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Nicollet Mall: Link skyways to streets, go green

Posted by: Bill McAuliffe Updated: February 20, 2014 - 6:41 PM

Stairways connecting skyways to the street, a city square that could hold 4,000 people, fire pits, and trees, trees and more trees would be brought to NIcollet Mall under a design plan that's being presented to the public and working its way toward hoped-for Legislative funding.

The redesign of the mall would be "not just a street reconstruction. It's creating and re-creating an attraction to bring growth and vitality to the region," Mayor Betsy Hodges told an audience of about 200 people who came to the Minneapolis Central Library Wednesday to see a slide presentation by landscape architect James Corner, who designed New York City's High Line and is co-ordinating the Nicollet Mall redesign.

Corner described the mall today as cluttered and uninviting, and said he wants to make it "greener, more social and eventful." He is advocating a more vivid retail presence at street level, with businesses having more windows and connectivity to the street. His slides showed skyways opening onto balconies and wide stairways on which people could sit and gather and watch events along the mall. The 7th Street intersection, he said, should become "Nicollet Island," a retail, entertainment and transportation center.

It was the third public presentation on the Nicollet Mall redesign, following an introduction at the Guthrie in September and an event in a tent on the mall in December.

The mall proposal is the top priority on the city's legislative agenda this year; the city is seeking $25 million in bonding from the Legislature. That would be matched by assessments on mall businesses, to cover the tab on a $50  million project.

Corner said the design process is about 8 percent done, but could be completed by next summer, followed immediately by construction.

He invited the public to contributed more ideas on a survey at www.nicolletmallproject.com.

If questions Wednesday as well as hand-written remarks on post-it notes on a board asking "How Can Nicollet Mall be Even Better?" were any indication, the redesign won't make everyone happy.

"Remove buses" and "Keep the Buses" were both evident. And the crowd of generally downtown workers and residents, on a board asking "What Do You Most Want to Do on Nicollet Mall?" enthusiastically endorsed  "Restaurants and Bars," "Sit, Relax and View" and "Walk, Run and Cycle" while offering scant support for "Family Activities."

There was audible support, though, for the installation of heated, snow-melting pavement from storefront to storefront, as well as for sidewalks that wouldn't be as slippery as they apparently are now.

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