More details revealed for Nicollet Mall redesign

Image courtesy of James Corner Field Operations Credit: The redesigned mall near Westminster Presbyterian Church at 12th Street.

The design team working on the Nicollet Mall redesign revealed more details for the major reconstruction project Tuesday night, including landscaping features, lighting and street paving materials, among other things. 

Construction on the street is on track to begin later this summer with a grand opening of the new Nicollet Mall planned for 2017. 

 James Corner, principal and founder of James Corner Field Operations, said the “design will be the shining example of the new, modern main street.”

“With structures designed to encourage public engagement, art installations that reflect the city and attract people to Nicollet and keep them there to visit restaurants and shops, cities across the country will want to emulate this mile stretch of downtown,” he said. 

The City Council approved the special assessments plan for the Nicollet Mall reconstruction project May 15.

In total, downtown properties will be assessed about $25 million for the $50 million project. The State of Minnesota is contributing $21.5 million through bonding and the City of Minneapolis $3.5 million.

Several property owners spoke against the assessment formula at a public hearing May 5, including the Basilica of St. Mary and the University of St. Thomas, which objected to the model on grounds that they believe nonprofits are exempt from paying for infrastructure projects that include spending on discretionary items like a bocce ball court and street furniture. 

Kurt Glaser, speaking on behalf of the Basilica of St. Mary, said the church would like to see nonprofits have a reduced assessment rate. Some property owners objected to the assessment because they felt their property was too far from Nicollet Mall to benefit from the redesign. 

Other property owners and downtown leaders, however, expressed support for the plan and called the Nicollet Mall project crucial for keeping downtown a thriving attraction for visitors and a vibrant place for residents and workers. 

“This is Main Street Minnesota,” said City Council Member Kevin Reich (Ward 1), chair of the Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee, referring to Nicollet Mall’s importance to the region. 

Hennepin Theatre Trust CEO Tom Hoch, chair of the Downtown Council’s board of directors, said the investment in Nicollet Mall is important to keep moving Minneapolis in the direction of a “24/7 city.”

“Nicollet Mall needs to continue as an unparalleled attraction for the center of our city,” he said. 

The assessment plan includes a broad swath of downtown. There are a total of 32 different rates for property owners, said Don Elwood, the city’s director of Transportation Planning and Engineering. 

A $10 million office building would be assessed a total of $58,275, according to a report Elwood presented to the Council committee. The property owner could pay the assessment over 20 years, which would amount to an annual payment of $2,913.75.

A parking lot owner with a property valued at $5 million would be assessed $15,488 — a $774.40 annual assessment over 20 years. 

A residential property owner with a home valued at $250,000 would see a total assessment of $210, which also could be paid over 20 years.

The redesign will modernize the street from Grant Street to Washington Avenue, add green space, street furniture and special art features, among other things. The mall’s troublesome cracking granite pavers will also be replaced with more durable materials. 

Utility work is scheduled to start the end of June, said David Frank, the city’s director of economic policy and development. The city is also working with Metro Transit on finalizing a plan for rerouting buses from the mall during construction.  

Mayor Betsy Hodges praised the project’s design. 

“The revitalization of one of Minneapolis’ main thoroughfares will benefit the citizens and businesses of this city for decades to come,” she said in a statement. “This iconic design epitomizes the traditions we value downtown. It is pedestrian focused, environmentally conscious and a space residents can enjoy throughout the year. It’s a concrete realization of the vision that we all share for the future of downtown Minneapolis.”