Minneapolis will completely reconstruct Grand Avenue between Lake and 48th streets in 2021, which many see as an opportunity to transform a significant roadway in Southwest.
The project’s lead city planner, Forrest Hardy, said the reconstruction “allows us to do a lot of things.”
The exact nature of those things is still being decided. Minneapolis officials held a Nov. 12 open house during which three early concept designs for the project were presented.
Most of the 2.25-mile section of Grand Avenue has pavement over 60 years old and lacks boulevard space for trees and plants common in Minneapolis, Hardy said.
The primary goals of the project are to replace that aging infrastructure, to boost safety by reducing traffic speeds and improving pedestrian spaces and to improve stormwater management by adding green space, officials said.
All three of the designs would add boulevard space for trees and other plantings adjacent to sidewalks, something currently absent on Grand that could help with both stormwater runoff and snow storage in the winter. The designs all maintain two-way vehicle traffic on Grand but differ in how much space they allocate for on-street parking and separated trails for cyclists.
A key question is how much space the city will use in reconstruction. The city’s right-of-way on Grand is 60 feet, but it currently uses about 54 feet. Minneapolis owns 3 feet of yard space closest to the street in city lots.
Two design options call for using the full 60 feet, with one allowing on-street parking on both sides of the street, and the other allowing northbound on-street parking and adding an 8-foot bike trail to the north side.
The third design sticks with the 54-foot usage and maintains on-street parking on the northbound side of the street.
Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KNA) president Chris DesRoches said he feels the 54-foot design is the most feasible because many lots on Grand Avenue have short retaining walls that would add cost and complexity to the project if removed.
The KNA surveyed residents about the project and found they are mostly interested in walkability, pedestrian and bike safety and connections to commercial nodes, DesRoches said.
To calm traffic, public works will be implementing bump-outs at intersections. The city is also considering options like chicanes, where extra curves and narrowing are added to portions of the street to slow cars. The city currently has no chicanes, Hardy said.
“That would be really cool,” DesRoches said.
Grand Avenue averages between 1,150–2,100 vehicles per day, which Hardy said is low for a collector street in the city. Every day, the city estimates, about 550 people board buses on Grand, 330 people walk its sidewalks and 80 cyclists hit the street.
Grand Avenue is considered to be a middle ground between busy commercial and quiet residential streets with its mix of housing and business nodes.
Matt Perry, who leads the Southwest Business Association, said the organization hopes to preserve on-street parking to help the 55 businesses it represents between 36th and 48th streets. Perry said about 50% of customers at local businesses come from outside of Southwest, typically by vehicle.
Ashwat Narayanan, executive director of Our Streets Minneapolis, which advocates for safe pedestrian and bike conditions, said the reconstruction should make those businesses accessible for people using multiple transportation modes. He’d like the city to enact its complete streets policy and climate action goals to reduce vehicle miles traveled in the reconstruction process.
“Today we have an opportunity to put safety first,” Narayanan said.
The city has an interactive webpage where people can make suggestions at specific points on the street.