Riverside Avenue to get facelift


With cracks and potholes lining Riverside Avenue, the road — built in the 1950s — is in need of reconstruction.

The state rated the road in “poor to fair” condition, but that will change in the next year.

A Minneapolis City Council committee approved initial plans Tuesday for reconstruction on a one-mile stretch of the road from Cedar Avenue to Franklin Avenue.

Starting this summer, the proposed plan will tear up existing road and sidewalk and replace it with a narrower street, wider sidewalks, new landscaping and bicycle lanes. Traffic signals and storm drain systems will be replaced, and parking will become scarcer.

“The road quality was deteriorating so much,” Second Ward Councilman Cam Gordon said. “It hasn’t been reconstructed in a long time.”

The road’s reconstruction is scheduled maintenance and will be funded through the city’s five-year plan, Gordon said.

The project will be done in two parts. The first half of the reconstruction — Franklin Avenue to 23rd Avenue South — will be completed in the summer of 2011. The second half — 23rd Avenue South to Cedar Avenue — will take place in summer of 2012.

Much of the stretch being redone is next to large institutions — the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus, University Medical Center, Fairview and Augsburg College. However, Gordon would like the reconstruction to highlight the multicultural neighborhood that Cedar-Riverside represents.

“Some of the developments that we’ve seen … seem to see Riverside as a good back wall,” he said. He wants the major institutions to promote Riverside’s potential as a “major commercial corridor” by showcasing more on the road.

Construction and operation of the Central Corridor Light Rail could mean additional traffic in the area. Starting next spring, Washington Avenue will be closed to traffic, potentially forcing roads such as Riverside Avenue to see more congestion.

The city is working on mitigation efforts to prevent harm to businesses. Splitting the project into two parts, keeping the road and sidewalks as open as possible and posting signs directing people toward businesses are among the proposals, Gordon said.

The city still has a lot of project planning left. Officials will meet with local businesses and others to discuss amenities like lighting, benches, landscaping and other expenses.

There has been discussion of making the area a “special service district” where local businesses would pay a fee for upkeep of services like landscaping, lighting and sanitation like existing special service districts Dinkytown and Uptown. The idea is still up in the air, and the possibility of additional costs has scared off some Riverside businesses, Gordon said.

While businesses have had some concerns with the road project, overall there is strong support for reconstruction, said Todd Smith, president of the West Bank Business Association.

Smith, who owns the Nomad World Pub, said the association wrote to the city in support of the plans, seconding a letter from Augsburg and Fairview requesting wider sidewalks, more landscaping and a median that includes plants.

There was initially concern with parking, Smith said, but plans were eventually changed to help retain some of it. He hopes the completed project will benefit the neighborhood.

“I think to the degree that we can make traffic a little slower and highlight the good things that are going on in our neighborhood, that’s beneficial,” Smith said. “I think the redesign should make that happen.”

But he would like to see more city involvement.

Members of the neighborhood “all feel like this is probably a … once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I don’t know that the city is treating it with as much care as we’d like to see.”