TOD took a step closer to reality at the site of the Midtown Farmers Market adjacent to the Lake Street station in Minneapolis. The farmers market will in fact be the centerpiece of a mixed-use project that will include 500 housing units, a public square, and commercial space in a walkable transit village. A development team, L & H Development, has signed a letter of intent to purchase the site, located immediately adjacent to the southwest of the Lake Street station, and develop a mixed-use project there.
Starting in late 2009, the L & H Development team, of which was am a part, began a series of planning and design meetings with the Corcoran Neighborhood Association (CNO) to create a concept for the property. The team knew the Minneapolis Public Schools, which currently owns the 6-acre site, was issuing an RFP, and felt working with the neighborhood group to create a plan was prudent. CNO already uses a portion of the site for its Midtown Farmers Market. The site also contains an office building used for classrooms, and a surface parking lot.
The design centers around a public plaza, on which the farmers market and other events will be held. A mixed-use building will front Lake Street, with housing contined in other buildings at the site. CNO approved the concept plan in late 2011, and now that a purchase agreement is imminent, L & H is pursuing financing to push the development ahead. These next few months will be critical as the design gets refined from concept to detail. We zoom down from 40,000 feet and now decide where trees go, how wide sidewalks are, what building faces look like and where doors are, and most importantly, what developers are building and where.
It is my hope that when all is said and done, the project features mature trees, pleasant sidewalks, a public square with public art, the farmers market and events, with a restuarant facing it that you can’t tell for sure where the square ends and the restaurant patio begins, a coffee shop and doors – many doors. Retail doors, office doors, residential doors – all opening on to the sidewalk and activating the public realm. It matters less the actual design and height of the buildings – what matters most is the public realm and how those buildings relate and add to it.
What is known is it will all be steps from light rail and this development could become a national model for transit-oriented development. Stay tuned!