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Posts about Urban living

Bike, ped changes may be coming to crosstown pair

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 1, 2014 - 2:40 PM

Two prominent cross-city commuting routes are likely headed for bike and pedestrian improvements as part of a planned 2015 paving of the twin one-way streets.

That’s why the city is asking for feedback at a series of open houses about what pedestrians, drivers, bus riders and bikers want changed on 26th and 28th Streets.  The initial repaving will happen between Hiawatha Avenue and Interstate 35W, but the planning connected with the open houses will extend west to Hennepin, for possible future work.

The first open house will be from 6-8 p.m. on July 14 at American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S. That meeting is designed for sharing ideas and concerns about the streets.  Follow-up meetings are planned at the same time and place for Aug. 6 and 27 to gather feedback on design concepts for bike and pedestrian changes.

According to John Wertjes, the city’s director of traffic and parking services, an asphalt overlay is scheduled for 26th, while 28th is due merely for sealcoating.

Some bikers have advocated for installing buffered or protected bike lanes on the two streets. The latter is how the paving project is listed on the city’s capital projects list, but that’s a placeholder until there’s public input, officials said.

What done with bike lanes could be determined by money.  The city has $400,000 in hand for pedestrian and biking improvements in the paving project, Wertjes said. That’s enough to pay for striping buffered bike lanes, like the painted extra-wide bike lanes installed when Portland and Park avenues were reduced from three to two one-way motorized traffic lanes for most of their length south of downtown.

But the city would need to compete for added outside grant money to be able to afford more protected bike lanes, in which bollards, curbs, elevated pavement or parked cars are between the bike and motorized traffic lanes.

Wertjes said that he also expects the open houses to produce calls for managing and slowing traffic speeds.    

(Photo: This vehicle plowed into a house on E. 26th Street in this 2000 accident. Staff photo by David Brewster.)

Different fireworks may light up Powderhorn Fourth

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 30, 2014 - 4:43 PM

Just because the sky won’t be lit up doesn’t mean there won’t be fireworks this year at Powderhorn Park’s July 4 celebration.

Publisher and political activist Ed Felien is trying to make sure of that. Working with Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, he’s inviting all comers to speak out from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  These stump speakers will have roughly five minutes to make their case on any topic, but they’ll have to run the risk of heckling.

“We have enough gasbags in Powderhorn just circling the park that we can more than fill it up,” said Felien, 75. He lives across from the park’s northwest corner and runs his community newspaper, Southside Pride, from an office two blocks away.

Felien thrives on politics, and is nostalgic for the days before radio, TV and digital media when orators expounded on such public issues as slavery and suffrage, war and peace. He’s hoping the event will help to recreate the magical aura of July 4 at Powderhorn Park that he remembers from his boyhood.

”We’d come to Powderhorn in the late 40s and early 50s and there was still a sense of patriotic fervor and community that was lovely,” he said. That attitude faded somewhat in the tensions of the Vietnam era; Felien remembers quizzing then-Congressman Donald Fraser about the war with other activists one summer.

In those old days, the Felien family would arrive around supper time, picnic food in tow.  After eating, they’d pass the interminable interval until the arrival of dusk and fireworks by watching what Felien recalls as a “macho promenade” of tough guys strolling the park paths with cigarette packs rolled up their sleeves.

The speakout on the Fourth will be held at the “teahouse” gateway on the southwest shore of Powderhorn Lake. Felien said recently he’s expecting the return of mayoral candidates Captain Jack Sparrow and Bob Carney, and current school board candidate Soren Sorensen. So is political firebrand Michael Cavlan. Others can sign up by calling Southside Price at 612-822-4662 or e-mailing edfelien@southsidepride.com

Meanwhile, the association is planning a more family bent to this year's Powderhorn Fourth, with music starting at 11:30 a.m. and rolling through Aztec dancing, a medley of recordings by young people, an acoustic duo, and Latin folk. Also on tap are badminton, croquet, bocce, canoeing, face painting and other diversions.

The lack of actual pyrotechnics will give the association a chance to collect more public input on what future Fourths should look like in the 14-square-block park. Eliminating the fireworks that attracted an estimated 20,000, but also rowdy behavior, cut the fundraising need for the day's events almost by half, according to Becky Timm, the association's staff director.     

(Photos -- Above: Fireworks at Powderhorn Park in 2010. Staff photo by David Joles. Right: Ed Felien)

Convention Center to get $14.5 million in work

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 25, 2014 - 4:42 PM

The Minneapolis Convention Center is headed for $14.5 million in renovations and improvements over the next two years, some of which are aimed at helping networking among people attending events, convention officials said Wednesday.

One change is the addition of a mezzanine in the center's main lobby. It could be used for events, and will have seating and a lounge where people attending events can meet with other people, according to Kristin Montag, spokeswoman for Meet Minneapolis, a convention and visitor promotion nonprofit. There are also plans to add a bar there.

The center's visitor center also will move within the main lobby to be closer to the main entrance on 2nd Avenue S. That will increase its visibility and make it more helpful to visitors seeking information about exploring the city, Montag said.

The main lobby stairs are being replaced with added elevators that are intended to add accessibility to that area. The visitor center area will also have two sets of stairs, one to the mezzanine and one to all levels, Montag said. The escalators serving three of the center’s exhibition halls will be replaced as they near the end of their life expectancy with versions that are more energy-efficient, continuing earlier upgrades elsewhere in the building.

The building will also get art from local artists through Corporate Art Force, to be displayed on a six-month rotation. Center Executive Director Jeff Johnson said the displays will add visual interest to the building and highlight local artists.

The center normally gets about $10 million annually in building improvements or renovations, Montag said. The center is financed by operating revenues and an assortment of local sales taxes, some of which also will help to pay for the new Vikings stadium.  

Northeast Minneapolis impatient for 807 development deal to close

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 23, 2014 - 5:01 PM

More than a year after the sale of a large former factory and school district headquarters was authorized, the deal still hasn’t closed and some Northeasters are getting impatient.

The Logan Park neighborhood is eager for redevelopment of the complex at 807 Broadway St. NE to begin but title problems have held up the deal.

“People in the Northeast community have been wondering what’s taking so long,” said Pat Vogel, co-chair of the neighborhood’s 807 Broadway Task Force. “People say that must have fallen apart because I don’t see anything happening.”

The title issue involves a parking lot used by visitors and employees when the school headquarters was there. It encroaches on the city’s right of way for Quincy St. NE “Buying something with a defective title is a non-starter,” said Scott Tankenoff, managing partner for Hillcrest Development, which won the right to buy the city block-sized complex over six other developers.

The city suggested that Hillcrest petition the City Council vacate a small portion of the right of way, but that will take time.  So the school board on Tuesday is expected to extend the closing date for a second time, by another 120 days. The agreement also potentially knocks $516,550 off the previous sale price. That price by law need not be disclosed until the deal closes, but has been estimated at between $2 million and $3 million, based on the price of similar area property.

The title problems date back years, Tankenoff said.  The district has owned the 1914 building and subsequent add-ons since 1930. Hillcrest originally planned to close by the end of 2013. Tankenoff now said he thinks a closing by Labor Day is feasible. “I think there’s going to be work happening in the building in September,” he said.

Vogel said Hillcrest has been responsive to neighborhood concerns but she hasn’t been able to get an answer to what happens if the 120-day closing deadline isn’t met. “That’s the one thing that kind of makes us as a neighborhood group nervous,” she said. But Tankenoff said he expects the first tenant to move in within 100 to 120 days after closing the deal.

Money from the sale is supposed to help pay part of the cost of the new district headquarters at 1250 Broadway Avenue, into which district offices moved in 2012. 

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.


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


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