Feedback wanted on Franklin Avenue as new ‘vision’ takes focus


As the end of the year approaches, a coalition of Seward-based organizations, residents and businesses is also nearing the completion of a new “vision” for Seward’s main artery, Franklin Avenue, between the light-rail transit (LRT) station and the Mississippi River.

The work is funded by a $30,000 “Great Streets” grant from the City of Minneapolis, with other financial support from the McKnight Foundation and Phillips Family Foundation.

Seward Redesign, Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG) and the Seward Civic and Commerce Association (SCCA) kicked off the “re-envisioning” process this past April with walking tours, which drew neighborhood residents and stakeholders out onto the street to photograph and comment on the avenue’s strengths and weaknesses, its strong points and area of need.

Later that month, a community workshop used those images and comments to further study the issues and assets of the Franklin, and a task force met in the early summer to discuss “values and visions” that led to another round of public comment and, now, a “draft vision document.”

This year’s “re-envisioning” process builds upon past Franklin Avenue Planning events, studies and discussions, such as the Speak Out for Franklin Avenue event held in May 2007, said Emily Wergin, development project manager for Seward redesign.

With the Draft Community Vision for Franklin Avenue now completed, partners are again looking for feedback that will inform the final working document.

Working with the architecture firm CITY DESK STUDIO, based in Downtown East, the steering committee has distributed widely the draft document, which outlines “core values” — identity, good design, multi-modal movement, local economy and leadership, stewardship and safety, and “Seward is green” — and “primary project areas” in four major subsets, crossing, wayfinding, greening and biking.

Each of these sections includes a description of recommended strategies to improve the navigation and experience of Franklin Avenue, as well as images that literally show the “vision,” with examples of future possible improvements laid-over photographs of the street and LRT station.

This fall, said Redesign’s Wergin, those strategies will be put to the test at four sites along Franklin Avenue, as outlined in the draft:

At 25th Avenue South, the “crossing” test site will feature crosswalks enhanced with colorful graphics and marlkings painted on the pavement, as well as “stitch-bump” extensions of the curb to shorten the crossing distance.

At the Franklin Avenue LRT station, the “wayfinding” test site will feature welcome banners, signs and kiosks, among other possible techniques, to direct residents and visitors onto the avenue.

At 23rd and 24th avenues South, the “greening” test site will feature “gathering gardens” and plantings of trees, plants, grasses and flowers to “animate” the street and act as “living screens” to provide a transparent buffer between the street and sidewalk.

Along Franklin between 22nd and 23rd avenues South, the “biking” test site will include “flow-strips” to mark a bike lane and intersection crossings, as well as markers to direct to key turn-off points; and “transfer stations” for dismounting and short-term bike storage.

While each of the four test sites is intended to address one of the four strategy areas, each could include aspects of the other sites, as well.

Seward’s first chance to check out aspects of the new vision will come on Sept. 27, when Seward Redesign will put some ideas to the street test with temporary chalk treatments on the pavement, more permanent landscaping and a doorframe at an intersection, where the sidewalk meets the street, intended to “create a human scale on sidewalk,” said Wergin.

The demonstration projects coincide with Redesign’s open house for its “Frankly 27th” building, which will showcase Redesign and the other five business located in the newly renovated building.

Attendees can comment on the draft at the Sept. 27 event, and Redesign is in the process of compiling feedback received recently through copies of the draft left at various Seward businesses. Redesign welcomes feedback and ideas as the project continues; check out the Franklin Avenue Panning blog and send comments on the blog or by email to:

Copies of the draft are also available at the Redesign office, 2619 East Franklin Avenue.