Stimulus to change roads, landscape

  • Article by: KARLEE WEINMANN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 29, 2009 - 12:25 AM

Brooklyn Center plans to put $2 million in federal stimulus money toward a project that it hopes will revitalize the area.

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A new biofiltration system would filter out impurities from storm water that drains into Shingle Creek.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Brooklyn Center wants to beautify itself, and federal stimulus money will help.

Last month, the city got preliminary approval from the Metropolitan Council to use $2 million in stimulus money to help pay for its Bass Lake Road Streetscape and Regional Trail project.

At the heart of the project is rejuvenating Brooklyn Center, continuing a facelift started with last year's improvements to Xerxes Avenue.

"We want to do everything we can on the city's end to help revitalize this area and to put this infrastructure in place to make this a real, ideal location for businesses to come and make their home," said Steven Lillehaug, Brooklyn Center's director of public works.

The project would run along Bass Lake Road from Brooklyn Boulevard on the west, past the Brookdale Mall, a transit station and other establishments, to Hwy. 100 on the east. The initiative includes:

• Roadside landscaping that would encourage pedestrians to cross busy roadways at controlled intersections.

• Closing gaps to link paved trails in the area, which Lillehaug said would increase pedestrian traffic and bolster recreational options in the area and help keep pedestrians off roads.

• Spruced-up bus stops and decorative lighting.

• A depressed median in the road, instead of a raised one, so a bio-filtration system can be created to sift out salts and chlorides from storm water that drains into Shingle Creek. Such runoff takes a toll on aquatic life.

For the funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to flow, a final plan must gain local approval and permits and then be authorized by federal officials by Nov. 13, a deadline Lillehaug expects to meet. If all goes well, work could begin by next spring.

Brooklyn Center has had some recent successes in attracting development, such as an Embassy Suites hotel that recently wrapped up construction and an FBI office complex coming soon to the city, and the project is important to maintain momentum, Mayor Tim Willson said.

"Bass Lake Road fits into that whole scenario of redevelopment and enticing companies or developers to come into Brooklyn Center and develop in that particular location," Willson said.

Full-scale cost $5.5 million

The overall cost of the full-scale project would exceed the $2 million from Washington, requiring up to $3.5 million from other sources, including the city, and possibly Hennepin County and the Three Rivers Park District.

The $5.5 million cost could be scaled back, Lillehaug said, by holding off on "optional elements" such as replacing guardrails and "safety and pedestrian enhancements that are a little above and beyond."

The basic proposal would cost about $2.5 million, he said, and the city is prepared to kick in at least a portion of the extra half-million. On top of that, the project will require another $500,000 in administrative costs, such as consulting and legal fees, and staff compensation.

As for funding contributions from other sources, Lillehaug expects to know in coming months.

The Three Rivers Park District has an interest in closing small gaps in the trails that drive walkers and bikers onto busy roadways nearby, said Don DeVeau, the district's director for planning and development.

The district is waiting on other possible benefactors to gauge how much to contribute to the project, DeVeau said.

"We're moving along, it's a very important project," he said. "We're coordinating very well with the city and we're hoping to get some agreement going and get this project started."

Brooklyn Center has not begun formal negotiations with Hennepin County, but county engineer Jim Grube said general information he has about the project indicates it would be one the county would back.

"Whatever Hennepin County can do to reasonably assist cities to improve the situation for citizens or business people, we're always willing to talk about it and see if there's any way we can get a partnership built," he said.

The city aims to have approval to move forward by mid-October, a contractor secured by December and the project under way by next spring, Lillehaug said. He expects its completion by late summer or early fall 2010.

Karlee Weinmann • 612-673-7278

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