Gridding West Midway

Neighborhoods change. Technologies change. Economies change. While today a Distribution Center is advantageous in the West Midway Industrial Area, because the sunk costs are sunk and all the buildings are built and relocating is expensive, that might not always be true. Eventually these structures will be obsolete for the demands of the day, or a newer and higher use will bid them out. Today, newer distribution centers tend to be in the outer suburbs with better freeway access.

Recently the Green Line was opened with a station nearby, and much of this industrial land is within walking distance of the Raymond Avenue station (which to be precise is entirely east of Raymond Avenue). When this neighborhood changes, it might be wise to break up the large industrially-optimal superblocks for a more residentially-optimal fine grained grid. Change sometimes occurs quickly. Providing more East-West connectivity is especially important, so not all traffic is driven down to University Avenue. It might be wise to get those lines in the plan before proposals come before City to redevelop, so those redevelopments can it least be required to dedicate the right-of-way if not building the appropriate streets.

Midway West District Current and Future Roads sketch

Midway West District Current and Future Roads sketch

Getting this exactly right is not critical, there is no anticipatable precisely perfect location for future streets in a changing, adaptable world. Getting this basically right is important, a fine-meshed grid makes a difference for local circulation. However, knowing this is likely to be piecemeal, and knowing that roads should be and will be built opportunistically, but should not taking existing buildings with thriving businesses, means a rough sketch should be drawn with contingencies. The attached figure is a rough sketch.

The top black line and red lines are  the posited or dreamed about westward extension of the Pierce Butler Route, denoted for reference. The blue lines illustrate a finer meshed grid in this area. Think about them as respecting property lines where possible, going through currently paved but unstructured land where possible. The most important pieces are making sure all the East-West streets connect to Vandalia Street, and thus to I-94, and making sure the North-South streets connect to Territorial Road, and thus to Mn-280.

From east to west, the map shows

  1. a new North-South street breaking up the superblock from Charles Avenue to the end of Capp Road
  2. a second new North-South street breaking up the second superblock from Territorial to Capp Road.

These streets are circulatory in nature, and designed for access to properties in a redeveloped site.

From south to north, the map shows in blue

  1. Territorial extending to Transfer Road, through the old Amtrak station, across Railroad tracks, and into Minnehaha Avenue. Traffic calm to suit.
  2. Ellis Avenue extending to Hampden Avenue
  3. Wycliff Avenue extending to Transfer Road

These streets should achieve the aims of an extended Pierce Butler Route without running rough through the St. Anthony Park neighborhood. In particular, by directing  traffic toward Vandalia and Territorial, and thus to freeways, it should reduce through traffic in other areas and stray trucks on streets that should be more pedestrian and transit oriented.

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5 Responses to Gridding West Midway

  1. Janne Flisrand
    janne March 1, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    These are a great idea, David. Thanks for putting an explicit suggestion out there.

  2. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini March 1, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Is the area zoned for transitioning from industrial to neighborhood? What are the barriers to getting this done if not?

  3. David Markle
    David Markle March 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    I wonder what the guy with the big CanCan World redevelopment project would say. (That’s the large factory building between Transfer Road and Prior.).

  4. Nathanael March 14, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

    I have to say that this is a terrible idea, and *here’s why*.

    These distribution centers are located next to the railyards. This allows goods to be brought in by rail and broken up for distribution by truck around the city.

    Moving the distribution centers into the suburbs means a lot more big rigs driving in and out of the city for no good reason.

    Furthermore, these distribution centers have employees. It’s good for these employees to be able to walk to work!

    *Industry belongs in cities*.

    I would, instead, focus on the question of how to make this industrial area walkable. How to integrate it with the city so that employees *do* walk to work — while retaining its industrial character and the transloading from railcars.

    The tendency to drive all industrial areas out of cities is a bad habit. Urbanists should avoid this habit. Instead, figure out how to restore the 19th century walkable industry model. This is a prime example where that might be possible!

    Professor Levinson, are you up to the challenge? It’s a more difficult project than designing a road grid for residential or commercial construction, but I think it could be extremely important: it could be a role model for having industrial facilities integrated into the *urban* fabric.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller March 15, 2016 at 9:44 am #

      I don’t think anyone is talking about forcing any businesses to leave the area. But they seem to be doing it (I say only on the basis of occasionally passing through).