Lowry Avenue road work set to start in a month

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The reconstruction work on Lowry Avenue is starting in earnest in May, which means North Side residents will soon have to find new routes for the stretch between Girard Avenue N. and Third Street N.

The county has acquired all of the property, 28 properties in all, that it needs to do the first phase of reconstruction, according to Hennepin County information. That includes, most recently, the Malone Funeral Chapel, 1300 Lowry Ave. N.; the other properties are a mix of houses and businesses. Some of the buildings have already been demolished.

Roadway reconstruction will begin May 1; the county has released a construction detour plan that routes traffic around the construction area to other main streets: northbound on Washington, westbound on Dowling Ave. N., southbound on Penn Avenue N., and eastbound on 26th Avenue N. Fremont, Emerson and Lyndale, which run north and south, will remain open to through traffic.

Next year, the road work is scheduled to include an overlay of bituminous (asphalt), streetscaping and landscaping. In this segment, the only section to be widened will be at Lyndale, to accommodate intersection improvements such as left-hand turn lanes. There will be a bus rapid transit station [BRT] where Malone’s Funeral Home now stands.

The overall reconstruction plan includes putting left turn lanes at the major intersections. The next phase of the project is from Girard Avenue N. to Theodore Wirth Parkway; the timeline for that is 2008 to 2010. The county doesn’t have a time frame as yet projected for work on Lowry Avenue on the Northeast side of the river.

County personnel will soon open bids on the road reconstruction work, and a groundbreaking ceremony will be announced within the next few weeks.
The entire plan can be viewed on Hennepin County’s web site, www.co.hennepin.mn.us, click on Lowry Avenue, then Lowry Avenue Corridor Design.

According to county information, some neighborhoods such as McKinley, Hawthorne and Cleveland are working on a facade improvement program to go along with the county’s Lowry Avenue work, using their NRP (Neighborhood Revitalization Program) funds.

Other related projects
Two construction projects on the Lowry Avenue Corridor that are currently in the works include Fire Station 14, at 2002 Lowry Ave. N. and the remodeling of North Regional Library.

Lisa Vokovan, project manager for Minneapolis Public Works’ property services division, said the newly constructed fire station will likely be completed the end of April. “The whole project—the site work, pavement, parking and green roof—will probably by done in May, with a grand opening celebration sometime in June,” she said.

Fire fighters will start moving from the existing station at 1704 33rd Ave. N. into the new building in mid-May, she added; the old building will be closed. As far as she knows, she added, the city will retain ownership of it.
The new fire station will include a conference room that will be open to the public. Like the old building, it will have a fire pole.

Vokovan said she met with the Lowry Avenue Corridor steering committee and took their plan into consideration before she helped design the new fire station. “We kept the setbacks, the streetscape and the bike lanes in mind.”

Fire trucks will pull out of the station onto Lowry, she added, but the station has a “drive through”—which means the trucks won’t have to back up. “They’ll drive into the station on Morgan.” Fire fighters will be able to control the traffic signals on James Avenue N., she added.

Nina Biddle, project manager for the Minneapolis Public Library’s North Regional reconstruction project, said they are planning a grand opening celebration in January, 2007. She too has been working with the Lowry Avenue Corridor project manager. Biddle said, “It is expected that the street work will be completed by that time so that Lowry Avenue won’t be closed for our grand opening.”

Library staff expects that the road construction work [near the library] will be finished this summer, she added. “In September and throughout the rest of 2006 we will be moving in shelving, books, furniture, installing signage, computers, etc.”

The work at North Regional includes new floor to ceiling windows, new plumbing, electrical and heating and air conditioning systems, as well as new furniture, shelving and equipment. Outside work, such as the parking lot and retaining walls, is scheduled for late March or early April, according to library information. In addition to artwork by St. Paul artist Marjorie Pitz, the library will put out a call for artists in the spring.

A redevelopment at Penn and Lowry avenues, which includes a new Aldi store, is working its way through city channels. A Northwest Corridor Bus Rapid Transit system transit node is also planned for the Penn-Lowry intersection.

The history
Planning for the Lowry Avenue reconstruction started in 2001. The county held seven public meetings, formed a technical advisory committee (made up of public agency staff), and a community advisory committee, which included residents and business representatives.

The work will include new on-street bike lanes, wider sidewalks and landscaped boulevards. There will be new medians (as well as new left turn lanes) at major intersections.

In 2003, a preliminary design for the work between Theodore Wirth Parkway and Interstate 94 was finished; some North Side residents reviewed it at three public open houses. That section of Lowry will include accommodations for the bus rapid transit system; bus nodes will be built at Lyndale and Fremont/Emerson avenues.

The goals for the Lowry Avenue Corridor Plan, according to Hennepin County information, are to make it easier for people to get to jobs using public transportation; make it easier for drivers, walkers and bikers to get to different parts of the city; and encourage businesses and services to locate near the transit hubs. The county and the City of Minneapolis are cooperating on the project; the Minneapolis City Council approved the North Side roadway layout in March, 2004.

For information on the Lowry Avenue Corridor Project, call 612-348-9260, or send email to LowryAveMail@co.hennepin.mn.us.

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