Put a lid on it, Edina.
That’s the message city planners hope comes back from a study on the possibility of roofing over Hwy. 100 at W. 50th Street.
By decking over the busy north-south highway — which handles more than 100,000 vehicles a day — the “Edina Lid” would create about eight acres of developable land that could be used for housing, retail and community space.
In addition, it would act as a massive link bridging the east and west sides of town, a goal that city officials have long pursued.
“It’s definitely one of those hyper-ambitious — some might say crazy — ideas,” said Bill Neuendorf, Edina’s economic development manager. “But it addresses a challenge that’s been discussed for years: How do you get across Highway 100?
“With this lid concept, it addresses that goal in a way that really transforms that neighborhood. It takes it to a whole ’nother level.”
Neuendorf said planners had tossed around the idea of a highway lid in the past, but always dismissed it as impractical. In recent years, however, highway lid projects have been successfully built in several cities, including San Diego and Dallas. Many Minnesotans are familiar with Leif Erikson Park in Duluth, which was created in a similar fashion atop a tunnel that channels Interstate 35 toward the North Shore of Lake Superior.
“The fact that it has been done elsewhere has bolstered this,” Neuendorf said. State and county transportation officials have encouraged the city to explore the idea, he said.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to seek a $100,000 grant from Hennepin County for a feasibility study, and to match it with $100,000 of their own.
The council has already reviewed a preliminary study done by the University of Minnesota’s Metropolitan Design Center and the Cuningham Group. That study envisioned the lid area providing up to 1.7 million square feet of developable space, with buildings as tall as eight stories.
Council members generally supported examining the project, but expressed concerns about potential overdevelopment.
“The price can’t be ridiculous; the density can’t be ridiculous,” Council Member Mary Brindle said at Tuesday’s meeting. Added Council Member Ann Swenson: “I don’t see any role for eight- to 12-story apartment buildings there.”
Neuendorf said that all possibilities are in play, and that it’s too soon to speculate about how much the project might cost. But turning vacant highway right of way into leasable space could help the project pay its own way, he said.
Group prefers open space
Any proposal involving commercial development is likely to face opposition from Citizens for a Better Grandview, which has been lobbying heavily for open public space in the Grandview area of Edina on the west side of Hwy. 100.
“It’s a brand-new concept for the urbanization and densification of Edina,” said Kim Montgomery, the group’s chairwoman. “If realized in the form presented by the Metropolitan Design Center, it will completely change the fabric of Edina.”
Neuendorf said the project couldn’t possibly be completed in less than 10 years, even if everything goes perfectly.
“And as an aging community, if we don’t look to the future and plan for 10 years down the road, we’re going to be stagnant,” he said.