Central Corridor changing landscape in U of M neighborhood

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Federal funds for the Central Corridor are assured and may be slow in arriving, but nobody’s standing around waiting. More than 25 hardy souls braved wind and rain on April 26 to participate in the University District Alliance’s “Forum on Foot: A New Landscape on the West Bank.”  From under their hoods and umbrellas, they viewed the construction underway, learned a bit of history, and learned about potential residential and commercial development around the Cedar-Riverside/University West Bank station area.

Led by city, county and University representatives, including Mike Christianson, director of CPED, Minneapolis’ City Planning and Economic Development agency, the walking tour began at Mapps Coffee House on Riverside Avenue. Owned and operated by a Middle Eastern immigrant couple and adorned with maps from all over the world, it was another example of change in the city. No longer is the old Seven Corners area the provenance of Scandinavian immigrants. The Seven Corners are now down to four, and Riverside Avenue is scheduled for refurbishing.  Grandma’s restaurant is now a hole in the ground, possibly slated to undergird a residential high rise and across the way, Riverside Plaza, recently designated a historic site, is about to undergo “the biggest housing renovation in the city’s history,” according to Haila Maze, Principal Planner at CPED.

Standing on the 19th Avenue bridge between the Humphrey Institute and the University’s Law School, the shivering tour participants looked down on the Central Corridor station site, currently festooned with orange traffic cones and cement traffic barriers.  They were challenged to imagine what could be built on the development sites available when the ramps currently leading to and from the Washington Avenue bridge approach are gone.  Looking under the Cedar Avenue bridge and beyond the traffic on I35 they envisioned the corridor train soaring over the freeway to the Metrodome stop and the interchange with the Hiawatha line leading to the airport and the Mall of America.  East Side residents–and downtown commuters going home to northern suburbs–will be pleased to know that 4th Street downtown will lead, via a new ramp, directly to I35 north, thus relieving congestion at the Washington Avenue exit and entry ramps.

It will be three long years before we can take our first grand ride on the Central Corridor line in 2014.  In the meantime, road closures and changes abound. Don’t try to drive or bike East River Road May 2 and 3 near the University.  It will be closed for renovations to the Washington Avenue Bridge.  If you’re travelling via University Avenue between the University and the Capitol, plan for extra time because construction is underway.  East of downtown Minneapolis various ramps may be closed at various times for Corridor construction. For more details see the project website at www.centralcorridor.org.

And, if you want to express an opinion or learn more about what is planned or the challenges and opportunities near the U Stadium and Prospect Park neighborhood, attend the public open house on May 3 from 7-9 pm at the Profile Event Center, 2630 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis.  There’s free parking in a nearby lot and it’s on bus routes 16 and 50.

So prepare yourself for detours and a changing landscape.  I took the trusty No. 2 bus home from the tour and learned not only that the Washington Avenue bridge across the Mississippi is now down to two lanes but that bus routes that pass or circulate in the University area will change soon. Check the Metro Transit website www.metrotransit.org.  It will tell you that “Detours on routes 3, 16, 50, 62, 94, 262 and 285 are expected to begin around June 1. Go to metrotransit.org/construction for updates. Watch for posting at bus stops for details.”

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.