Thursday, February 10, 2011

Riverfront Design #3 is a Win-Win-Win for Hawthorne!

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Photo of Tom Leader Studio team from an email sent on the Upper Willard-Homewood (U-WHO) listserv.

Earlier today, The RiverFIRST proposal for the Minneapolis Riverfront Design was named as the winner out of four proposals.  But in reviewing their video, which can be found here, the real winner is the Hawthorne neighborhood.  The video is about eight and a half minutes long, but the first five minutes are dedicated to our side of the Mississippi.  Northeast gets a measly 3:30, so there.  Maybe we won't charge a toll for Nordeasters to come across Lowry and visit our spiffy new land bridge.

Oh yes, a land bridge.  The big issue that this proposal caught (perhaps the others did too; I haven't watched all of them yet) is that there is a disconnect between north Minneapolis neighborhoods and the River.  Here I was, asking pretty please for maybe a 50-foot strip of a bike path connecting 26th to nearby parkland.  And what gets proposed instead?  Let's take dirt from the bottom of the Mississippi and use that to help make a bridge several blocks long that spans Highway 94, expands park land, and connects Hawthorne to the River through walkable venues.  I'm blown away here.

There are at least three wins here for my neighborhood the first and obvious one is...

WIN - the land bridge.  I can't say enough about how this could absolutely transform Hawthorne.  If you have a chance to buy a house along 26th or between 3rd St and 6th St, you better snatch it up now.  Because if this ever gets built, those homes will be among the most sought-after real estate in town.  We've got down payment assistance too, I might add.

(I already won in my little dispute with Irving Inquisition about whether we could get the Lowry Bridge built with capacity for bike paths, in accordance with the Above the Falls plan.)

WIN!  A 26th Avenue bike path that looks a whole lot like a 26th Avenue Greenway proposal.

WIN!  This design states that no existing housing needs to be torn down for its implementation.  Also, I think the hoop houses referred to in the video are, unfortunately for me, in relation to indoor gardening, not hula hoops.

The RiverFIRST strategy also includes design aspects to draw companies like Coloplast, who will bring employees who may want to relocate to a neighborhood with river access, as well as a training and education center for are residents in need of job opportunities.

Granted, these are just very preliminary designs, and we've had great design plans shown to us before that amounted to nothing.  Over the long term, I'm hoping to strike the right balance between being excited and cautious.  For now though, let's just focus on how huge of a difference a design proposal like this would make for our neighborhoods.


  1. OK, I'm confused.

    26th Ave is a main arterial route. Many homeowners depend on 26th to reach Broadway or the Parkway. (These plans would certainly increase the traffic on 26th.) For that reason it was decided that 26th would need to be widened in order to provide a safe and aesthetic corridor.

    I thought the idea was for the City to slowly acquire vacant homes along 26th Ave. until it had enough property to support buying out the rest of the homes to implement it's chosen plan?

    If you encourage people to buy these homes the bike path proposal will be delayed or may never be possible as currently envisioned.

  2. Anon 8:44, I know my position on the greenway is likely not in conformity to the process you described, so let's acknowledge that up front.

    I don't think ANY houses should be demolished to make the greenway happen. As it stands now, you could probably open up a mechanic's shop on either end of 26th so that drivers can replace their shocks and suspensions after riding from one end to the other. If I had my way, I'd turn much of the avenue into a Milwaukee Ave, redirect heavier traffic to Broadway and Lowry, and figure out other ways for folks to get to and from the area.

    "Figure out other ways" is of course where the devil is in the details.

  3. I agree.

    Having attended the Jordan bike path meeting last year, I was disappointed that so many non-residents were allowed to contribute to the hand count determining the communities preference for bike path development. These were obviously biking enthusiasts from all across the Twin Cities who don't have to depend on 26th for daily commuting.

    The "vote" clearly favored development that called for demo of one side of 26th Ave.I am keenly aware that many community and city leaders are still formatting plans that follow this path and have heard that CPED is "land banking" vacant properties along 26th for this purpose with the hope of purchasing existing homes when ready.

    While it would be great to have a T.Wirth-like parkway running through NoMi at this location, the expense and timeline of such a project make it unlikely to materialize any time soon. In the meantime 26th will be an eyesore of vacant properties and empty lots. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy for land values toward this goal.

    I think one of the best ways to open up traffic flow that will reduce traffic flow and make the current road width acceptable to safe bike travel would be to open up the impediments that currently close off many of the communities through streets.

  4. I love the idea, plan and concept, but the city does not have the money or resources. The city should start with the Scherer site and pick up property and land as it becomes available.

  5. We have seen what MDCA and now CPED has planned for Broadway over the last 20 years. They mean well but all we get is a lot of broken promises.
    The Above the Falls Plan is great but then again you need money, which the city does not have. They should be courting more business to move in like Coloplast and a few big box store for Broadway instead of non profits.

  6. First of all, I don't believe the vision laid out in this plan is antithetical to a 26th Ave Greenway (although I am not in support of the idea anyhow).

    Second, I have heard a lot of concerns about funding. This is completely understandable given the times we are in; however, I think some people loose perspective that these are intended to be visions for what is to be accomplished over the next 50 years.

    Also, when one considers such a large geographic area with long expanses of waterfront with amazing connections into downtown is currently being used for such purposes as outdoor storage of scrap metal - one quickly realizes this land is not currently being put to the highest and best use. Studies have shown the potential of the area while the current uses produce very low jobs per acre ratios (see the Above the Falls Master Plan).

    This area has high potential it is not realizing. The riverfront improvements in the central riverfront area (downtown) cost about $289 million, but leveraged $1.3 billion in private investment. The North riverfront has even greater potential in terms of park land, new locations for innovative business, higher density residential riverfront development, and revitalization of surrounding existing housing and neighborhoods.

    The real answer is that we can't afford to continue using the north riverfront the way we currently are. Wasteful uses that bring down the surrounding area and produce little return. The whole driving force behind these plans are to maximize this area's economic return. It's a win-win.

  7. @ Anonymous 6:18 - What you are saying is exactly what is going to happen here. These plans cover the entire river from the falls to basically the Camden Bridge. But implementation has to be broken down. The part of the process they are currently looking at is which piece to implement first. Considering the recent aquisition of the Sherer site, it is a no brainer that will be the first step. From that point, it will be a piece by piece buy out and implementation over time. Remember, these plans are intended to be implemented over a 50 year time frame.

  8. Getting those bridges up should certainly be the first step!!!


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