream of visitors. "The project was about creating a front door that was more welcoming and inviting than the existing building, that can help protect the mansion and allow it to be used as a house museum," said project architect Andy Weyenberg. At the same time,  "the mansion remained the focal point," he explained. "It will always be the identity of ASI. Everything we did, we wanted to respect the mansion and keep it as a centerpiece." HGA's intervention honors the primacy of the Turnblad Mansion while updating ASI's image with a contemporary facade inspired by Swedish building methods and materials.
  • Facade Manufacturer Vermont Slate Company (slate), Architectural Glass Art (art glass), Empirehouse (curtain walls)
  • Architects HGA Architects and Engineers
  • Facade Installer Dalco (slate), Empirehouse (curtain wall and glazing)
  • Facade Consultant Xcel Energy (daylighting analysis)
  • Location Minneapolis, MN
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • System slate shingles, art glass panels, curtain walls, glazing, green roof
  • Products Vermont Slate shingles, custom art glass from Architectural Glass Art, Empirehouse custom curtain walls Viracon glazing
"The mansion doesn't relate well to the Swedish identity: it's a French Chateau," said Weyenberg. "ASI wanted to use the addition to reinforce their identity as a Swedish institution, but they were interested in doing that in a modern way, relating it more to modern Swedish design and architecture." Positioned across a courtyard, or gård (a traditional typology found in both rural and urban buildings), from the Turnblad Mansion, the new Nelson Cultural Center is clad primarily in slate shingles. "Slate is a common building material in Scandinavia, especially dark slate like that," explained Weyenberg, who says that it is primarily used as a roofing material, but that he has seen examples of slate cladding since working on ASI's expansion. The slate also matches that on the Turnblad Mansion's roof. "We're using material that's sympathetic to the mansion, but using it in a different way. It's clearly a new piece of architecture," said Weyenberg. He points out that although there's nothing particularly high-tech about how the cladding was installed—it is hung like a roof system—it promises environmental benefits in terms of durability and longevity. "The roof on the mansion has been in place 100 years," observed Weyenberg. The entrance to Nelson Cultural Center is lined with panes of blue textured glass, another nod to Swedish design. Sweden is known for its glassmaking, having produced art glass firms including Orrefors and Kosta Boda. ASI's collection also includes a number of significant glass pieces. "That was another way of tying the design back to Sweden, and creating a reference to the ASI's collection, while also creating a bold element at the entry," said Weyenberg. HGA worked with Louisville, Kentucky, glassmakers Architectural Glass Art (AGA) to combine layers of commercially available textured glass and resin to create the translucent panels. "There's not a strong reference in terms of its construction to Swedish glassmaking," said Weyenberg, "but there was a process in terms of working with AGA as a craftsman to come to a quality we all liked. We wanted something subtle in texture but with an organic quality that relates well to the slate." HGA took advantage of a consulting program sponsored by local energy provider Xcel Energy to locate windows and curtain walls to frame views of the mansion and maximize daylighting while minimizing energy loss. Other features contributing to Nelson Cultural Center's LEED Gold status include a vegetated roof over the gallery and event spaces. "Green roofs are a really common form of building in Sweden," said Weyenberg. "They've been building sod roofs on farm buildings forever." Nelson Cultural Center's contemporary design reflects ASI's commitment to celebrating the Swedish influence on the Twin Cities while connecting with Minneapolis' next generation of newcomers—including, in the Phillips West neighborhood, young Somali immigrants. "As part of this expansion, they were really trying to update their identity and keep themselves current," said Weyenberg. "Their core constituency is aging. They were looking for a way to keep themselves relevant, and to reach out to new audiences."
Placeholder Alt Text

Minneapolis breaks ground on massive downtown east development

Earlier this month, workers broke ground on the largest Twin Cities real estate development project in two decades. Budding off a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, designed by HKS, locally based Ryan Companies saw an opportunity to redefine the Minneapolis neighborhood of Downtown East. Their five-block mixed-use development will include two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo, six levels of parking with more than 1,600 spaces, about 24,000 square feet of retail space, 193 apartments and a four-acre urban park near the new stadium’s northwest corner. Wells Fargo currently has 5,000 employees scattered across more than a dozen offices throughout the area. Bordering the Mississippi River, Downtown East is already home to the Guthrie Theater, whose form mimics the defunct flour mills that comprise much of the area’s post-industrial building stock—a heritage celebrated by the Mill City Museum, also in Downtown East. And while some residential development has followed those cultural attractions, the neighborhood has so far missed out on the artistic cachet that has enlivened nearby areas like North Loop and Northeast. The New York Times took a look at what the Downtown East development could mean for the city and state, which wrestled with financing for the new Vikings Stadium before ultimately approving partial public funding. While officials are quick to tout the project’s economic potential, some residents blast its lack of low-income housing. From the Times article by Christina Capecchi:
Mayor [Betsy] Hodges said she hoped to work affordable housing into Downtown East. “The housing portion hasn’t been fully fleshed out,” she said, “so that’s a conversation we’re having.” Ultimately, Downtown East is a chance to spur the development that the 31-year-old Metrodome failed to generate, said Michael Langley, chief executive of the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership. “This is an opportunity for a huge do-over,” he said.
Minneapolis has undertaken a slew of large infrastructure improvements lately, such as a revamp of downtown's pedestrian strip, Nicollet Mall, and public transportation investments to the bike-friendly city that include a long-awaited light rail connection to neighboring St. Paul and an intermodal transit station next to Target Field.
Placeholder Alt Text

Minneapolis mayor cheers on Nicollet Mall revamp

As a team of designers gear up for an overhaul of Nicollet Mall, dubbed Minneapolis’ main street, civic leaders there have cheered on the project in an op-ed in the StarTribune. Mayor Betsy Hodges and Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, write of the plan to revamp 12 blocks of pedestrian and public transit thoroughfare:
Never before has the need to leverage the mall as “the” public square providing space for a range of users been more apparent. This is our opportunity to elevate our offerings to ensure we can compete with other cities for tourism dollars, remain home to corporate headquarters, continue to grow the city, and attract new generations of families and employees while developing a space that will serve generations to come.
Minneapolis lacks a visible tourist magnet, they write, like Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Boston’s Newbury Street or Beale Street in Memphis. New York–based James Corner Field Operations won a design competition last year for a plan draw up with local firms Julie Snow Architects and Coen+Partners. As Hodges and Cramer write, Nicollet Mall was originally built in 1968, just as many Twin Cities residents were flocking to the suburbs. Now, with some of that momentum bending back to downtown, the op-ed authors and others are hoping to capture some of the economic impact of projects like New York’s High Line, which was also designed by James Corner Field Operations. What does this mean for the rest of downtown Minneapolis? Hodges and Cramer say the public-private partnership model that built the mall almost 50 years ago should be revived to ensure that the Twin Cities “take this opportunity to further enhance downtown.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Julie Snow Architects changes name, promotes new co-principal

One of the country’s most prominent female-led firms has named a new co-principal. Julie Snow Architects will now go by Snow Kreilich Architects. Matthew Kreilich, one of Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal's "40 Under 40” in 2013, is now a partner and design principal of the Twin Cities-based firm. Kreilich has worked at Julie Snow Architects for 10 years. Snow’s work includes Target's Minneapolis headquarters, the Lake Superior Weekend House, and the U.S. point of entry in Warroad, Minnesota. The firm is part of a design team recently selected to lead an overhaul of Minneapolis "main street" (Nicollet Mall), along with James Corner Field Operations and Coen+Partners. (Julie Snow also serves on A|N’s Midwest editorial advisory board.) The firm also updated their web address: www.snowkreilich.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

Minneapolis City Council to vote on mixed-use makeover for Downtown East neighborhood

In its last scheduled meeting of the year, Minneapolis City Council could give the go-ahead on a $400 million mixed-use development near the new Vikings stadium. Surface parking lots currently occupy much of that land. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board called the Downtown East neighborhood “a part of the city’s commercial core in desperate need of new life.” The newspaper stands to benefit from the project, as the editorial announces—they plan to sell five blocks of nearby property, including their current headquarters, and move downtown. With 1.1 million square feet of office space, apartments, retail space, and a park, the Ryan Cos. project could attract tax revenue to the city, as Wells Fargo is reportedly looking to anchor the development as a corporate tenant. It also includes a 1,625-space parking ramp. Mayor R.T. Rybak said that over 30 years the project will generate $42 million in property taxes for the city, $50 million for Hennepin County and $35 million for the Minneapolis public schools. The public-private partnership does not call for tax-increment financing. Instead, it asks the City Council to approve $65 million in bonds, to be paid off by revenue from the project’s parking ramp over 30 years. The developer would cover shortfalls for the first 10 years. Minneapolis has embarked on several large-scale urban redevelopment projects, including a makeover of the city's "Main Street" by James Corner Field Operations.
Placeholder Alt Text

Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza escapes demolition after preservationist lawsuit

Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza, a classic but poorly maintained “park plaza” (to borrow the term its designer, landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, coined to describe it), has escaped demolition, preservationists announced Friday. The Cultural Landscape Foundation said they’d reached a settlement to preserve the 1975 public space, ending a lawsuit brought by TCLF and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota in June 2012. It awaits the signature of Mayor R.T. Rybak. Last year, against objections from a coalition of preservationists led by TCLF, Peavey Plaza was slated to be razed. A rift had developed one year prior, after city-led redevelopment plans threatened key elements of the original design, prompting Friedberg and TCLF president Charles Birnbaum to split from the team tasked with bringing the aging modernist plaza up to contemporary standards. “Specific details beyond the general design concept have yet to be established,” read a TCLF press release. “The parties have conducted substantial work with each other on a rehabilitation of the Plaza in good faith with a focus on preservation of the historic elements of the Plaza, while permitting the Plaza to be changed and/or modified in order to achieve some of the objectives of the City.” Peavey Plaza landed on the National Register of Historic Places in January — one of a small fraction of sites on that list with significance in landscape architecture.
Placeholder Alt Text

Artists and City Government Collaborate for Urban Improvement in St. Paul

In St. Paul, Minnesota, public art is valued as more than just decoration. Susannah Schouweiler of Walker Magazine reported that the city has been proactive in the encouragement of artist-city government collaboration for nearly three decades, long before initiatives like ArtPlace became popular. City Artist in Residence positions exist on the government council, City Art Collaboratory puts artists in conversation with scientists to embed themselves in the “ecology” of the city, and art start-ups are encouraging business growth on “Central Corridor.” This cross-disciplinary relationship is only expanding in what Schouweiler calls St. Paul’s “quiet revolution in public art” and the city is reaping the benefits. Public Art St. Paul, a non-profit set up in 1987, provides private funding for creatives to hold City Artist in Residence positions within the city government. These artists are incorporated into city-led projects and initiatives, working with government officials, engineers, and public works officers on various capital projects, which create or renovate public buildings, public spaces, and streetscapes within St Paul. Since the enactment of a 2009 ordinance for the support of public art, St. Paul has integrated its artists even more into key planning, development, and improvement projects. Current resident city artist Marcus Young has worked directly with the Public Works Department since 2008. His public art initiatives have included Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk, a successful idea to replace broken sidewalks with new sections inscribed with poetry. The City Artist in Residence program was expanded in December 2012. Young now has a team of two other artists with which he works, Amanda Lovelee, a visual artist, and Sarah West, who is focused on improving streetspaces with "architectural and large-scale public art installations." Additionally, grassroots initiatives by local artists have brought pop-up shops to retail vacancies, explored an artistic reaction to the current light rail construction, and pondered an artist’s ability to improve the ecology of the Mississippi River. Exemplifying a forward-thinking relationship, the Public Art Ordinance states: “Public art strengthens public places and enhances and promotes Saint Paul's identity as a livable and creative city and a desirable place to live, work and visit.” With a government whose attitude toward art encourages these conversations, St. Paul continues to beautify, develop, and improve its public places.