Pilot project highlights pit stops on the Greenway

Credit: Fence cups embedded along the Midtown Greenway direct cyclists to Eat Street. Submitted image

While on the Midtown Greenway, it isn’t always obvious to cyclists what area of town they’re passing through.

“They don’t know what marvelous opportunities they’re missing up above,” said Lisa Middag, Midtown Community Works program manager.

With 1.5 million cyclists traveling annually on the Greenway, Hennepin County Community Works will spend a portion of its $1 million program budget to help link them to businesses on Eat Street and elsewhere in the city.* Staff are trying out a few ideas this summer. The ideas include large freestanding letters on bridges, food icons painted on the trail, bike fix-it stations, and letters and arrows embedded in fences. Enhanced trail exits will include Nicollet Avenue, 26th Avenue, Bloomington Avenue and the “Cepro” green space located between 10th and 11th avenue kitty-corner to the Global Market.

At a July meeting of the Whittier Alliance Business Association, business owners said they see bikers circling the area, apparently looking for entrances to the Greenway.

“We have people who really don’t know how they got here,” said Erica Christ, whose family owns the Black Forest Inn.

The project is a partnership with the Midtown Greenway Coalition and Lake Street Council, with additional funding and planning work from the city of Minneapolis and urban designer Lacy Shelby. Hennepin County Community Works is a 20-year project to invest in county infrastructure. 

“Wayfinding is one piece of unfinished business to tackle,” Middag said.

The project entails more than signage, however. Staff are sprucing up the Nicollet Avenue bridge, which currently dead-ends at the back side of Kmart, with planters, benches and a little bit of color on the jersey barriers.

“You get up there and it feels derelict,” Middag said. “We’ll make a little bit of a place up there.”

The Bloomington Avenue greenway exit is a stairwell, instead of a bike ramp. The county hopes to entice people to take a break and relax near the exit, then realize they’re hungry enough to head upstairs.

“It feels like a world away when you’re down here,” Middag said.

Staff embedded “Taco” letters at the top fence, and they’re installing a series of Burma-Shave-inspired signs at bridges: “Move your feet/up to Lake Street/get something/good to eat.”

At 26th Avenue, staff are adding a bike repair and pump station, along with seating and a sign embedded in the fence.

County staff hope to make the Cepro site the Global Market’s backyard. They are installing a volleyball court, beanbag toss game, painted hopscotch board, shade umbrellas and lounge chairs. Street artist Shawn McCann is contributing a piece for the area as well.

The signage being installed now will come down in about two months. The county will study the effectiveness of the signage to help design a permanent installation.

“This gives us a chance to see which strategy works the best,” Middag said.

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*This story has been changed to clarify that $1 million is the budget for the entire Midtown Community Works program.