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Posts about Parks and recreation

A forgotten 29th Street getting new attention

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 11, 2014 - 12:57 PM

A street that Minneapolis has turned its back on is finally headed for a little love.

29th Street stutter-steps its way across much of south Minneapolis, running a few blocks then vanishing completely only to re-emerge a few blocks away.

It’s pocked with potholes, curbs have eroded completely in some blocks, and its once-decorative fencing has turned rusty or filled with chain-linked gaps. That’s especially true between Lyndale and Hennepin avenues. It's a normal uninterrupted street only east of Hiawatha Avenue.

“It’s really not a street that I would walk down alone after nine at night. It’s very alley-like,” said Kayla Mueller, who has lived in Uptown for the last two years.

She’s one of several people who focused attention on the street during a recent discussion of how to improve connections between Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway sponsored by the Lake Street Council and Midtown Greenway Coalition. Four more such sessions are scheduled.

The worst section of street is also the focus of a series of three charrettes organized by Tenth Ward Council Member Lisa Bender. She’s focusing on the Lyndale to Hennepin section, which is scheduled for public improvements in 2016.

“I think it’s basically falling into the earth, Bender said.  “The whole thing is in terrible condition.”

That’s not the best advertisement for a hot stretch of real estate that’s added almost 3,000 housing units along the greenway in the past 10 years.

29th has a quirky personality in that stretch. The block behind the Rainbow (now Cub) grocery is vacated.  The west end dead-ends into the Mozaic complex. Bender said she’s heard public sentiment for a resplitting of space that allows vehicles and meets needs of property owners but gives more priority to pedestrians. The streets could potentially be used more flexibly for gatherings like a farmer’s market, she said.

Original greenway planning called for a promenade along the linear park’s north lip but little more than sidewalks emerged from that. One complication will be the fence next to the greenway trench, which is regarded by some as a protected historical artifact. It combines concrete pillars and iron railings.

The next charrette session focusing on the Hennepin-Lyndale section of 29th will be held on July 21 from 6 to-7:30 p.m. at Walker Community Library, 2880 Hennepin Av. S. Beder said it will feature several possible configurations.  A final design will be discussed at a fall meeting.

Meanwhile, Joyce Wisdom, Lake Street Council executive director, is hoping that the series of joint council-coalition meetings will generate support for something she’s been advocating since greenway planning began some 15 years ago. That’s improvements designed to help Lake Street shoppers find the greenway, and greenway users find businesses on Lake.

Interestingly, although a majority of those who filled out a council survey reported feeling fairly safe between Lake Street and the greenway, their second biggest priority is increased lighting, something nearly two-thirds favor. That was topped only by adding bike markings or lanes between Lake and the greenway. Better wayfinding signs to businesses and other destinations, and protected intersections were also supported by more than half of those surveyed.

The remaining Lake Street-greenway workshops are scheduled for July 21, 5-7 p.m., Heart of the Beat Puppet and Mask Theatre, 1500 E. Lake St; July 29, 5-7 p.m., Harriet Brewing, 3036 Minnehaha Av. S.; July 30, 7-9 p.m., Midtown Greenway Coalition office, 2834 10th Av. S., greenway level Suite 2; and Aug. 4, 5-7 p.m., Safari restaurant, 3010 4th Av. S.

(Photo: This section of W. 29th Street shows its crumbling curb and dented fence. Staff photo by Steve Brandt)

After land slide, portion of West River Parkway remains closed

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: July 9, 2014 - 5:31 PM

A portion of West River Parkway that was closed three weeks ago due to a massive land slide looks like it will be shut down indefinitely.

Heavy rains caused the slope above the parkway to collapse on June 19.

The parkway will remain closed between 4th Street and the Franklin Avenue Bridge while the Minneapolis Park Board, Fairview Hospital and engineers conduct soil testing to determine the stability of the slope. The closures include pedestrian and bike trails.

"Patron safety is the Park Board’s primary concern. Until soil samples are taken and analyzed and the area is determined to be safe, West River Parkway will remain closed," the park board said.

After difficulty getting testing equipment to the site, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said soil testing began Wednesday.

Ash tree removal begins Monday

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: June 20, 2014 - 10:17 AM

A green painted "X" will soon mark some of the 30,000 public ash trees as the Park and Recreation Board prepares to remove them from the city.

The eight-year removal effort is part of the Park Board's attempt to stop the Emerald Ash Borer infestation in the city. Its goal is to remove a small percentage of ash trees at a time from city boulevards and parks and replace them with other tree species.

Trees with no signs of the disease will be marked and removed through 2014. Ash trees that are already infested with EAB will be removed as soon as possible, according to the Park Board.

Its forestry department anticipates replacing 5,000 ash trees each year for eight years.

“Our goal is to replace approximately two to four ash trees on each block per season,” said Ralph Sievert, the Director of Forestry.“Foresters will choose trees for replacement throughout an entire block so that properties are affected as evenly as possible.”
 

When the pedal beat the metal

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 18, 2014 - 3:05 PM

NOTE: You read earlier this week about the car beating the biker, the bus and the Green Line train from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis in a playful test of speed involving several Star Tribune staffers. The car was aided by the time trail being run at the tail end of rush hour, when traffic was smoother.

There's precedent for such a race from the opening of the first phase of the Midtown Greenway. That morning rush hour contest went to the bike.  Here's a reprinted time capsule of that contest written by Stribbers Steve Brandt and Mark Brunswick after their epic duel in late summer of 2000.:


It was no contest. Put a bike on the new Midtown Greenway against
a car on nearby Lake Street and two wheels beat four.

That's what we found when the Star Tribune pitted pedal against
metal in a race to test the efficiency of the newest commuter
bikeway in Minneapolis.

The car took 21 percent more time than the bike over the same
distance. The driver was limited to Lake's speed limit. The biker
kept his speed between 20 and 25 miles per hour for which the
greenway was designed, averaging 20.9.

The contest originated with a claim made two years ago by Tim
Springer, the Midtown Greenway Coalition's executive director.
Looking ahead to the greenway's completion, Springer boasted that
bikers would be able to travel faster on the 2.8-mile greenway than
on Lake for the same distance.

He pointed to the numerous traffic obstructions on Lake. They
include stoplights, traffic volume, holdups in the left lane from
turning cars and holdups in the right lane from buses. Bikers must
stop only for the greenway's three intersections with city streets,
just west of Hennepin Avenue S.

Although Lake Street traffic flowed relatively easily on the
morning of the test, it wasn't fast enough. The greenway's fresh
asphalt is a fast riding surface. But it wasn't as fast as it could
have been because dirt had washed onto the paving from the
shoulders of the still-unfinished project. The fit was tight in
spots, especially at bridges over Dean and Lake Calhoun Parkways,
where the bike and pedestrian trails are combined, squeezing down
to 10 feet. In fact, one attempt at a time trial had to be
postponed because the path was completely blocked by a contractor's
truck. It's going to be downright crowded in these sections,
although striping to separate bikes and bladers from walkers and
joggers will help.

Besides speed, there were other advantages to biking. As the
Isuzu Trooper in our test motored down Lake, it passed the garage
where its owner had just paid $692 for an exhaust-brake repair job.
That's almost as much as the the bike cost.

Lake gets its greatest use at rush hour. The greenway is far
busier in the evening and on weekends than during the day. Use is
noticeably higher in the half of the route that is west of Hennepin
than in the trench east of Hennepin. Some of that reflects spinoff
from the adjacent Chain of Lakes, but it also reflects ease of
access. The bikeway has eight access points west of its Hennepin
Avenue midpoint, but only four to the east, where the trench makes
ramps more expensive.

There's more graffiti on the east end, where bridge abutments
offer handy surfaces, and a trash dumpster recently was pushed
through a retaining fence, falling to the paths below. But the
eastern end is better protected from wind, and offers handy
commuter access to such employment centers as Norwest Mortgage and
Abbott Northwestern Hospital. In fact, hospital workers can be
spotted riding down the greenway in their scrubs.

When this part of the greenway is done later this year, sod will
diminish dirt runoff, security features such as call boxes, lights
and cameras will be operational, and striping will separate users.
Trimming a few branches that project onto the path would help.

But this is only the first phase of this ambitious project. The
west end, which now ends abruptly at Chowen Avenue S., is only a
short distance from the end of the suburban trail system being
developed by Hennepin Parks. Officials of that park system hope to
pave that gap this fall.

On the east end, the path ends at 5th Avenue. The Sears tower is
just a short distance down the tracks, and beyond that the Hi-Lake
shopping area. Plans call for an extension from 5th to the
Mississippi River in 2003. Don't hold your breath; any trail
projects in Minneapolis that involve negotiating with railroads
have taken far longer than anticipated.

But when that extension is finished, give us a call and we'll see
if a car fares any better in a 5 1/2-mile contest.


TALE OF THE TAPE

The men:

Steve Brandt/ Mark Brunswick
48 Age 44
5 feet 8 inches Height 6 feet 2 inches
158 lbs. Weight 230 lbs.

The machines:

1996 Bianchi Eros/ 1988 Isuzu Trooper
25 lbs. Weight 3,549 lbs.
24-speed manual Transmission 5-speed manual
9,222.7 Mileage 119,458
Aero bar Modifications/ New brake and exhaust systems
Water (rider) Coolant Water
.
The results:
.
7:50 Time 9:31

A piece of river history is washing away

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 12, 2014 - 5:49 PM

A little piece of early Minneapolis history is closer to vanishing now that one of two remaining piers of the long-gone Tenth Avenue Bridge has collapsed.

The pier that’s long stuck out of the Mississippi River just downstream from the east end of the Stone Arch Bridge is now down to a nub of stone, presumably undercut by riverine erosion that’s been eating at the pier base for several years, with this year's high flows contributing. One pier remains on the river’s east bank.

The relatively light-duty bridge carried pedestrians, horse-drawn wagons and later cars and a streetcar line across the river between 6th Avenue SE and 10th Av. S. on the downtown side. It was built in 1874, closed to traffic in 1934 and sold for scrap for the war effort in 1943, according to the excellent bridge reference guide maintained by John A. Weeks III.

The bridge also played a prominent role in Minneapolis history at a time when bridges were few and workers walked from jobs on one bank to housing on the other.

The crossing was near the site of one of the three original bridges built in Minneapolis, two of which washed away in 1859, according to Weeks.  That left only a single l crossing that spanned Nicollet Island, where today’s Father Louis Hennepin Bridge stands.

According to Weeks, when the older St. Anthony merged with youthful  Minneapolis in 1872, part of the deal was that the combined city would erect new bridges at both Plymouth Avenue and 10th Avenue, at a cost that amounted to $230,000.

The bridge had stone piers that held an iron truss with a deck roughly 60 feet above the river. Weeks estimated the length at 1,100 feet. The bridge was closed eventually because it wasn’t designed to stand up to motor vehicles. By then, the sturdier Third Avenue Bridge and Tenth Avenue Bridge bridges had been added upstream and downstream.  Confusingly, the new Tenth Avenue Bridge served 10th Avenue SE on the East Bank, while the older Tenth Avenue Bridge served the street of the same name on the downtown side.

The pier that collapsed has also provided spectator interest in recent years.  Several years ago, a Canada goose nested atop the perhaps 30-foot-high pier, leading bridge walkers to speculate how well the goslings would make their maiden flight to the river below.  One day they were gone, presumably having navigated safely.

A 2011 column by river-area resident Lisa Peters noted the pier was listing, and invited guesses on when it would collapse.

Now one vestige on Minneapolis history is close to washing away.

Photos: Before photo from 2011 by Lisa Peters, after photo from 2014 by Eric Roper. Above, 1905 photo of Tenth Avenue Bridge looking toward downtown from Minnesota Historical Society.

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