Above: Rendering of the proposed "full greenway," without vehicular traffic.
It would be a massive project with little precedent nationwide: Replacing miles of residential streets in north Minneapolis with a greenway intended to serve walkers and bicyclists.
Given the impact the so-called "North Minneapolis Greenway" would have on residents of the area, a council panel voted Tuesday to commit more private dollars for additional community outreach. The proposed project, which would cost about $16 million, has been in the works since 2011.
As proposed, the 3.5-mile route runs along Humboldt and Irving Avenues from 47th Avenue North to 15th Avenue North.
Rather than eliminate cars for the entire stretch, public works staff have now proposed breaking it up into segments. About two miles would be a full greenway, they said Tuesday. Another mile would accomodate one-way traffic and single-side parking, while half a mile would feature two-way traffic. See the map below.
Above: Rendering of the greenway with one-way traffic and parking.
“The reason that we are interested in this project is the potential to create a new amenity for active living on the North Side," Sarah Stewart, with the city's health department, told the city's public works and transportation committee.
Few concrete decisions have been made, however, including whether the project should move forward at all. The city is analyzing it with a $405,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield.
So far, the primary concern from residents has been the loss of parking. About 400 parcels would lose on-street parking access in front of their property, though city studies have shown that side streets could accomodate the extra vehicles, according to Bill Fellows of the city's public works department. The greenway would not block driveways on the streets that have them.
“Parking was probably the biggest concern raised," Stewart told the committee. "Including for residents themselves, also for visitors and also concerning the needs of the elderly or people with disabilities."
A survey of 1,312 north Minneapolis residents in 2014 found that 70 percent "support" or "strongly support" the greenway. But council member Blong Yang, who represents part of the area, said he expects most people -- if asked specifically -- would be more supportive of a greenway mixed with traffic.
Council Member Cam Gordon said he would have preferred to see a "full greenway" extend throughout the route, but Yang disagreed. "I certainly think the folks up in north Minneapolis, and the diverse constituencies, would probably not allow for something like that to happen," Yang said.
Above: Rendering of the greenway with two-way traffic.
Looking at the maps and renderings, Yang said he would like to see more community input about how the project would look. "So that eventually it will look like something the community up in north Minneapolis wants," Yang said.
Stewart said they are preparing to have more in-depth conversations with residents "about what it means for them."
Council Member Lisa Bender mused that the project could be preceded by other initiatives -- such as stretches of greenway in supportive areas or bike boulevards -- to get residents acclimated to the concept.
“It may be hard to imagine a life without being able to drive your car up to the front of your home and get out and walk inside, but I think there are huge benefits as well," Bender said. "And I would really hate to see us spend $16 million to see a very incremental change, when there might be an opportunity to really do something transformative if people have more time to get used to the idea.”
If approved by the full city council next week, the outreach grant would be allocated to Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. That group works with neighborhood and community organizations to engage residents.
Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, said the idea combines concepts employed in the Midtown Greenway and Milwaukee Avenue – a car-less stretch of historic houses in the Seward neighborhood.
“It is actually a pretty new and transformative idea not just locally, but also nationally,” Fawley said.
Below: Map of the proposed route. Click for full-size image.