A Shared Street Comes to Minneapolis

I was aware that the Minneapolis Park Board has been trying to redevelop the famed “Fuji Ya” site along the western bank (the Left Bank of Minneapolis) of the Mississippi River, at the foot of the popular and historic Stone Arch Bridge. The Park Board has released its plan for public input, and a presentation of the plan can be viewed here. Called “Water Works,” it includes a new portion of park space along the river, some uncovered mill ruins, a fountain area and skating in the winter, and a restaurant as its focal point (actually, the view from the restaurant will be the focal point).

What is most inspiring to me, as the plan was reported in this article in The (Downtown) Journal is the idea of a “shared road.” The West River Parkway will slice right through the site, the speed limit slowed to 15 MPH and bollards will replace curbs. What a great idea!

The site is small and narrow, and I recall speaking with a colleague last fall about the potential for plans there. We discussed a possible pedestrian bridge or something to mitigate the road. I distinctly recall wrinkling my nose and thinking “why waste money on a stupid bridge? Just make the cars slow down!” I’m thrilled to hear others think along this wavelength. It’s just a parkway, and in many ways routing the road through the site increases the potential visitors to the new section of downtown park.

I sincerely hope the shared road concept survives this approvals process. We have a long and checkered history in the Twin Cities of separating our roads from pedestrian routes with bridges, tunnels, viaducts and skyways, and this presents a much saner, cost-effective opportunity to integrate and beautify our public realm. It is time to just slow down a little and enjoy our city.

Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is www.joe-urban.com.