Show, Don’t Tell: “The Artery” in Hopkins

It’s mid-July, and that means one thing in Hopkins: Raspberry Festival. This year, though, officials kicked off the city’s biggest week with a little tactical urbanism. The city closed Eighth Avenue to cars Saturday and set up temporary features that gave people a taste of what the street’s future could look like.

Eighth Avenue is the main entrance to Hopkins’ downtown for vehicles headed west on Excelsior, but the current design does more to hide Mainstreet than advertise it, particularly with the two buildings that sit at the Excelsior-Eighth Avenue intersection. That’s a particularly big failing when a Southwest LRT station that could attract visitors is planned just across the county road.

The city has embarked on a $2.8 million redesign to fix those issues, give the avenue a facelift and make it more pedestrian focused, as well as take care of routine capital improvements. Hopkins has christened the project “The Artery” because of the art-centered focus.

The extra attention from the Raspberry Festival offered the perfect time to test some of the elements and see what people.

One of the obvious shortfalls in the downtown is a gap between the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail just north of Mainstreet and the Cedar Lake LRT Regional Trail that parallels Excelsior. Cyclists aren’t by any means in danger traveling the three blocks between the two trails, but it’s a hole in an otherwise stellar network that squeezes four regional trails into the city’s four square miles.

For the tactical urbanism “Artery,” the city set up cones and lined up potted shrubs to create a makeshift cycletrack.

For a few hours, cyclists had a connection between the two regional trails. / Credit: James Warden

For a few hours, cyclists had a connection between the two regional trails. / Credit: James Warden

I was curious beforehand whether there would be many people using it, but a steady stream of cyclists pedaled by throughout the event.

Cycles of all ages enjoyed the temporary cycletrack. / Credit: James Warden

Cycles of all ages enjoyed the temporary cycletrack. / Credit: James Warden

I’ll admit that one of the lessons for me was “don’t stand in the cycletrack.” Whereas I’m used to having streets either entirely prohibited to pedestrians at all or entirely for pedestrians, I’m not used to streets where space is carefully set aside for each user (I do the same thing when I travel to places like Vancouver that already have good cycletrack networks).

One of the key points of street redesigns is to reinforce their pedestrian focus. On Saturday, children had ample room to scribble with sidewalk chalk and blow bubbles in space normally reserved for vehicles.

A family enjoys sidewalk chalk at Hopkins' Artery event. / Credit: James Warden

A family enjoys sidewalk chalk at Hopkins’ Artery event. / Credit: James Warden

My favorite parts of the event were the lawn games and inflatable furniture because of the opportunities they offer for spontaneous play. I love a good community festival as much as the next guy, but making activities like this a part of the streetscape means families don’t have to wait for a festival to have fun. There’s always something fun to do.

Giant bowling was just one of the lawn games available Saturday. / Credit: James Warden

Giant bowling was just one of the lawn games available Saturday. / Credit: James Warden

A family enjoys inflatable furniture. / Credit: James Warden

A family enjoys inflatable furniture. / Credit: James Warden

As I mentioned above, art is a big focus of The Artery. The Hopkins Center for the Arts hosted a neat fundraiser where they collected donated pieces of art and resold them to raise money for the organization. My wife even picked up a nice abstract piece.

The Hopkins Center for the Arts hosted a donated arts sale fundraiser. / Credit: James Warden

The Hopkins Center for the Arts hosted a donated arts sale fundraiser. / Credit: James Warden

Local artist Jimmy Longoria also had a painting activity for kids.

Children lend their hand to a local artwork. / Credit: James Warden

Children lend their hand to a local artwork. / Credit: James Warden

And an artist who plays with perspective painted a nice piece in chalk that looks from certain angles as if you’re in the midst of the Minneapolis Moline factory that drove so much of Hopkins’ early growth. This piece is temporary, but quirky art like this could be a nice way to both add a touch of history and give something people to gawk at.

An artist's chalk drawing on a sidewalk and building wall gives the illusion of a Minneapolis Moline engine hovering in place. / Credit: Christa Meland

An artist’s chalk drawing on a sidewalk and building wall gives the illusion of a Minneapolis Moline engine hovering in place. / Credit: Christa Meland

Current designs plan for a portion of the street that can easily be converted to performance space. For now, a portion of a parking lot was set aside for music.

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A families listens to music in a parking lot off Eighth Avenue. / Credit: James Warden

Of course, the whole point of this event was to get feedback on the proposals that the city is considering. People were welcomed by a chalkboard asking what they think makes a good street.

Dozens of people shared what they want to see in a street. / Credit: James Warden

Dozens of people shared what they want to see in a street. / Credit: James Warden

There was also a survey that allowed people to share what features they wanted to see, and Community Development Coordinator Meg Beekman spoke with people about the street.

Community Development Coordinator Meg Beekman speaks with people about Eighth Avenue improvements. / Credit: James Warden

Community Development Coordinator Meg Beekman speaks with people about Eighth Avenue improvements. / Credit: James Warden

A man fills out a survey about improvements he'd like to see to Eighth Avenue. / Credit: James Warden

A man fills out a survey about improvements he’d like to see to Eighth Avenue. / Credit: James Warden

Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to do before construction begins on the project in 2016. But hopefully the city got some feedback from this event that they wouldn’t have gotten at the traditional public hearing or official meeting. I’d love to see officials start looking at more ways to bring their ideas to the public in a tangible fashion.


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8 Responses to Show, Don’t Tell: “The Artery” in Hopkins

  1. Andrew B July 13, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    I’d be in favor of SWLRT if it ended in Hopkins. At least they seem to be excited for it.

  2. Peter Bajurny July 13, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    In the picture of “all ages enjoying the cycletrack” were those road markings (the dashed lines and the bike symbol) temporary? Do you have any idea how those were made?

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott July 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      I think Hennepin County Active Living did that. http://www.hennepin.us/activeliving

    • Sam Rockwell
      Sam July 13, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

      The lines (solid and dotted) were done with tape provided by public works and the decals were done with spray chalk.

  3. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson July 13, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    I’m glad there was modest use of the temporary install. I’m very excited to see this built out in reality. I hope the feedback wasn’t too car-centric complaining.

  4. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke July 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    This is great. I think Hopkins is the best suburb, but there are so many ways they could improve.

  5. Cobo July 14, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    I’m sad that I missed this event.

    I am new to Hopkins area, and have read about the 8th street project. It has my full support.

  6. Dave DuJour July 21, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I was in Hopkins and on 8th St by around 8:00pm and couldn’t tell that any of this had been setup. Except for the parking lot being used for a concert that hadn’t started yet, the entire festival moved either to Central Park or into numerous bars. The cones, chalk lines, and markings (and people!) had all vanished.