Minneapolis leaders celebrate Hennepin Ave. reopening

Minneapolis leaders celebrated the reopening of Hennepin Avenue between Lake and 36th streets with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning.

City Council President Lisa Bender joined Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson, other city staff and members of the construction team for the ceremony, held between Lake and 31st. It came as Public Works prepared to reopen the road to traffic around noon Wednesday, after months of construction.

Buses are scheduled to return to the street Thursday morning, according to the city.

The estimated $7.5 million construction project included reconstructing the pavement, curbs, gutters and sidewalks on Hennepin between Lake and 36th and widening the sidewalk between Lake and 31st by roughly 6 feet on average. It also included installing bike lanes on each side of the street, adding a mid-block crossing between Lake and 31st, improving stormwater sewer-system structures and improving the sanitary sewer system between 33rd and 34th streets.

The project led to the elimination of on-street parking between Lake and 31st and on the west side of Hennepin between 31st and 36th.

Hutcheson said it’s not easy to complete a project like the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction in one season, adding that a rainy October and subsequent cold weather made it especially difficult.

Meanwhile, Uptown-area residents and businesses expressed relief and excitement about the street’s re-opening.

“It’s just a breath of fresh air now that we (know), ‘okay, this is going to be open,'” said Brad Klein, treasurer of the South Uptown neighborhood association.

East Calhoun resident Ryan Brown said it’s exciting to have wider sidewalks and that he likes the mid-block crossing between Lake and 31st. He said he appreciated how the city replaced some of the sewer and stormwater infrastructure as part of the project, noting that Minnesota is getting wetter due to climate change.

Brown added that he appreciated how the city made the road more accessible to different transportation modes.

“We have to make it so that people are comfortable using alternatives like walking, biking and using transit,” he said. “And I think this street accomplishes a nice balance.”

Amanda Frank, manager of the Peoples Organic in Calhoun Square, said business had slowed quite a bit during construction, though she wasn’t how sure how much of that was because of the time of year. She said the bigger sidewalks would be more pleasant for pedestrians, adding that the elimination of parking between Lake and 31st would ease congestion in the area.