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Sunday
Apr262015

Downtown Soccer Stadium: What Should the Minneapolis City Council Do?

Soccer Stadium

Minnesota United FC has not yet made a request for public subsidies for a Soccer Stadium Downtown, much less begun negotiations with the City of Minneapolis, but emotions are already running hot.

Soccer fans are clamoring for a Downtown Stadium, politicians are lining up against subsidies.  Have you made up your mind already, or should we wait for more info before forming an opinion?

THE POLL HAS CLOSED - 2,400+ READERS PARTICIPATED, RESULTS BELOW:

Sunday
Apr122015

Handing Out Mid-Term Grades for the Downtown Commons

2015-04-08_DTEC-Public-Meeting-2-0038 (1)

We're halfway through the design process for the new park planned for Downtown Minneapolis, so it seems a good time to assess the progress:

Public Meeting #1 - Kick Off / Feedback (February 24)

Public Meeting #2 - Concept Alternatives (April 8)

Public Meeting #3 - Preferred Design Concept (May 27)

Public Meeting #4 - Detailed Design (July TBD)

Here's our assessment on where we are.

Overall Vision / Grade: B+

A once in a generation opportunity?  That's a pretty big challenge, and it's how the City of Minneapolis describes the project:

The City of Minneapolis is embarking on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design and build a new public open space in Downtown Minneapolis.

So far so good in working toward that vision.  There's much to be done, so let's see if the design team can rise to the challenge.

Council Member Jacob Frey lays out a compelling vision (2 minutes, 59 seconds):

Concept Design / Grade: B-

Let's be fair on this grade - expectations are high for an "iconic destination park" that will draw visitors from all over the country.  How many public parks can you say that about?  They're also only at the "concept" stage, so what may be exciting details are not yet developed.  But the expectations are high, so that's what we'll grade against.  The design team has come up with four design concepts that each have interesting aspects, and which could form the canvas for a destination park.

All four concepts have two things in common: a major water feature and a large "open lawn".

Former City Council Member Diane Hofstede sets the bar high, rightfully so (19 seconds):

Public Engagement / Grade: A

Close to 300 people attended the Design Concepts meeting at the Mill City Museum Wednesday night! Controversial topics draw big crowds.  The Downtown Commons has very little controversy surrounding it.  That makes the level of community engagement on this project so surprising.  On the other hand, maybe it demonstrates the passion for parks shared by most Minneapolitans.  Regardless, we have to acknowledge the job being done by the project leaders for the City:

- Peter Brown, Project Consultant

- Brian Schafer, Project Lead w/CPED

- Miles Mercer, CPED

- Rose Lindsay, Communications Lead w/City of Minneapolis

They've cast a wide net to get the word out, drawing people of all ages from all parts of the city - working with neighborhood groups, other agencies, and media partners like Mill City Times.

Take a quick look at the crowd doing work on our future park (45 seconds):

More From the Meeting

Peter Brown reviewing the overall process (3 minutes, 37 seconds):

Lead designer Mary Margaret Jones presenting the four design options (32 minutes, 33 seconds):

Sunday
Mar082015

Graco Inc: Keep your word, don't stop the Minneapolis Riverfront trail

Time is running out, $1 million in Fed funding at stake

The only way to save the East Bank Trail is for Graco Inc. to keep its word and grant the trail easement immediately.  Our only recourse is to apply public pressure, please Share, Like & Comment on the Facebook post below:

 

On February 18 the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board voted (unanimously) to authorize condemnation proceedings against Graco Inc. over a strip of riverfront land promised by Graco in exchange for a major taxpayer subsidy related to the expansion of their headquarters on the Minneapolis Riverfront.

Unfortunately for residents of Minneapolis, any legal proceedings will take far longer than the May 31 deadline for the $1,000,000 Federal grant - the MPRB must have control of the land by then, or lose the funding.

The only way to save the East Bank Trail is for Graco Inc. to keep its word and grant the trail easement immediately.

Biohaven-Island

The East Bank Trail is possibly the most important goal of the St. Anthony Falls Regional Park Master Plan, and will bring us one step closer to a continuous bike and pedestrian trail along both sides of the Minneapolis Riverfront.  Your voice will help preserve that vision.

Sunday
Mar012015

CenterPoint Drops the Ball, to Give Short Notice of Big Dig

2 weeks not enough notice for major disruption

MCT Exclusive: Mill City Times has obtained a copy of a notice CenterPoint Energy will be mailing this week to those who will be affected by a major construction project set to start in Mid-March (see letter below).  CenterPoint will be replacing approximately 1.4 miles of 20-inch high-pressure steel transmission pipe with new 20-inch steel pipe along 1st and 2nd Streets S., and 1st and 2nd Streets N. and both 2nd Avenue South and North (see map for more detail). Construction is expected to begin in Mid-March 2015, weather permitting, and will continue until September 2015.  Visitors to the neighborhood can expect traffic delays, parking closures and lane closures in the areas of construction.

 

Why This Matters

2nd St. South is heavily used.  2nd St. South is a major bike connection from the U of M to Downtown, with most bicyclists choosing it over Washington Avenue.  And of course there’s the (unfortunate) heavy rush hour traffic that cuts through the neighborhood in an attempt to avoid Washington Ave.

Major events are held each week.  Every Saturday from May through the end of October 5,000 to 10,000 people come to the Mill City Farmers Market to stock up on local, sustainable, organic produce and products.  Thousands attend plays at the Guthrie, visit the Mill City Museum and take music lessons at MacPhail.  Thousands more participate in running and biking races that are staged along 2nd St. 

Most people using 2nd St. South are visitors.  The vast majority of people who use 2nd St. come from other parts of the Twin Cities to participate in the above mentioned events.   We want to make Downtown a great place to live, work and play – having a plan to mitigate disruptions from projects like this one is important to the visitor experience Downtown.

What CenterPoint Should Do

CenterPoint should contact local businesses, event planners, and Neighborhood Associations immediately to learn how they can minimize impact for the people visit, work and live in the affected areas.

Letter to be sent this week:

 

Thursday
Feb262015

Downtown East Commons Off to Good Start

Feb 24, 2015 Downtown East Commons Meeting

200+ attended, and most importantly, participated

I have to admit to some skepticism (ask the City project team), when I learned of the ambitious timeline for the design of the new Downtown park.  Three months from kick-off to final design seemed awfully short.  Would community engagement be meaningful? Would there be time to round up enough citizens to participate?  Based on the first meeting held on Tuesday night, I'm much less of a skeptic.

Outreach Efforts Paid Off

To start with, the project team picked a great location for the meeting.  The Mill City Museum has become the venue of choice for Downtown community meetings.  It has a great open space on the first floor, ample parking nearby, and it's within walking distance for most Downtown residents.  Last but not least, it's only a couple of blocks from the future park.  The museum deserves a big shoutout for opening its doors to the community.

The project team - Brian Schaffer, Miles Mercer & Rose Lindsay with the City and project consultant Peter Brown - put a ton of effort into getting the word out, and their work paid off.  It seemed like you couldn't turn on the TV, listen to the radio or read a paper without learning about the event.  There were also email notices sent from several community partners.  I've heard estimates of 200-300 participants.  My own count puts the number somewhere in between.  Impressive given the short time available to promote the event.

Minnesota Nice Put to Work

The world class design team, led by renowned landscape architects Hargreaves Associates gave a 30 minute presentation outlining the project and then put all 200+ attendees to work (see Community Participation video below).

The rest of the evening was devoted to brainstorming what the community wants the new park to become. The whole room was divided into small groups who discussed their ideas and then presented their groups opinion to the entire audience. It struck me as unusual to see such a large group of people, mostly strangers until that evening, collaborating at a large public event.  A real world example of Minnesota Nice in action?  I don't know, but it was pretty cool.

3rd Ward Council Member attended the meeting and was thrilled with the event.  "I'm so proud of our community. The Commons will be a gigantic success in large part due to their input and collaboration with the design team" said Frey.

It's not too late to weigh in, take 2-3 minutes on Survey Monkey share your opinion - https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DowntownEastCommonsSurvey - hundreds have done so already.  And stay up-to-date - http://www.downtowneastcommonsmpls.com/ - with the project website.

Downtown East Commons Presentation

Community Participation Session

 

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