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Posts about Parks and recreation

Deal allows bridge, not tunnel, at Kenilworth for SW light-rail line

Posted by: Updated: February 27, 2015 - 1:37 PM

Minneapolis park officials struck a deal with the Metropolitan Council on Friday that will allow for a bridge over the Kenilworth channel in Minneapolis for light-rail trains, a significant development in what had been a polarizing fight.

The deal between the Metro Council and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board removes one of two major remaining obstacles to the project. The other is a lawsuit brought by area residents.

“Thanks to the diligent work of the Park Board and project engineers, we now have a path forward for this critically important transit investment, which is a vital link in the 21st century transit system we will build here in the greater Twin Cities metro,” Council Chairman Adam Duininck said. “The Council is pleased to have the Park Board’s support for bridging the channel.”

The deal also reimburses the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board up to $750,000 for its already incurred costs for studying the alternative of a tunnel under the channel, other costs related to the project, and for costs involved with the future Bottineau rail line, which also crosses parkland the board controls.

In return, the deal to be acted on Wednesday by the Park Board drops the tunnel alternative that its engineering consultants determined to be a feasible alternative to a bridge that which park commissioners argued would be more intrusive on recreational users of the area.

"The Park Board is very optimistic about the new, more collaborative efforts for the ongoing work on the Southwest Light Rail, the Bottineau Line and any future mass transit that may impact parkland in the metro area," said Park Board President Liz Wielinski.

The resolution park board members will vote on declares that despite that feasibility, insisting on a tunnel wouldn’t be prudent because it would delay the Southwest line and drive up costs.

Feasibility and prudence are the two key factors under federal law that governs when transportation projects may disrupt parkland or must find alternatives.


26th, 28th each likely to get protected bike lanes

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: February 26, 2015 - 2:03 PM

Two major cross-city arteries on the South Side will get one-way protected bike lanes this year under a plan that’s being recommended by city transportation planners.

Adding one-way lanes to E. 26th and 28th streets won out over an alternative that would have installed a two-way protected lane on 26th. They’re part of a street resurfacing planned this year.

The protected bike lanes will offer a seven-foot-wide biking lane plus a seven-foot space lined with flexible plastic posts buffering the lane from motor traffic. The two streets now have no dedicated bike space.

The proposal covers 32 blocks on the two streets lying between Portland and Cedar avenues. That stretch such includes major businesses as Wells Fargo and the Chicago Avenue medical complex.  Additional planning will flesh out the design between Cedar and Hiawatha avenues.

The proposal stops at Portland in part because of a scheduled replacement of Interstate 35W bridges on the two streets. A draft city plan for protected bike lanes recommends continuing the protected lanes west to Hennepin Avenue by 2020.

The bike lanes will be accommodated by removing a lane or travel or by removing parking during peak travel periods.

The resurfacing project has already asked area residents in open houses what other changes they’d like to see on the two streets from the project  The proposed design would add six medians at intersections – four on 28th and two on 26th – so that pedestrians have a refuge partway across.

Simon Blenski, a city bike planner, said the proposed design goes back to major institutions, neighborhoods and pedestrian and biking representatives for a final review. Some who attended earlier sessions with the city opposed removing parking or traffic lanes, but others advocated for making it reach major employers, schools and parks by bike.   

Conservatory decision missing from sculpture park revamp

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: February 25, 2015 - 2:58 PM

There were plenty of thumbs up this week from an advisory committee for a planned redesign of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – even with a cost-saving scaleback of an earlier version.

But the issue of what happens to the garden’s Cowles Conservatory remains undecided.

The latest iteration of the revamped garden proposed by a consultant team trims a $15.1 million version of the renovation to $10.6 million. That’s closer to a project budget estimated at $10 million.

The budget cut means changes like more concrete and less crushed granite for the garden’s footpaths. That’s good for people in wheelchairs but some advisory committee members dislike the aesthetic impact. Other examples of budget-balancing cuts are the deletions of a set of granite steps from a Lyndale Avenue stop, and one of two sloping walks from Lyndale.

The advisory committee to the Park and Recreation Board met thinking the meeting was its last. But the fate of the conservatory and a potential narrowing of Vineland Place will bring them back again next month.

No one expects the conservatory to vanish. But under a mandate to make the park more sustainable, major changes to slash its energy use are likely.

The two options discussed this week would keep glass in the conservatory tower with minimal heat but make its wings open-air, or alternately, remove the glass from the entire structure.

According to the Park Board, the entire garden produces about $30,000 in income, much of it from rentals for weddings and other events.  But the conservatory alone costs $80,000 to $100,000 to heat.

One option would be to cut the amount of space heated to just the tower, and cut the heat to about 50 degrees. Or the building could be stripped of all its glass, reinforced against wind and used seasonally. Panel member Craig Wilson said some neighbors are distressed at the latter possibility because they see it as a winter oasis. He also wondered if a metal skeleton would rain bird droppings.

Project planners have hired a consultant to help them determine potential use of the conservatory, which they hope will help the group make a decision on how much it should be deconstructed. Some $1.5 million has been budgeted for the conservatory, part of which would likely be used to improve the stability of the building’s floor.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who chairs the advisory group, said she’s captivated by the potential of an open building, which she said could be wrapped in fabric to increase its utility. “I think it it is incredible, and puts us on the map in the new North,” she said.

One change from the previous design is the addition of a concrete walkway southwest of the park’s signature “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture where aerial photos show the heaviest foot traffic. Consultant oslund.and.assoc. also added more north-south walkways between the three sculpture pads they propose in the far northern section of the garden.

These boardwalks will run over meadows of hydrophytic plants, those capable of standing in water for several days while the precipitation drains into a cistern that will be pumped to water vegetation during dry periods. Consultants portray this meadow as a canvas to be painted in drifts of colorful water-tolerant plants.

Also on the panel’s docket for a final meeting is a discussion of future narrowing of Vineland, which separates the garden from the Walker Art Center. The current width was described as appropriate for emptying the Guthrie Theatre, which had a capacity as high as 1,400 when it was located on Vineland. But a narrower street would make it easier for pedestrians to cross between the museum and garden, the group was told.

The proposal is expected to get a public hearing at the Park Board in April, with construction beginning later this year. 

Walkers, cyclists meet their City Hall voice

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: February 25, 2015 - 11:35 AM

Matthew Dyrdahl arrived at The Wedge Table Wednesday morning dressed in a gray suit, but with a folding bike in tow. And he wore a helmet.

It was subtle reminder that a winter commuter can dress for work, yet commute without hands on a steering wheel. Dyrdahl took a bus and then biked from his northeast Minneapolis home to the event in Whittier.

Dyrdahl spoke at an early-morning event arranged by Council Member Lisa Bender that drew about 25 people to the new Eat Street eatery.  He’s the city’s new bike-walk coordinator. His job within the Department of Public Works involves integrating walking and biking friendly features into city streets. He’s also car free, living in northeast Minneapolis and getting around by bus, bike and foot.

Bikers and walkers were curious to know how he felt about the various problems they perceive as holding back more active transportation by city residents, but Dyrdahl also got an earful of free advice.

Dyrdahl comes to the job with five years of experience helping to promote active living in Bemidji. “It was really great to see the progress cities can make when you invest in biking and walking,” he said. His ambition is to make Minneapolis rival European cities in 10 years when it comes to walkable, bikeable streets.

Part of that will be eliminating the fear factor felt by some more timid commuters. “I don’t think that biking and walking is the easy choice right now,” he said. One of his goals is creating spaces that are inviting places to walk or bike. The city goal of 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020 will be key in that effort, he said.

Some still regard winter biking as a mountain too tall to climb. Janne Flisrand told Dyrdahl and Bender that co-workers regard her biking 2.5 miles to work as something of a superhuman feat. Bender interjected that bikers need more consistent maintenance for winter bike lanes so they have routes on which they can rely. “It shouldn’t be this major conquest to bike to work,” Dyrdahl added. Tony Desnick said his sampling on social media of about 300 bikers, mostly from the Twin Cities, but also from around the world, found about three times as many were likely to be deterred by poor maintenance of roads as by extreme cold.

One suggestion for getting Minneapolitans to consider winter bike commuting came from Michael Peterson, who would like to see a winter Open Streets events with food trucks and people to answer questions about cold-weather commuting.  Open Streets are a creation of Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which works with city officials to close major arteries temporarily to motor traffic. Minneapolis and St. Paul will host the fourth annual International Winter Cycling Congress in 2016.

Dyrdahl urged one questioner reluctant to invest in cold-weather biking gear because of the cost to weigh that against the cost of operating a car.  He also urged people to make the transition from driving to bus, bike or walking gradually.

“Don’t start by getting rid of your car.  End by getting rid of your car.”      

Minneapolis hopes to snag more sports in 2015

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: February 24, 2015 - 4:48 PM


Members of the media wait for players to take the field for batting practice at last year's Major League All-Star Game at Target Field. Tourism officials hope to book more big sports events this year. 


Carlos Gonzales/ Star Tribune

Minneapolis convention and tourism officials say last year's record-setting success in landing big events, hosting visitors and booking hotel rooms will be hard to duplicate in 2015.

But at the annual meeting of Meet Minneapolis, the organization that sells the city as a destination, officials pointed to several major events they plan to bid for this year. Plus, they said, a long list of upcoming improvements like the makeover of Nicollet Mall and renovations at the Target Center are likely to help attract visitors.

Among the events the city hopes to secure in 2015: a college football playoff game in 2020, the USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships in 2017, the USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships and WrestleMania, a professional wrestling event.

Rob Moor, chairman of the Meet Minneapolis board and CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves, said Minneapolis’ success in landing the 2018 Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2019 has put the city in an elite group.

Melvin Tennant, Meet Minneapolis’ president and CEO, said the city is also benefiting from the significant public and private investments that have been made in improvements ranging from hotel upgrades to the construction Metro Transit’s Green Line.

“I can assure you the team at Meet Minneapolis sees nothing but a bright future for the city,” he said.


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