Two Southwest properties picked for redesign

Two blighted sections of Southwest will get design makeovers during the next six months.

Mayor R.T. Rybak’s Great City Design Teams, groups of volunteer architects, urban designers, and developers will work with residents and neighborhood groups to create visions and redevelopment plans for the Nicollet Avenue corridor just south of Interstate 94 and the intersection of 40th Street and Lyndale Avenue. The sites are among five throughout the city slated for such redesigns.

Rybak’s teams were assembled with the help of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (MASLA). They are part of his plan to “re-weave” the city into diverse, connected urban villages.

Any Minneapolis citizen group or community-based organization was eligible to apply for a design team. A committee of city officials and design team representatives chose projects based on need, public benefit, community support and other criteria. The five chosen were the best of 21 strong applicants, said Rybak’s spokesman Jeremy Hanson.

The 40th Street and Lyndale Avenue intersection is the site of two SuperAmerica gas stations that sit across the street from each other. One of them is closed and boarded up. A group of Kingfield and East Harriet residents called the 40th and Lyndale Task Force has been working with the community on developing a vision for the intersection and was glad to hear they’d be getting some help.

“This is a huge win for our community and for this project,” said Task Force Chairman Matt Perry.

The task force recently hosted a well-attended public visioning session to discuss the future of the node. Community outreach will continue as the project moves forward, Perry said. His first meeting with a Great City Design Team member was scheduled for this month.

Additionally, vacant buildings and unused parking lots characterize the juncture at 18th Street and Nicollet Avenue in Stevens Square. Problems arose on both sides of the intersection after I-94 cut through in the ’60s.

Providing more affordable housing options, installing businesses such as a grocery or bank, exploring mixed-use development and establishing a “mall center” to make the area more of a draw are priorities for the team. A possible “mall center” would include businesses that line the strip and potentially feature a community garden.

One resource is the set of design guidelines for Nicollet Avenue that the Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO) researched and wrote recently. It identifies neighbors’ feedback, including their needs and wants for the avenue, said SSCO Executive Director Julie Filapek.

Beside the design guidelines, SSCO has spent many NRP dollars in streetscape improvements and dedicated volunteer time to generate a Corridor Plan. Filapek said questions about building height and density, in addition to transitioning from Downtown to a partially historic, village-like neighborhood, would most likely dominate the discussion for potential developments.

She said SSCO and local residents are eager to move forward with the help of the team. “We’re glad to know the city is going to take notice of the site and see the potential of the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s really great that the mayor is taking the opportunity to work so closely with neighborhood organizations.”

Hanson expects the design teams and neighborhood groups to complete their visions within the next six months. The design teams will not participate in the actual reconstruction of the selected sites, he said. Another round of redesigns is expected later this year.