Five months into an experimental greenway project for north Minneapolis, it’s not so green anymore.
In June, city officials implemented a temporary plan to convert five blocks of Irving Avenue N. from typical residential streets into a more bike- and walk-friendly corridor. Traffic on the street was partly or completely blocked off, and planters and benches were installed on the roadway, reducing speeds and making it a better place for walking, biking and socializing.
But faced with angry residents who did not like the changes, the city has rolled back many of the greenway enhancements. Last month, the city yanked the planters and benches from several of the blocks, leaving the streets with bike lanes in place of the greenway.
Sarah Stewart, senior public health specialist with the city, said she did not anticipate the level of hostility to the project. The city had conducted surveys and a series of meetings with residents indicating wide interest that led to the greenway experiment.
Since 2012, the city has been exploring the idea of converting low-traffic streets to a 30-block north-south greenway that would connect residents to biking trails in north Minneapolis. The experimental greenway stretches on Irving Avenue N. from 30th Street and Jordan Park on the south to Folwell Park and 36th Street on the north end.
Sunnie Mills, 44, said she’s happy the pilot project has been scaled back and glad the planters and benches are gone in front of her house.
“I hated the greenway,” Mills said as she paused from leaf raking last week at her home on the 3400 block of Irving Avenue N. “I couldn’t park in front of the house.”
She said she didn’t want to park behind her house because it was too dark and dangerous at night and she said the added lighting the city installed was insufficient.
But one block north, on the 3500 block of Irving, the greenway features are still in place, and the street is completely blocked off to traffic. Many residents on that block seem to like it, and on a recent afternoon 12 had pro-greenway signs in their yards.
“I love it. I love how quiet it is,” said Susan Jones, 56, who moved into her house on the 3500 block in November. “I love seeing the kids [playing in the street] without being run down by cars.”
But along the five-block experimental greenway, 13 homeowners still had front-yard lawn signs opposing the greenway.
The experiment will end in May and all the planters will be removed. Street closures may end, too.
Stewart and Bill Fellows of the Minneapolis Public Works Department sent a letter to residents a few weeks ago outlining the partial greenway roll back and return of normal parking rules on three of the five blocks.
“These changes will create a more traditional bike boulevard design on 3200 to 3400 blocks of Irving Ave.,” the letter said.
The city is surveying the residents about the project and is expected to release its findings early next year.
“There may be some common ground,” Stewart said. “What we want to know is what would people want their streets to look like and how much they support or oppose different designs.”