Construction crews are about to begin a massive overhaul of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, kicking off a two-year project that will dramatically update one of the city's landmark shopping and restaurant streets.
Barricades will block off the downtown Nicollet Mall roadway for construction following the July 4th weekend. Starting Monday, crews will close the street to vehicle and bus traffic as construction gets fully underway.
The $50 million remodeling project is designed to enhance the pedestrian experience and green space in a way that supporters hope will lure more people downtown and spur economic development.
Crews will start work on lines for power, gas, telecommunications, sanitary sewer and water pipes underneath the street. Pedestrians will have to maneuver around the construction, which is set to be completed by 2017.
"There will be very intensive utility work happening," said David Frank, Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development's economic policy and development director.
Some initial utility work already has begun on the mall. So far, customers at the Dunn Bros coffee shop don't seem to be bothered, said Armand Osbon, coffee shop manager.
But the coffee shop, between 9th and 10th streets, could lose customers when all buses are rerouted for construction.
"We get a lot of people who get off the bus and come through here," Osbon said.
The redesign will move buses to Marquette, 2nd and 3rd avenues between Washington Avenue and Grant Street. Seven bus routes that rely on Nicollet Mall will be rerouted through 2017. Light-rail trains will not be affected.
Bike access will be permitted on the mall until 2016. Bicyclists will be able to return as soon as vehicles are allowed on the street. Even when all the work is completed, taxis will not be allowed to return to the mall north of 12th Street.
Pedestrians could experience minor disruption from temporary sidewalk closures during the project, as well.
Outdoor dining also could be limited. Depending on the location of construction, customers might have to sit indoors to avoid the noise, dust and distraction. The construction could also force restaurants and hotels to halt their valet services.
Ben D'Amico, general manager of Mexican restaurant Masa, said sometimes construction blows dust and soot onto the restaurant's outdoor patio.
Once the full-blown construction starts, he doubts anyone will sit on the patio.
"It definitely could hurt business," D'Amico said.
The Minneapolis Farmers Market already has been moved because of construction. The seasonal market, which had been held Thursdays on the mall since 1986, moved to Hennepin Avenue in the spring to make way for the overhaul.
The project is being paid for with a mix of city and state tax dollars, along with assessments on downtown businesses.
John Ziegler, McCormick & Schmick's restaurant general manager, said he is eager to see how the redesign will change the mall space, which was created in the early 1960s.
City officials have been communicating with the businesses and coordinating construction times, Ziegler said.
"We're very excited about what the future is going to hold," he said.