The renovated Nicollet Mall has been open for more than a year, but the bills are still coming in.
The City Council approved spending $239,991 Friday to replace plants and dozens of the 250 trees that didn’t survive their first year along the 12-block business corridor in downtown Minneapolis.
When the trees began wilting en masse last summer, public works officials assured the public it was normal that some wouldn’t take to the soil, and any necessary replacements would be covered financially by a warranty. Now they say taxpayers are on the hook after all.
“Since 2018, there’s been a lot of investigation and looking into the trees,” said Lisa Cerney, the deputy director for the city’s Department of Public Works. That investigation found a large portion of the trees died from an earlier-than-normal freeze in 2017. The warranty doesn’t cover weather-related damage, Cerney said.
All told, about 45 trees will need to be replaced, Cerney said. More than half are not covered by warranty, as well as a “fair amount” of perennial plants. The $239,991 still falls into the project’s budget, she said.
The trees were planted as part of the $50 million reconstruction of Nicollet Mall. Downtown residents, business owners and visitors lamented the 28-month shutdown of the street for construction, which displaced buses, sidewalk cafes, farmer’s markets and other users of the mall. In November 2017, the city reopened Nicollet Mall to much fanfare.
Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said the replanting will enhance the greening on Nicollet, addressing complaints that it’s so far lacked color and flowers.
“I think we have to get it right,” said Cramer. “We’re learning about what species are going to work, what kind of plantings are going to work.”
The replanting will begin in the spring. It will likely cause “minor disruptions,” said Cerney, but city officials don’t expect the project will mean closing Nicollet Mall again.
Joe Tamburino, chairman of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, said he’s thrilled to learn the city is replanting the trees, emphasizing the importance of a lush downtown canopy.
“You want to make sure that they’re healthy, because if they’re not, you have a sick looking downtown,” Tamburino said.