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Central Corridor : Development News

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$4.3 million tunnel to provide pedestrian connection between University Avenue and capitol

In conjunction with the coming Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line that will link Minneapolis and St. Paul, a new $4.3 million tunnel is needed to accommodate foot traffic near the state capitol at University Avenue North.

The tunnel will add to an extensive subterranean tunnel system throughout the capitol complex in St. Paul that was constructed in various stages between 1913 and 1984, according to Jim Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Administration.

The tunnels protect pedestrians from the elements while providing easy access to and from various buildings on the campus.

Recently the department sent out a request for proposals with a March 16 deadline for design and engineering work on the tunnel. Schwartz says the state agency will bring its funding request to the state legislature in 2012.   

The reason for a tunnel, here, he says, has to do with the siting of the light rail line at this juncture. It'll block off street-level crossing on University Avenue North.

"There'll be a wall to the north of the capitol, on the south side of University," he says. "In addition to the fact that trains will be going back and forth, it'll eliminate the pedestrian crossing at grade [on University Avenue North]," with the nearest crossing down the road on Rice Street.  

The tunnel, which will connect the campus's north and south ends, will be nearly 30 feet wide, he explains. It'll be adjacent to a smaller existing tunnel that will be used for utilities.       

One requirement is that the tunnel be done in keeping with the capitol building's historic status, he says.

Source: Jim Schwartz, spokesperson, Minnesota Department of Administration
Writer: Anna Pratt

Metropolitan Council asks public for catchy name for new transit system

The Metropolitan Council is asking the public for a "catchy and clever" name for the area's new regional transit system, which includes light rail and bus rapid transit routes, some of which are still in early development stages.

Although there are no specific rules for the name game, Arlene McCarthy, who is the director of Metropolitan Transportation Services, says it needs to allude to the "premium service here in the Twin Cities."

The system she's referencing includes the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit line, the planned Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line and bus rapid transit along I-35W South, Cedar Avenue and "other high-demand corridors in the future," according to a prepared statement.

These routes are set apart from other public transportation modes because they offer frequent, all-day service, predictable arrival times, special lanes, and enhanced vehicles and stations, she says.  

McCarthy says the council wants to hear about what kinds of ideas resonate with people, adding that the Minnesota Wild hockey team underwent a similar christening process some years ago.

One example of a transit-specific name is in San Francisco, where there's BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit. But another approach might be to look at the region more broadly, without using an acronym, she says.  

Additionally, because the branding is about the public, she says, "we want the public to identify with the system name," she says. "Who better to ask than those who use the system?"

The deadline for submissions is March 18 and the council is accepting them on its website, via email, regular mail, phone, and fax.

A group of marketing and communications specialists from various government offices, businesses, and chambers of commerce will sift through submissions in May and June, she says.
Source: Arlene McCarthy, director, Metropolitan Transportation Services
Writer: Anna Pratt

Public input to inspire artistic designs at Central Corridor stops

Community members can help inform artistic designs that will go into each Central Corridor light rail station.

The Metropolitan Council is asking for input from the public about what defines the locale for each light rail station.  

Coming up next is a community meeting on March 1, to get feedback on the area surrounding the planned Western Avenue station in St. Paul. The Metropolitan Council has been holding meetings on a station-by-station basis. People can also comment online.

Early design concepts will be presented in the coming weeks, according to council information.  

Construction of the 11-mile Central Corridor, which will connect the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis, starts in March. The line is planned to open in 2014.  

Laura Baenen, a spokesperson for the project, says the council wants to hear from people about the area's heritage, culture, and history, or, "something significant to the area, what it's known for."

The community's input will be "food for thought in the creative process," she says.  

For example, in a public meeting earlier this month about the Victoria Street station, the Rondo neighborhood's historic ties to the railroads and silent movies came up.

Ice castles are being worked into the 10th Street station design, paying homage to long-ago ice palaces, Baenen says, and the oak trees near the Fairview Avenue stop will show up through some kind of an oak-and-acorn motif.  

Creative ideas will be integrated into the station design from the beginning, unlike many projects in which artist-designed pavers or handrails are added as decorations. Art "won't be an afterthought," says Baenen. "It won't be attached later."

Whatever the form, it needs to stand up to the elements. "We want it to be both functional and durable," she says.

Source: Laura Baenen, Central Corridor spokesperson
Writer: Anna Pratt

Nice Ride gears up for expansion

The Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing program closed for winter on Nov. 7, but it's still creating a buzz.

Nice Ride, which debuted this summer as the nation's largest program of its kind, is now holding planning workshops in Minneapolis and St. Paul, to get feedback about where additional stations ought to go.

The easy-to-spot lime-green bikes were wildly successful, lending to over 100,000 trips in only four and a half months from its current 65 stations downtown Minneapolis and near the University of Minnesota, according to Nice Ride information. Only a couple bikes went astray.

Those statistics alone, Nice Ride's executive director Bill Dossett, says, are " a big deal."  

In keeping with its early business plan, Nice Ride ultimately wants to triple in size, with another 130 stations--half of which would go into St. Paul. "We've done the legwork to now say, let's grow to St. Paul and these other areas," he says.

Dossett says that in scoping out locations for the bike corrals, high-density areas are important, offering people the chance to "do multiple things, such as ride to places where they shop and work."  

As a part of its "phase two" expansion plan, North Minneapolis will see at least six new stations.

But the program has a ways to go to fund bike stations for downtown St. Paul and University and Grand avenues where he says it makes sense to try to serve Central Corridor light rail users and the nearby colleges and universities.

A single station, including bikes, equipment, installation and assembly, costs $44,000.  

Recently Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota pledged $1.5 million to the cause but he explains that Nice Ride needs to come up with the other two-thirds of the whole cost.   

It's a challenge, but in light of its popularity so far, Dossett is hopeful that the funding will come through. "The reason we're so excited about this is because we think active transportation is great for our health and communities," he says, adding, "We want to live in communities where people walk and bike." 

Source: Bill Dossett, executive director, Nice Ride MN
Writer: Anna Pratt

Hennepin County re-doing hairy 5-way intersection ahead of Central Corridor construction

People who design streets are taking the coming of the Central Corridor light-rail transit line linking Minneapolis and St. Paul as an opportunity to revisit an intersection that has bedeviled traffic engineers for decades.

The Central Corridor route is a mile away from the complicated five-way crossroads of East River Parkway, Franklin Avenue, and 27th Avenue SE, but its impact is expected to be felt there. In preparation for the train following Washington Avenue SE through the university campus, that street will be closed to motor vehicles to create a pedestrian/transit mall.

East River Parkway may get much of the motor-vehicle traffic redirected from Washington Avenue, bringing those drivers to the intricate intersection.

Runners, walkers, bicyclists and traffic from the nearby University of Minnesota converge there. Balancing their competing needs has meant a series of shifts and tweaks over the years.

The reconstruction now underway is bringing improvements that include the latest in road-sharing techniques and technology, from "bike boxes" where cyclists can wait for green lights in front of other vehicles, to signal sensors that detect bikers and pedestrians as well as cars.

If those innovations work at East River Parkway, they may see action at other traffic trouble spots. "Why do I get all these odd intersections?" asks Hennepin County Transportation director Jim Grube. "I must have been born under a bad sign, as Eric Clapton would say."

Source: Jim Grube, Hennepin County
Writer: Chris Steller

The 170-unit Lyric building rises along Central Corridor

Work is underway on building the Central Corridor light-rail transit line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. So how soon will construction start on the anticipated wave of transit-related development projects along the University Avenue route?

At the northwest corner of University and Hampden Avenue in St. Paul, the answer is: It's done. The Lyric at Carleton Place, a 170-unit apartment building, has seemed ahead of the curve, rising even as the lingering recession has kept other projects on the drawing boards.

The Lyric is a rental companion to the Carleton Artist Lofts, a renovated condominium building next door, both developed by Johnson Brothers Liquor Company, a major local distributor of wines and spirits. (Johnny's Lounge, a bar that formerly occupied the site, is commemorated inside the Lyric with a namesake gathering space.)

Yet the coming Central Corridor LRT line is not the main selling point for The Lyric, which is located between future stations at Raymond and Fairview avenues. Instead, The Lyric boasts artist-friendly amenities like a gallery, an amphitheater, and an outdoor movie-screening space.

The developer's effort to build a community at the Lyric extends beyond physical features. "The company has gone out of its way to incorporate social media" such as a Lyric-specific social-media site and an iTunes channel, says Christopher Lower of Sterling Cross Group, a public relations, marketing and web design firm working with property management company Dominium.

Lower says there's movement afoot to re-brand the Lyric's South St. Anthony neighborhood as "Mid-City" -- appropriate, considering the skyline view in either direction from the Lyric's rooftop deck.

Source: Christopher Lower, Sterling Cross Group
Writer: Chris Steller

Energy Innovation Corridor parallels Central Corridor with environmental efforts

You can think of the Energy Innovation Corridor as a second set of tracks running parallel to the Central Corridor light-rail transit line and taking the Twin Cities to an important destination.

The Energy Innovation Corridor is not an actual transit line but a group effort by businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations to promote energy efficiencies along the Central Corridor, from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis.

The Central Corridor line itself is "doing about 60 percent of what needs to be done," says Brian McMahon, executive director of University UNITED, a coalition of business people along University Avenue, which will carry the light-rail trains for most of their route.

Light-rail transit already achieves many environmental goals by getting people out of cars and encouraging more efficient high-density development. But as the Central Corridor project gained steam several years ago, University UNITED convened environmental groups to discuss how to ensure that anticipated transit-oriented development along the route went the rest of the way toward sustainability.

Among the concepts getting a push by the Energy Innovation Corridor are green building, better stormwater management, and solar and thermal energy generation. Retrofitting existing buildings and taking advantage of more energy-efficient land use along the Central Corridor are also priorities.

McMahon wants to make the Central Corridor a model for a holistic approach to transforming an urban environment. "Virtually everything the world is trying to do, we could show along University Avenue," he says.

Source: Brian McMahon, University UNITED
Writer: Chris Steller

Frogtown Square brings 11,000 sq. feet of commerce, 48 units of housing to once-notorious UniDale

A turnaround at the St. Paul crossroads known as UniDale has been 25 years in the making, and 2010 looks to be a big year for progress there. A new mixed-use development, Frogtown Square-Kings Crossing Apartments, will mark a significant milestone in the transformation of an intersection that is due to host a major stop on the Central Corridor light-rail transit line.

The intersection of University Avenue and Dale Street was at one time notorious as the site of an adult-entertainment complex known as The Notorious Faust Theater (yes, that was the business' full and official name). The Faust gave up the ghost in 1995; standing on that site now is the new Rondo Community Outreach Library, in a building with housing above.

Kitty-corner from the library is the Frogtown Square site. The deal for the new building closed May 31, allowing construction to begin the next day. Frogtown Square will have 11,000 square feet of commercial space at street level. Kings Crossing Apartments will contain about 48 units of affordable rental housing for senior citizens on the upper three floors.

Meyer Construction, a minority-owned firm, is the general contractor for the $13 million project, which is a joint effort of four community development corporations (CDCs) and Episcopal Homes.

What might light-rail riders see at Frogtown Square's retail level? "At one point, we talked about a hat store," says Patty Lilledahl, who directs business development and finance for the City of St. Paul--a "perfect fit," if it happens, for the building's residents.

Source: Patty Lilledahl, City of St. Paul Planning and Economic Development
Writer: Chris Steller
68 Central Corridor Articles | Page: | Show All
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