It’s still unclear exactly when the first hole will be dug on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis for a $20 million reconstruction project that is expected to last four years.
Even so, preliminary road design and aesthetics — from lighting and benches to sidewalk motifs — took center stage Thursday evening at a two-hour open house hosted by city officials.
Participants chose their favorite photos of artsy lighting, modern tubes or old-fashioning hanging lamps; colorful benches or ironwork; and street art, maps or stenciled concrete.
Many participants also were concerned about practicalities. How is the lengthy reconstruction going to affect theatergoers who head to the Orpheum, Pantages and State theaters, as well as customers of the numerous bars, restaurants and clubs? How will traffic be affected when many of the left-turn lanes on Hennepin are eliminated?
“Will it affect public transportation?” Britta Gantert asked while waiting in line with a friend for student-rush tickets to “Jersey Boys” at the Orpheum Theatre.
“It’ll be pretty nice when it’s done,” said her friend Joey Doyle.
The project will run from Washington Avenue to 12th Street along what will be a four-lane road. Hennepin now has five lanes, including the left-turn lanes. Sidewalks will be enhanced with natural plantings and art. Many intersections will have curb extensions, which narrow the roadway slightly for pedestrian safety.
A planned bike lane will be separated from vehicles with a concrete barrier.
That made Nick Muellerleile happy.
“My concern is more safety,” he said. “I like separated bikeways. If I drove, I’d be a little concerned about the loss of turn lanes.”
Utility work on the project is expected to start sometime in 2019 — “as early as we can,” one planner said. Road construction will take up most of 2020 and 2021, with cleanup work in 2022.
City officials assured people at the open house that the entire eight-block stretch won’t all be closed at the same time. But section by section, there will be disruption.
Hennepin Avenue itself was last updated in 1986. The sidewalks were redone in 2004.
“For me, it’s just about the money,” said Ray Lorts, who lives about two blocks from the future construction site. “My tax money paid for the sidewalks in 2004. Now again.
“What about the businesses?” Lorts asked. “These businesses worked hard to get where they are. I watched the businesses on Nicollet close down. What’s going to happen here?”
Tom Rajta lives near 4th Street and Hennepin.
“It’s going to be a horrible disruption,” he said, adding, “The vision is pretty awesome.”