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Continued: On Minneapolis' west and east sides, change is the game

Be the Match Foundation President Christine Fleming said that access to mass transit is critical to employees. The company also wanted a location that would increase visibility and community engagement for its world-leading fight against blood cancers.

“We like the idea that we are very near a high-pedestrian area,” Fleming said. “We like people to know where we are and what we do.”

John Breitinger, chairman of the Urban Land Institute-­Minnesota, said downtown office space helps employees feel more connected than they would in a suburban office park. “There’s a very clear network effect,” he said.

He praised the willingness of the Twins to invest in creating public spaces, including plazas and walkways around the ballpark.

To the east, change beckons

At the eastern end of the dumbbell, the transformation has its roots in 2003 city planning changes seeking to push out surface parking lots and encourage redevelopment, according to Beth Elliot, Minneapolis’ principal city planner.

Elliott just returned from a national conference where she spoke about the viability of urban stadium districts. They can work, she said, but design and access are keys. The facilities can’t have obvious back sides. Site parking should be limited, while foot, bike and mass transit should be plentiful. The goal: The sports facility should be part of a neighborhood, not an overbearing tenant.

At least $1.4 billion is being pumped into the area’s development. In addition to its stadium work, Ryan Cos. is demolishing buildings and surface parking on a five-block site for two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo, 193 apartments, restaurant and retail space and a semipublic two-block park called “the Yard.”

Elliott said the stadium’s location at a transit epicenter and its design will again be critical. Fenestration will make the stadium open rather than a fortress, and as with Target Field, there will be no “back door,” she said. Stores and restaurants are planned on the ground floors of Ryan’s buildings, putting feet on the streets and ­ideally bringing services like grocery stores and fitness centers.

Development-friendly zoning has replaced the industrial designation that kept the Metrodome’s environs an urban desert.

Unlike the North Loop, the eastern end of downtown has a simpler street grid and a flat, development-friendly topography. “It’s almost a blank slate,” Elliott said.

By the time the 2018 Super Bowl rolls around, eastern downtown will look entirely different, and the North Loop’s new landscape will have become familiar.

“We’re really excited to see what the market brings,” Elliot said.

 

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 @rochelleolson

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