Anatomy of a Proposed Urban Railway: Royalston

Royalston Avenue

Royalston Avenue

Continuing our look at the proposed SWLRT station locations within Minneapolis (which may soon expand to other lines), let’s take a look at the proposed Royalston station. But first, please remember where we’ve already been. The area around Van White is largely empty, but ripe for redevelopment. Penn Avenue is in a park under a freeway and perhaps unlikely to get much use.

Royalston is maybe the combination of those two. There’s definitely property for redevelopment, but there’s not a lot of stuff currently going on in the area.

You can see the closest I got to a panorama of the area in the photo above. This is looking south, essentially at the intersection with Olson Memorial Highway with Royalston Avenue running away from us in the center of the photo. On the right is a large, empty commercial building, that for some reason I think might have been part of Target’s distribution system at some point (i.e., I think I saw a Target sign on it at some point). On the left is Sharing and Caring Hands.

Here’s a map of the area, with the rough location of the proposed station as a not-necessarily-accurately-placed red box:

Royalston map

Royalston map

The first thing I want to note is that little blue box with the picture of the train just a bit to the right there. The one right above the diamond-shaped green of Target Field. That’s the Target Field Station. The fancy one that just opened with some pomp and circumstance. It connects the North Star line to the Blue and Green LRT lines that will soon use the station as their western terminus. Do you see how close it is to the proposed Royalston Station? SWLRT is essentially supposed to leave the Target Field Station, hang a left and stop again, maybe two blocks as the crow flies between stops.

It reminds me a bit of this bit of silliness in Bloomington:

The Blue Line in Bloomington

The Blue Line in Bloomington

What you see here is four train stations in a five block span (admittedly, large, suburban blocks, but still). Even better, there isn’t much of anything surrounding two of those stops. Riding through today, one has to assume that the plan was to build infill that would justify all these stops, but so far, it’s not there. It looks to me like the stops serve one condo development, a few businesses, and a lot of parking lots. And even if all of them get turned into something more useful, do we need stops that are that close together in what is unlikely ever to be a particularly dense area?

But I digress. Back to Royalston. The question I want to ask is whether this station is needed. Could we get essentially the same thing by building better pedestrian and bike access across Olson Memorial Highway? Would a few ramps or something serve the same purpose?

Again, though, I’m getting ahead of myself. The question first is what can we hope to get around this station. Let’s start is what’s already there. My understanding is that the station will go on top of this existing public works facility:

Public Works facility at Royalston

Public Works facility at Royalston

I don’t know what they do here, but I can’t see anything from the street that makes me think I should shed any tears over losing it. So, that  part is good. So what’s nearby that will get improved transit access? Well, there’s this:

The Fish Guys

The Fish Guys

The Fish Guys is a going business that maybe employs some folks who will use the train. I don’t really know, but hey, it’s something.

But I’m being unfair and maybe burying the lede a little. I think the best (or at least best feeling-inducing) part of this station is the access it will provide for some of our more vulnerable community. As I mentioned before, this is right across 5th Avenue North:

Sharing and Caring Hands

Sharing and Caring Hands

Where my photography has failed is that I didn’t get a good shot of what’s on the other side of the station, just to the south and east. What’s over there is Mary’s Place, which is transitional apartments for homeless families with children. In other words, it’s housing for people who probably could use improved access to transit as they try to improve the lives of their family. That’s really nice.

The area also has plenty of opportunity for redevelopment, in particular this large property across Royalston from the stop, which as far as I can tell from the outside has been vacant for several years:

Vacant building on Royalston

Vacant building on Royalston

Assuming that this commercial property doesn’t have historical significance that isn’t jumping out at me, this certainly looks like a place where something new could be built (even if it involves a dreaded tear-down).

So in conclusion, Royalston looks like it will provide access to people who might really be able to take advantage of it, and offers some redevelopment potential (in the interests of full disclosure, it will also be the closest proposed LRT stop to my home), which means it has some definite attractive features, even if there aren’t currently a whole lot of people living within the walkshed.

But one last photo highlights the lingering question:

Target Field in the distance

Target Field in the background

The foreground left if where the new station will be. The foreground right (with the yellow walls and grey, sloped roof) is Mary’s Place. Just behind Mary’s Place, but separated by a raised North 7th Street and a below-grade rail corridor (and the Cedar Lake Trail), is Target Field. The Target Field station is just on the far side of the stadium, between it and the red-brick Ford Center (where the used to make Model Ts) that you can see in the background. Could they be connected to this area without adding another stop?


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17 Responses to Anatomy of a Proposed Urban Railway: Royalston

  1. Matt Brillhart June 12, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Adam-

    Thanks for doing this series. It is always revealing to actually explore some of these areas on foot rather than just staring at them on maps and fantasizing all day. That said, I wish included some station schematics, instead of wondering where the station will actually be placed.

    Hennepin County’s “Community Works” website has lots of information about each station area: http://www.swlrtcommunityworks.org/stations/royalston-station

    Here’s what they see as a possible future redevelopment scenario (new/realigned streets, near total removal of existing light industrial buildings): http://www.swlrtcommunityworks.org/sites/default/files/Station%20Area%20Improvements_0.png

    On a more realistic note, here’s what they see as necessary opening day (2019) improvements (better/new sidewalks, relocated & improved bus stops): http://www.swlrtcommunityworks.org/sites/default/files/Opening%20Day%20Station%20Area%20Improvements_0.png

    I think you’re absolutely right that it’s pretty darn close to the new Target Field Station. I do see the second station as necessary due to the huge barrier that is 7th St N. I wish they had been able to push the station a little further south to Holden/Glenwood somehow. A station there could have reasonably served western downtown via 11th/12th Streets.

    As it is planned now, it would be a 3/4-mile walk to Nicollet & 11th (Target HQ). I’m not sure how many will actually do it, since walking along Royalston/11th into downtown is so desolate, but it will absolutely be faster than staying on the LRT to the existing Nicollet Mall platform and walking the 1/2-mile to Nicollet & 11th. Royalston Station does have some real potential to serve the western edge of the CBD, including the Target HQ, St. Thomas’ downtown campus, Laurel Village apartments, etc. I really hope improvements are made to the streetscape along 11th/12th/Royalston to make that a viable option. I sure hope the station has oodles of bike parking and a Nice Ride Station nearby to help connect it to the surrounding area.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele June 12, 2014 at 11:56 am #

      I’d also like to see the station move to Glenwood, as it could then serve Downtown and Loring Park even better. But even in its proposed location, it could still serve those areas: http://streets.mn/2014/06/12/reconnecting-the-grid-royalston/

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      As Matt mentioned in his post on this area, redevelopment of the Lux properties is supposed to be on the horizon. If that happens, it might make the walk from 11th and Nicollet more appealing.

      As I said, this will be the LRT stop closest to my house, so when I use it, I’ll make the walk up Royalston to get there. It’s desolate, but its not that unpleasant.

      To be honest, I can’t always make out exactly what is supposed to be depicted in those various maps, which is why I linked to the station page rather than looking at them in depth.

  2. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele June 12, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Royalston is such a cool little area. And it’s my shortcut between Loring Park/Uptown and the North Loop because there are far fewer stoplights than other routes. But I’ll gladly give that up for some infill potential.

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke June 12, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    Who (besides the government) is going to build mixed-use anything here in between two or three homeless shelters?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 12, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Well, I’m not sure I’d say “between” but I’ll grant you that some may see the Sharing and Caring Hands facilities as not great neighbors for anything too high end. There are more shelters/facilities across 394, and there’s the Catholic Charities facilities over by Glenwood and Lyndale.

      But the “feel” (a horrible metric) around Mary’s Place really is pretty pleasant. At least when I go by, there are always children playing on the playground, creating a bit more of a family environment than you typically think of for a shelter.

      Anyway, I have no answer to your question, and I think you’re right that the neighbors could be an obstacle to development, but the optimist in me hopes someone smarter than I can maybe find a way to do something more affordable (or do we need to ask Prof. Orfield is that’s counter-productive?).

  4. Obvious Oscar June 12, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    No mention of the Farmer’s Market?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 12, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      I suppose that’s a good point, although the immediate location of the stop as it stands doesn’t feel very connected to the Farmer’s Market, as you have to go all the way around the block (hopefully that’s improved in the future).

      • Matt Brillhart June 12, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

        Re: Farmers’ Market current location:

        I can’t be the only one who thinks we should *study* finding a new home for the Farmers Market, or at least reconfigure it somehow to make it a more loved, more useful facility. Located along the elevated freeway, while probably not great for the food, or people’s lungs, does make some sense in a twisted sort of way. While it makes for an unpleasant atmosphere at the market itself, I can’t see too many other uses clamoring to locate in the shadow of the 4-story high freeway viaduct. I’m really torn.

        Maybe we could relocate the market to a more viable location, and re-use that land for light industrial type uses that will be displaced elsewhere (like the immediate area around Royalston Station). I’d love to see relocation prospects for the Farmers Market explored in Downtown East, or perhaps somewhere else in the near north area, like just to the west along Glenwood or Olson Hwy. Some traffic calming and/or elimination of those frontage roads would open up a bit of land.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller June 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

          Is there some way to make the Armory a year-round facility for it? Could it spill out into the Yard in the summer?

          • Acs June 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

            Kinda hard to grow fresh produce in the minnesota winter :(

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller June 13, 2014 at 7:36 am #

              I suspect people can find goods to sell.

  5. acs June 12, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Now, if the Twins get their way and the MLS Stadium goes in this area, this will go from one of the lesser used stops to one of the most heavily used.

  6. Mike C June 18, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Adam,

    I just wanted to poke a little at your comments on the number of Blue Line stops in Bloomington, and provide a little context. The city of Bloomington has a long range development plan for the neighborhood essentially adding a smaller 3rd metro “downtown” zone, albeit shorter due to airport height restrictions. Please see the links for additional detail:

    http://bloomingtonmn.gov/cityhall/dept/commdev/planning/econdev/central/central.htm

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 18, 2014 at 11:50 am #

      Thanks, Mike. I assumed as much from the station names and the frequency of stops, although I think one could wonder whether the stops need to come first.

      Regardless, it’s done now and hopefully all of Bloomington’s plans come through.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Reconnecting the Grid: Royalston / Theater District / Loring Park | streets.mn - June 12, 2014

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