Ryan backs off plan to try to close Park and Portland for new development

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2013 - 8:23 AM

Hennepin County, which owns the key arteries, expressed strong opposition to the proposal over traffic and medical center access.

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Ryan Companies proposal for a $400 million redevelopment of five blocks now dominated by surface parking lots between the downtown central business district and the new Vikings stadium.

Photo: , Rendering courtesy of Ryan Companies

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Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies has abandoned — for now — a push to close all or parts of one-block segments of Park and Portland Avenues for its Downtown East development.

Rick Collins, Ryan’s vice president of development, said Friday that plans submitted to the Minneapolis Planning Commission didn’t include the closures. He previously had promoted the closings as a means to enhance a new city park in the development.

“They are as-is,” Collins said of Park and Portland, the one-way arteries that carry traffic from south Minneapolis into and out of downtown. “While we believed the park would function best as a park with those roads closed, there wasn’t enough support.”

Ryan plans a $400 million development, including a new corporate campus on five blocks of eastern downtown land now owned by the Star Tribune. The project includes about 300 residential units, a two-block city park and retail. Wells Fargo’s name was all over renderings submitted to the city planning panel, but no formal deal has been struck for the main corporate tenant.

Ryan has previously publicly floated the prospect of closing all of Park and Portland between 4th and 5th Streets or restricting the lanes of the roads at certain times. But twice last summer, key Hennepin County Board members told Collins of their opposition at public meetings.

Park and Portland are workhorse commuter roads owned by the county, so board permission would be needed to close them.

None of the seven commissioners has expressed support for closing those roads.

Board Chairman Mike Opat told Ryan that the closings would be a “long shot” and a “tough sell” to the board. He called the roads critical passageways to Hennepin County Medical Center, the medical examiner’s office, the county’s Juvenile Detention Center and the Minneapolis Fire Station at 3rd Street and Portland.

The board members’ concern was supported in a recent study. A draft of the Alternative Urban Areawide Review and Mitigation Plan showed that closing a one-block segment of Park and Portland would substantially increase congestion on surrounding streets.

The same review noted that even partial closings could be problematic for emergency response access to and from HCMC.

Opat said Friday he had not heard directly from Ryan about the dropped proposal.

Collins, however, said the concept of closing the roads to enhance the park could potentially be revisited by the new Minneapolis Parks oversight committee.

McLaughlin is on that panel and was dismissive of that idea. “We still are quite firm” on keeping the roads fully open, he said.

Last summer, the county’s top engineer, Jim Grube, gave a negative assessment of the closings in a memo.

“The potential one-block closures of Park Avenue and Portland Avenue in downtown Minneapolis will reduce network capacity, break roadway connectivity, shift transit routes, sever the bike network, and reduce access and mobility for emergency vehicles and Hennepin County services,” he said.

Park Avenue carries 6,500 vehicles a day and 200 bicycles. Portland carries 5,200 vehicles and 490 bikes, as well as serving several Metro Transit bus lines: the 94 express to St. Paul, the 144 to the University of Minnesota, the 355 express to Woodbury, the 3 through the Como area to St. Paul’s Maryland Avenue and the 16 down University Avenue.

 

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