Can you find the Perry Smith bridge? Hint: it crosses the Mississippi River.
The bridge is named after an 11-year former director of public works. It carries Plymouth Avenue over the river.
OK, so maybe the pieces of infrastructure named after the city’s infrastructure czars don’t become household names.
But the city has named things after three of the last four departing public works chiefs, which means someday we’ll likely be naming something after Steve Kotke, who retired last week after 10 years as director and 27 with the city.
Although sometimes it takes a few years for momentum for a naming to happen, there’s usually a logic to the choice. For example, Smith was city engineer when the Plymouth span opened in 1983. Successor Richard Straub got a bridge near Lee’s Liquor Lounge. David Sonnenberg got a maintenance facility nearby.
And what would Kotke like, the Star Tribune inquired during his final day on the job. “I haven’t given it any thought,” he said.
So what piece of infrastructure from his tenure gave him the most pride? He names the remaking of Marquette and 2nd avenues, which became heavy-duty transit streets during his tenure. The city had drawn up a concept design, but hadn’t figured out how to finance it. Then a federal funding opportunity appeared with little notice and a tight turnaround, and the city’s advance planning allowed it to snag the money. That left a lasting impression on Kotke of the value of advance planning.
But Marquette and 2nd already have names.
Some suggest the most logical candidate is naming the $11 million Hiawatha public works maintenance facility after Kotke. The concept dates back to when he headed the city’s property planning efforts for the city, and it was completed in 2010 when he was director. It earned a platinum rating from the U.S. Building Council for its energy-conserving features and reuse of old materials. That was the first time a local government in Minnesota earned that top rating.
(Photos: Above, detail showing recycled bridge grating used in the wall around the Hiawatha public works facility. Photo by Steve Brandt. Right, retired Public Works Director Steve Kotke. Photo by Eric Roper.)