Southwest-Northside connector gets funding

Hennepin County has agreed to contribute $7.6 million for the southern segment of Van White Memorial Boulevard, a new north-south parkway that will connect Southwest's Lowry Hill neighborhood to the near Northside.

The county funds and federal transportation aid will cover the $19 million cost of the half-mile stretch through the Basset Creek Valley, said Lois Eberhart, the city's project manager.

New bridges and property costs contribute to the high price tag, she said. One new bridge will span the Linden Yards railroad tracks and a second smaller one will cross Basset Creek, just before it is diverted into underground tunnels.

The project is paying $1.63 million to buy Scrap Metal Processors, Inc., 150 Girard Ave. N., said Darrel Washington, senior project coordinator with the city's Department of Community Planning and Economic Development. The recycling business impeded area redevelopment.

"We are investing in this area significantly -- $19 million -- putting in a brand new boulevard," Washington said. "We think this will be the catalyst to changing this area from an industrial area to more of a mixed use."

The neighborhood plan, approved by the City Council, envisions a residential/park development west of Van White and a commercial/industrial character east of Van White, he said.

Washington said he expects Van White to catalyze private investment in the area, similar to what is already going on at International Market Square, 275 Market Street.

Blocks from the future Van White Boulevard, International Market Square is selling 96 loft units. (The Lofts Web site lists prices from $211,900 to $959,900 for a one-bedroom, 2,450-square-foot unit.)

Once completed, Van White will run 1.4 miles from Dunwoody Boulevard near I-394 to 7th Street North near Plymouth Avenue. The city is working on the boulevard's northern section in conjunction with Heritage Park, the mixed-use redevelopment of the former Sumner-Olson public housing project.

Van White Boulevard already exists between Olson Memorial Highway and 11th Avenue North. This year, crews will work on the boulevard between 7th Street North and 4th Avenue North, near Glenwood, Eberhart said. Crews will work on the Basset Creek Valley section between Glenwood and

Dunwoody Boulevard in 2005/06, and open the boulevard end-to-end by late 2006 at

the earliest.

The project will also include a number of amenities. Van White will encircle a new park planned between Olson Memorial Highway and Glenwood. Washington said the city would request more federal aid for additional amenities.

Van White will bisect the city's impound lot, with the more heavily used area to the east and the overflow lot to the west, Eberhart said.