Minneapolis North Side Greenway project as a quantum leap in transportation-placemaking-greenway-trail-parks planning
I am proud of my "Signature Streets" concept, which makes the point that communities need to acknowledge the foundation of their primary transportation network and ensure that it is high quality in all dimensions, for multiple modes, and in terms of the placemaking, aesthetic, and architectural qualities, as an element of civic architecture.
A lot of other people's work has influenced the development of this idea, particularly parks planner David Barth, whose earlier
(1) "City Revival" approach recommends that city's treat streets as "linear parks," which is an extension of the parkway road concepts developed by the Olmsteds and others;
(2) Barth's later concept of the integrated public realm framework (below) which helps to unify our thinking about civic assets as the fundamental building blocks of our local community and government;
(3) funding and large scale project development programs like Seattle's Bridging the Gap and Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Area Projects;
(4) the use of design as a key element of community branding and identity systems;
(5) the re-focusing of public investment on existing places; and
(6) the effectiveness of investments in transportation infrastructure especially as a way to move revitalization forward more quickly.
The development of the North Side Greenway in Minneapolis is a perfect illustration of taking the Signature Streets concept from theory to practice.
Midtown Greenway. Flickr photo by Payton Chung.
Minneapolis is "lucky" in that it had many railroad corridors crossing the city, most of them in trenches, and over the past couple decades some of these corridors have been transformed into Greenways--shared use paths--that provide dedicated throughways for bicyclists and pedestrians that are fully separated from motor vehicle traffic.
The Midtown Greenway is perhaps the most successful, and is known for having the Freewheel Cyclery shop and cafe directly on the trail.
The greenway system is becoming a notable and desirable amenity and a number of multiunit unit residential buildings have been or are being constructed adjacent to it and touting the proximity and access ("Uptown building to get a multimillion-dollar addition," Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
More recently, the Dinkytown Greenway opened, providing access to Downtown from the University of Minnesota campus ("New Dinkytown Greenway open for bikes, peds" and "New U bikeway fills an important metro link," Star-Tribune).
But what do you do for those parts of Minneapolis that don't have railroad trenches that can be converted to dedicated trails?
The Minneapolis North Side Greenway concept addresses this by proposing to create a greenway (or parkway) by repurposing and reconstructing almost 4 miles of existing surface streets into a greenway route that will connect the Victory Memorial Parkway, Crystal Lake Cemetery, Folwell Park and North Commons Park through the creation of a "linear park" or "parkway." See "Proposed North Side greenway encountering some bumps" and "Greenway options on display for North Side" from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Because of the need to acccommodate current mobility expectations, they aren't able to create a 100% dedicated greenway. Instead they propose three (really four) different treatments. One is total greenway. One has one way traffic and parking with greenway or a narrow two lane street for through traffic, no parking, The third treatment is an enhanced bike boulevard with on street motor vehicle traffic.
Rendering of the proposed full greenway treatment.
Rendering of one version of the street + greenway treatment.
Illustration of what the greenway concept could look like in real life, as demonstrated on Humboldt Avenue North at an Open Streets event, May 31st, 2014. Minneapolis Star-Tribune photo by Eric Roper.
While there is some opposition to the project, because of the' existing greenway network, the proposal is less controversial than it might be otherwise, because people already are familiar with the concept, many have used the greenway network, and more people understand the value of these kinds of public investments as an element of community revitalization.