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“This is a fairly startling version because it’s such a high-profile project,” he said.
Big ideas go way back
Bigger ideas have been kicked around for years. In 2008, about 100 community members, local designers and architects met at the Walker Art Center to brainstorm redesigns for the bottleneck.
John Van Heel, a Loring Park neighborhood organization board member and the group’s former president, said the participants split into two factions: those pursuing ambitious ideas and those interested in working within the corridor’s existing configuration.
When the recession hit, reconstruction was delayed and ideas developed at the meeting never came to fruition.
“With what is happening now,” he said, “I think it is in line with the more conservative approach of seeing the corridor basically as it is.”
A few years later, a neighborhood-endorsed plan to revamp a large median near the Walker Art Center was put on hold. Wilson said the fully funded project was ready to start, but the city suggested waiting until the reconstruction project.
Some ideas took root
Still, some suggestions have already made it into the reconstruction — including improvements area residents have asked for, such as pedestrian access.
City engineers presented revised plans to the Pedestrian Advisory Committee on Thursday, and two more open houses are planned.
The Pedestrian Advisory Committee will likely suggest improvements in May, Engel said. Additionally, Van Heel said a committee is being organized by the Lowry Hill and Loring Park neighborhood organizations to pursue other improvements like narrowing traffic lanes to make more space for pedestrians and bicyclists.
City officials have expressed support for those ideas, Wilson said.
“I entirely expect we’re going to see changes to [the initial] plan as we gather input from the different stakeholders of the project,” Mersinger said.
Emma Nelson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.
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