The final touches on Minneapolis’ new signature downtown park, slated to open this summer, include choosing its operator and sorting out how people will walk the road that divides it in half.
City leaders plan to tap the Downtown Improvement District — whose neon-clad ambassadors are a familiar sight around Nicollet Mall — to temporarily run the new park near U.S. Bank Stadium. The agreement with the group, an affiliate of the Downtown Council, gives planners more time to hash out the specifics of the region’s first large-scale public-private conservancy model for operating the park.
The City Council’s financial committee is expected to approve the plan Monday. But council members on Friday grappled with one aspect of the park’s two-block design: How will people cross Portland Avenue?
The county road will be narrowed to two lanes and covered in red-tinted asphalt through the park. But there is no crosswalk mid-block, despite designs showing paths on either side. The absence of a crosswalk means pedestrians will have to detour to the corners to cross legally.
Under Minnesota law, pedestrians may not cross a roadway mid-block if they are between two intersections featuring traffic-control signals — unless they are using a painted crosswalk.
“I would say that there should be a marked crosswalk with some kind of safety device to make sure drivers are stopping — that’s very visible, especially at night,” Council Member Lisa Bender said.
People have raised questions about crossing that street since the park design was being developed in 2015. Hennepin County opposed closing Portland Avenue in part because it serves public safety facilities including Hennepin County Medical Center and a fire station.
The city’s public works director, Steve Kotke, said Portland will be closed occasionally for large events. Otherwise, people should cross at the corners.
“Portland Avenue will continue to be a busy county route and like most streets in Minneapolis, we want people to cross at the safety of a signalized intersection,” Kotke wrote in an e-mail.
Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area and has been deeply involved in the project, said he was under the impression people would be able to walk through the middle and plans to contact public works staff about it.
“People will inevitably cross mid-block and … signage and paint need to account for the reality,” Frey said.