The Midtown Greenway, the bike-pedestrian trail that runs parallel to West 29th Street through the CIDNA, East Isles, Lowry Hill East and Whittier neighborhoods, continues to add amenities. Here’s a progress report:
West trail connection
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said contractors have their permit to proceed with construction on the "gap" at the west end of the Greenway spanning St. Louis Park and Minneapolis. The so-called "beltline trail" is four-tenths of a mile that is the "missing link" to hitch the Midtown Greenway to the Hennepin County bike trails taking cyclists as far west as the city of Victoria. "It’s the most significant gap in the Hennepin County trails," McLaughlin said.
Construction of the trail is expected to wrap up by Nov. 8.
The Greenway’s old railroad tracks have been pulled up in preparation for the implementation of Phase II east of 5th Avenue to Hiawatha Ave. McLaughlin said construction should begin soon. "All the money is in place, and the design’s been approved," he said.
McLaughlin said that while the second phase doesn’t run through Southwest, people can better use the Greenway for cross-city commutes. McLaughlin said the second phase will be finished sometime in 2003.
Urban Village, the 190-unit housing development plotted along the Greenway on the north side of 29th Street between Aldrich and Dupont avenues still hasn’t broken ground because the city doesn’t have full site control, said 10th Ward Councilmember Dan Niziolek.
The Minneapolis Community Development Agency must relocate Sowles Crane Company, Niziolek said. He said the MCDA is working to find a permanent relocation site. "Once we get site control, all the clocks we have built into the project start," he said.
Niziolek said he expects some good news on the relocation in the next few weeks.
Another Urban Village issue is the connection of the development to the Greenway. Niziolek said the plan had been to have a retaining wall, but the State Historic Preservation Office, developers and the Midtown Greenway Coalition are scheduling meetings to discuss alternatives.
Midtown Greenway Coalition director Tim Springer said his group prefers some type of terracing between the Greenway and Urban Village. Terracing creates more interactive space compared to a retaining wall, he said. Springer said the added activity will increase safety along the Greenway, while creating a destination point on the route.
Michael Nelson, The Lowry Hill East (Wedge) Neighborhood Association’s Midtown Greenway representative, said the ideas for the space are good, but until ownership for the retaining wall is determined between the city and housing developers, not much can be done.
Niziolek said the city should adopt a Zoning Overlay District (ZOD) to put building restrictions along the Greenway to insure its character will be preserved.
He said one possible restriction would limit building heights on properties bordering the Greenway’s south side. That would ensure sunlight reaches the bike paths in the winter to melt the ice. Niziolek said ZOD rules could set how developments such as the Urban Village and the Greenway interact. The city and neighbors could outline what types of development to encourage and discourage along the Greenway, he said.
Niziolek said the ZOD initiative hasn’t been completed by planning staff, but once it is, it will be brought before residents in public hearings.
Transportation in the Greenway
Katie Walker, principle planning analyst for Hennepin County, said the county can’t start planning Greenway transportation –trolleys or light-rail — until a mode and the route are established for the Southwest corridor spanning the western suburbs to Downtown.
She said also that the final decision would be made by the Hennepin County Rail Authority, the City Council and the State Legislature.
Springer said the coalition wants vintage trolleys to be the Greenway’s primary mode of transportation.
He said the trolley system is ideal because it costs less than light rail. "The price tag is so much lower, we could implement the system sooner," he said.
McLaughlin said he also prefers the trolley system, but because of funding, it will be a while before any plans could be completed. "Money for these things is hard to come by," he said.
Southwest corridor transit study and the Greenway
Walker said the preliminary results of the Southwest Corridor Transit study are intended to help decide on a mode of transportation in the corridor, in addition to a route from the western suburbs to downtown. The study will be completed in January 2003, with the final study results available that March.
She said of the four route possibilities, two would integrate with the Midtown Greenway.
One option links the western suburbs with the Kenilworth corridor, meeting the Greenway on Lake Street behind Whole Foods, 3060 Excelsior Blvd. And the other possibility is the Lyndale Avenue realignment, which would run up Lake Street then turn North onto Lyndale to intersect the Greenway at the 29th Street bridge.
Niziolek said any new route must include Uptown via the Greenway. "If it bypasses the Uptown area, I’ll be upset and concerned," he said.
The mode of transportation is still under debate. The major contenders are light rail, the "diesel multiple unit" and the vintage trolleys.
When Walker recently presented the options to the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association, residents were upset by the option of a diesel-powered transport.
Walker said there are community meetings scheduled to solicit public opinion on the route and the transit mode.