Plans for a new type of shared-use street on W. 29th Street in Uptown are gaining at City Hall.

A layout that would create a narrower-appearing pedestrian-focused street on 29th between Lyndale and Bryant avenues S. won approval from the City Council's public works panel on Tuesday. It's scheduled to be installed next year.

The street is designed to encourage lower-speed use by cars and to be closed off partially or entirely for special events, such as markets or performances. The city plans to ask the Minnesota Department of Transportation for permission to impose a 10 mile per hour speed limit for the two blocks.

The new design is modeled on the European model of woonerfs. Those are streets where foot and bike traffic are given equal or better priority for space than motorized vehicles.  The city will observe how it works, and has plans to extend the shared-street concept farther west to Fremont Avenue by 2020, according to Donald Pflaum, a city transportation planner.

Parking will be allowed in bays only on the north side of the street under the proposal, while the south side will be intersected only by driveways for housing on the two blocks.  Otherwise, the design calls for planting beds with trees and shrubs or flowers to separate the driving lanes from sidewalks. There will be a dark band of concrete at the edges to define the roadway edge, which won't have a traditional curb. Plans are still being developed for whether to handle storm water through traditional drainage by catch basins or by rain gardens or another such technique. 

Council Member Lisa Bender, who championed the new approach, said she's proud that it fits within the budget for a normal repaving project.  The street is now heavily potholed. She credited Mayor R.T. Rybak for fostering discussions before he left office about reshaping the street.

The design was crafted after a series of three community workshops last year in which area residents helped to define what they wanted. Pflaum said a sponsor has not yet emerged to oversee programming of events in the two blocks.