Simple Suggestions for Grant Street

Loring Park is a pretty cool neighborhood. It’s one of the few residential parts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area that could be convincingly described as urban. Parking is a nightmare. But, it’s conveniently located adjacent to Downtown Minneapolis, and you can easily walk to, among other things, a place to play horseshoes, 150,000 jobs, a great co-op, and an upstart new orchestra. Walking is the best.

Right now, there are two major planned street reconstructions that will touch the edges of Loring Park. The $9.1 million dollar Hennepin/Lyndale bottleneck reconstruction runs along its west side and the ~$50 million dollar reconstruction of Nicollet Mall pokes into its right shoulder. These are contentious and expensive, respectively. There’s another street, Grant Street, right in the middle of Loring Park that I cross at least a few times a day, either on foot or on a bus. Grant Street’s okay to walk on or across, but on days where I manage to use all three of these streets–usually a Sunday where I go to the gym and the Wedge–it occasionally strikes me that there are a number of easy improvements that you could make to a two and a half block stretch of Grant Street that would cost considerably less than millions and millions of dollars. There are many, many similar streets in Minneapolis.

Of the following, one is free, several are cheap, one is expensive; one is far off, the rest might be in reach soon.

Cut half of the bus stops (free)

There are three bus stops for the southbound 25L on the north side of this two and a half block stretch of road. I cut out two of the stops. The red shaded box is the regular 25, which continues down Nicollet Avenue. This change isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but this is a great example of stop spacing that’s far too generous, which is an issue all over the city. Metro Transit has made some efforts to fix this, my favorite example of which is actually on the map below but no longer listed, but documented here, on the northwest corner of Nicollet Mall & Grant Street. There’s mysterious Laffer Curve-like math involved with what stop spacing is best for the system, but I think we can all agree that when you exceed one stop per block, you’re probably stopping too often.

Grant & Willow stop removed, northeast Grant & Lasalle stop removed

Grant & Willow stop removed, northeast Grant & Lasalle stop removed. Note: Google Maps doesn’t list the eastern stricken spot; Metro Transit, if you’re reading this and that’s no longer a stop, please let me have the sign.

Spruce Place crosswalk (almost free)

The Loring Greenway is probably the most pleasantly walkable urban place in Minneapolis. Whenever I have someone visiting from out of town, I make sure to include a trip down the Loring Greenway. However, if you walk south down the greenway to cross Grant Street, it gets a bit dicey, especially during rush hour. Something like 6,000 vehicles a day use Grant Street, and anecdotally, a lot of them are flying down the street (probably trying to get to I-94 without using Hennepin) without much regard to anyone. We should really be building on one of our best examples of pedestrian (and cycling) infrastructure and trying to extend that experience to the rest of the area.

MS Paint

Looking north towards the Loring Greenway

Put in at least one curb extension at Grant Street & Nicollet Avenue (cheap-ish)

This intersection has way too much street. I use the bus stop on the northeast corner of this intersection pretty regularly, and you can easily walk five or ten feet into the asphalt on the southeast side without impeding traffic. Maybe, in the future, the surface parking lot on the corner can be redeveloped. In the meantime, extend the curb out.

MS Paint

Looking towards the southeast

Get rid of at least two of the curb cuts (probably not that cheap)

There are two (2) adjacent buildings on the north side of Grant Street that, between them, have five (5) curb cuts. Both of them have a surface parking lot as well as structured parking. These lots could be reconfigured relatively easily with just a couple lost spaces, or in the case of One Ten Grant on the right, they would probably gain a few if they ditched the driveway. It ought to be a condition of any redevelopment of these sites that they stick with a single curb cut for each property.

MS Paint

String theory on Grant Street

Other thoughts without MS Paint

  • Bike lanes, obviously.
  • Consider turning Lasalle Avenue back to a two-way, depending on how traffic reorganizes when Nicollet is reopened at Lake Street. Currently, Lasalle carries a lot of traffic at high speeds next to an elementary school playground.
  • Make sure the eventual redevelopment of the gas station at Lasalle and Grant is done well–LPM Apartments, the new 36 story tower directly to the south, includes about a 1:1 parking space to unit ratio. Maybe the gas station redevelopment could include no structured parking? We’ll have to see how (/if) the Nicollet streetcar works out.
  • Encourage some kind of use (pocket parks? badly-needed community gardens?) in the dead space on the corners east of Lasalle.

It can be harder to do little things with your own money than to do big things with federal and state money, but some of the suggestions above are the kinds of things we can do all over the city, almost immediately, to improve our pedestrian and cycling experience.

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49 Responses to Simple Suggestions for Grant Street

  1. Matt Brillhart April 29, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    These are all great suggestions. The lack of a marked crosswalk at Spruce/Grant is probably the easiest/cheapest one to fix. The effort involved in getting Metro Transit to remove a bus stop will take a year off your life.

    Suggested Part 2 of this series: Extend Nicollet Mall to 15th Street.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 29, 2014 at 8:37 am #

      You should write a post on your dealings with Metro Transit about removing a bus stop.

      • Nick Magrino
        Nick Magrino April 29, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

        Agreed!

        • Matt Brillhart April 30, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

          Alternate thoughts about the 25L bus stops:

          A. Why not just run it via Nicollet to 15th St, avoiding the extra two turns on Grant & Willow in the first place? Is there any reason not to do this? Long stoplights or difficult turns? i.e. would it actually make the route slower? If not, you should definitely suggest this to Metro Transit.

          B. There is no historical (streetcar era) precedence for this route at all. In the streetcar days, a bus route served Douglas Ave, Kenwood, & Cedar Lake in a nearly indentical fashion, but it actually took Hennepin Ave directly to Douglas, without screwing around in Loring Park. The fact that the 25L only runs 9 times a day further points to its limited utility (4 trips in the AM, 5 in the PM). I highly doubt many residents of Loring Park are waiting around, checking their phones/schedules to board that rare Route 25 instead of just walking to VERY frequent service on Nicollet (17 & 18) or Hennepin (4 & 6).

          C. If we somehow manage to get the 21st St Station built on Southwest LRT, the 25L branch won’t really be needed at all, as the vast majority of residents along the current bus route would walk to West Lake or 21st Station. The Route 2 could be extended westward on Franklin/Douglas to fill in the network.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 29, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    “Currently, Lasalle carries a lot of traffic at high speeds next to an elementary school playground.”

    This oughta upset people, but it doesn’t for some reason.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam April 29, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Currently the encroachment of the adjacent construction site into the street probably slows traffic a little, but yes.

  3. Adam Miller
    Adam April 29, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Good suggestions that should be uncontroversial.

    In a similar vein, the neighborhood also needs a cross walk on 12th St. at Yale Place. A fair amount of foot and bike traffic winds up on the southeast corner of that intersection and faces the choice whether to divert nearly a full block left or right or jaywalk across a street on which cars are frequently travelling too fast (either having just come off 394 or on their way to 35W).

    • Alex April 29, 2014 at 11:42 am #

      That’s actually a legal crosswalk and the city is out of ADA compliance by not providing curb ramps. It meets the city’s requirements for a zebra crossing, so I’d recommend emailing CM Goodman at lisa.goodman@minneapolismn.gov and asking for one.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam April 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

        I did email her and she said no one has ever asked about a crosswalk there, which rather surprised me. People cross there all the time, but apparently no one has tried to do anything about it.

        I don’t have any faith that anything will be done, but she said she’d ask city staff about it.

  4. Alex April 29, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Great post, Nick. FYI the MBC asked for bike lanes on Grant when it was resurfaced a year or two ago. I believe Grant was identified for bike lanes in the Bike Master Plan. The city refused to stripe lanes as part of the resurfacing project. This is one of a number of resurfacing projects that have occurred since the Bike Master Plan was passed where the city did not restripe for bike lanes despite explicit language in the plan stating that bike lanes would be considered when the facility was restriped. Public Works has not explained this contradiction.

  5. Erik April 29, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Crazy amount of bus stops… Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t diagonal crosswalks discouraged in NACTO street design guidelines? Either way, with bumpouts it looks like you could have relatively straight crosswalks at Spruce. I could of sworn I’ve seen triangle shaped crosswalks somewhere. Might be an opportunity for some new design.

  6. Cameron Conway
    Cameron Conway April 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    There’s a pilot project for curb extensions in CARAG/Lyndale. For Grant/Nicollet maybe that same kind of low-cost design could get more people on board for full on concrete?

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini April 29, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      I’m down with this, but I’m still perplexed why they even need pilots. Don’t we know they work to make pedestrian life better and calm traffic from extensive testing and implementation in other cities?

      • Cameron Conway
        Cameron Conway April 29, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

        Well, to be fair, the curb extensions in CARAG were basically impossible to clear during the winter. I’d argue that the result was desirable, as it not only extended the sidewalk but also created significant visual barriers that I’m sure slowed traffic. Still, not desirable for a bunch of folks.

        I think the idea of a ‘pilot’ is catering to the fact that not everyone is willing to trust what happens in other cities, and that they’d like a soft tester. It’s accommodating folks’ fear that anything ‘new’ might be as awful as the 94 trench or the Nicollet closing. I don’t agree with it, but if it gets the ball rolling, I’m down.

    • Erik April 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

      Cameron, I’m really intrigued by pilot projects especially as they relate to street design. Do you know specifically the location of these curb extensions or other pilot projects testing out new design elements? Washington Ave reconstructions is also sort of a pilot project, correct?

      • Cameron Conway
        Cameron Conway April 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

        So the idea of a pilot project is trying out a specific design that could be reproduced throughout the city. One example would be the curb extensions at 31st and Emerson/Dupont/Grand, or the city’s new parklet pilot.
        (http://www.southwestjournal.com/news/news/turning-parking-spaces-into-parklets) These kinds of things are testers, just to come up with a set of standards for using these kinds of elements in the future. I feel like this is probably a bit overkill in some places, but it works well with our tons of snow.

        I’d call Washington Ave more of a substantial investment, as it will involve a complete street rebuild. I don’t know for sure, but I think pilot projects imply that a similar design can be copied vis-a-vis somewhere else in the city. In the case of Washington Ave, there probably aren’t that many streets that would make sense for an exact design copy.

  7. Obvious Oscar April 29, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    This post is a great example of how urbanists participate in the destruction of precisely the things they claim to value.

    I’ve lived in Loring Park! Loring Park is not a great neighborhood simply because of its “urban” spatial feel and its proximity to, um, mind-bogglingly exclusive institutions like the orchestra hall (somehow I doubt Nick is a season ticket holder). If Loring Park is “cool”, it is because of things like its decades-old, highly visible LGBTQ community and its eclectic, diverse businesses. For example, the business node at the southwest corner of Grant and LaSalle features (among other things) a gas station heavily frequented by (not to mention employing almost exclusively) Black Americans, an LGBTQ novelty shop (Rainbow Road), and a celebrated yet highly affordable Vietnamese restaurant (Lotus). It’s about as thriving a node as you’ll find anywhere, and was central to my daily, and yes, wholly “urban” experience of the neighborhood.

    But Nick Magrino has absolutely no complaints about plans to level that spot and except that it be a marginally less-ugly extension of LPM — a project whose monstrous, 4-story parking garage base is wayyy father from the supposed street-level values of so-called “urbanism” than the tree-lined parking lot it replaced — because, why exactly?

    • Obvious Oscar April 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      I realize what I’m ranting about refers only to a sort of footnote of your post, the rest of which seems reasonable enough, but seriously: Nick, apparently you live in Loring Park. Why are treating the removal of some of its most thriving and diverse businesses as an eventuality, and focusing instead on superficial stuff?

      • Cameron Conway
        Cameron Conway April 29, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

        To assume that the site won’t be redeveloped is somewhat short-sighted. LP is becoming one of the most in demand downtown-proximal neighborhoods. That site is going to be redeveloped, and that really isn’t a solely bad thing. Those buildings will likely be replaced with a dense structure with a design that will empower pedestrians and decrease the need for a car in the neighborhood.

        The question is how to redevelop for the purpose of affordable rents. This is incredibly important to me, and I’m convinced that it doesn’t have solely to do with the high cost of new construction.

        Also, don’t blame urbanists for the LPM ramp. We’d all personally demo it if we could.

        • Obvious Oscar April 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

          I’m familiar with the mantras of urbanism, thanks. But ya know what’s more “empowering” than a sleek new building to walk past? Stability, diversity, and so on.

          Think of it this way: While that gas station parking lot may on the one hand be a missed opportunity for housing to meet the rising demand, on the other hand that gas station parking lot (and its highly visible non-White patrons) is probably keeping demand at more manageable levels, especially when it comes to vaguely racist suburbanites who otherwise might not be so (unduly) terrified of moving downtown. Which is a good thing.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke April 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

            Downtown should be for everyone. Skyways piss me off and are racist in practice.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam April 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

            I’m not sure the gas station is more effective at that than the nearby housing in which those patrons presumably live, which at the moment does not seem to be going anywhere.

          • Cameron Conway
            Cameron Conway April 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

            Are the non-white patrons actually customers of those parking lots? I’m fairly sure those are primarily used by people living outside of LP. You’re basically saying that LP residents should just deal with unsafe design because it’s so crappy that it’ll keep rich folks out.

            That doesn’t satisfy me. Basically, we need enough affordable commercial space in LP that those businesses could relocate in the neighborhood if that site were to redevelop. In order to do that, we need to find ways to build very affordable, walkable projects. This probably warrants getting government involved in housing markets, which has yet to end well. I don’t have a solution, but I’m looking for one.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam April 29, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

              It’s even more complicated than that. There is going be demand to make the area substantially denser in coming years (as you know), and not all that many places to put more density without tearing down buildings that I’d like to see preserved.

              Which makes the strip mall with the SA in it relatively high on the list of potential parcels to redevelop (after the few remaining surface parking lots, of course).

        • Adam Miller
          Adam April 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

          The devil will be in the details. Oscar is absolutely right about the value of those businesses, and to the extent that there are issues with the neighborhood (in which I live, btw), one of them is a relative paucity of retail in general.

      • Kevin April 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

        I agree with Oscar in general that often urbanist thinking often tend impose a sort of pale boho upper-middle class aesthetic on neighborhoods. Lots of times, “urbanism” feels like people who hated growing up in the suburbs trying to impose their dream version of urban life onto the complex, messy, and diverse fabric of the city. I think that this article provided some reasonable and practical suggestions though. And I have to take exception to the argument that the Minnesota Orchestra is “mind-bogglingly” exclusive. I recall picking up tickets for less than twenty dollars not so long ago. Or the implication that the SuperAmerica on Grant and LaSalle is some kind of neighborhood asset. In my experience, it serves its diverse clientele badly.

      • Nick Magrino
        Nick Magrino April 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

        Well, the issue is that there’s a one story strip mall and a gas station on a prime spot in the middle of an urban-ish neighborhood. There’s not much surface parking left in the area, so I figure that will be one of the next (and last) obvious things to be redeveloped. It has nothing to do with any of the businesses there.

        • Obvious Oscar April 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

          I don’t get it. Is “redevelopment” an intractable force of nature?

          “It has nothing to do with any of the businesses there” sounds like code for “it has nothing to do with anything except the housing demands of wealthy suburban Whites.” That’s… pretty shitty, no?

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke April 30, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

            Well, I don’t like calling capitalism a “force of nature” because it implies we have no control over it. We DO have some control over some parts of the social relationship we call capitalism. For example, private property is not a given…

            But that’s a huge conversation. If we assume we’re going to keep our present economic reality, then things like property rights, tax assessments, and housing markets are kind of like a force of nature in that they are always creating value, reflecting demand, etc. It is very hard and almost impossible to ignore the forces of redevelopment. For example, you could instill rent controls or tax abatements or zone this property single-story commercial or declare the gas station historic or something if you wanted. That might “grandfather in” this one property, but it would have other pernicious effects… Because it’s so interwoven with capitalism and economic inequality, gentrification is not an easy problem to “solve.”

            Barring some sort of 70s New York-style urban disaster, demand for housing in this very desirable spot isn’t going away. More and more people are going to want to live in the Loring Park area. This land is going to be more valuable in the future than its been in the past.

            What are your obvious solutions?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 29, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      What project are you talking about?

      • Obvious Oscar April 29, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

        Not sure. Ask Nick, who wrote: “Make sure the eventual redevelopment of the gas station at Lasalle and Grant is done well–LPM Apartments, the new 36 story tower directly to the south, includes about a 1:1 parking space to unit ratio. Maybe the gas station redevelopment could include no structured parking?”

  8. Michael Roden
    Michael Roden April 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    I reject the notion that working to improve the safety and livability of urban areas is inherently racist. The implication that the only way to provide affordability is to keep things just crappy enough that no one with a better option would want to live there is offensive. We have a lot of work to do with managing our brand as urbanists if every attempt to point out a dangerous flaw in the streetscape is decried as elitist.

    • Cameron Conway
      Cameron Conway April 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Here, here!

    • Erik April 29, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Completely agree. You have to have some serious bias to construe a run down gas station in a dense urban neighborhood as a symbol of affordability and diversity.

      • Matt Steele April 30, 2014 at 9:16 am #

        It’s the old-fashioned way of creating affordability, which worked when you could actually convince some populations to move away (thus lowering demand and lowering rents). But the result was segregated, and neighborhoods that lacked investment. It was an awful outcome. And even if it wasn’t awful, it wouldn’t work today anyways because people want to live in urban neighborhoods like never before (well, never in the past 70 years). So prices are necessarily going to go up as demand goes up, and they will go up even more if we refuse to allow additional units in our neighborhoods. And we can do better than expecting large portions of society to live in disinvested neighborhoods as Michael points out.

        • Obvious Oscar April 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

          Y’all live in this strange, privileged, elitist world, where you imagine living in a so-called “disinvested” neighborhood to mean living in absolute, near-death squalor or something. So, as Obvious Oscar, allow me to state a couple obvious things:

          1) These “disinvested” neighborhoods don’t magically go away when new private investment and redevelopment comes. They are just displaced. In the current stage of metropolitan migration, that means that “disinvestment” moves toward the ‘burbs, and away from public transportation and other amenities that lower income people tend to use.

          2) Since when does the presence of this particular, thriving–albeit strip-mall style–business node in Loring Park signal anything but positive INVESTMENT? There are like 6 successful businesses there!! One can’t help but suspect that by “disinvestment”, what you really mean is “not adhering the aesthetics of (probably White) affluence.” That’s shitty.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke April 30, 2014 at 10:08 am #

      OK the gas station is fugly. That said, Oscar’s point about the need for economic and social diversity in our city is valid. It’s something to think about in general, and solutions are not simple. How can we keep diverse small businesses thriving in Minneapolis?

      • Jim April 30, 2014 at 11:04 am #

        “How can we keep diverse small businesses thriving in Minneapolis?”

        Frequent them. Taxes, regulations, and bureaucracy are all a hindrance to any business. But the best way to help the small guys is to give them your money. Say no to online shopping, major shopping malls, chains, etc.

        Small businesses need business, pure and simple.

        Although I admit I’m guilty of not following my own advice. I try though.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke April 30, 2014 at 11:38 am #

          I try too. Screw Amazon.

          • Erik April 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

            Me too. Amazon is the Walmart of the internet.

        • Nick Magrino
          Nick Magrino April 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

          (This is my next post idea)

      • Obvious Oscar April 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

        Is the fugliness of the gas station a reason to evict Lotus, Rainbow Road, etc.? No. Unless you’re realllllllly shallow. But my conclusion is that most of these self-identified urbanists are indeed reallllllly shallow. Too bad a potentially meaningful discourse got hijacked by these people, am I right?

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke April 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

          Let’s try to talk about issues without calling each other names, shall we?

          • Obvious Oscar April 30, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

            At least I hurl my insults straightforwardly, instead of pretending, as many writers here do, that attacks on neighborhoods (“disinvested”) and small or minority-owned businesses (“run-down”) are somehow benign. Moreover, it’s an insult to my intelligence to suggest that condescending privileged White dudes systemically shouting down local opposition to redevelopment projects isn’t an “issue” unto itself.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam April 30, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

          Let me get this straight, people are “reallllly shallow” (that many Ls is really hard to pronounce) because they expect that at some point in the future there might be a proposal to redevelop a particular parcel of land?

          Okay. Well, how about I assume that the redevelopment proposal will be for a not-for-profit organization that has agreed with the existing businesses to build them a new mixed use home that will include 50 units of transitional housing for the recently homeless. Do I now get to say the certain self-described obvious people are heartless NIMBYs?

          Of course not. We don’t know what’s going to happen to that parcel, so none of us should yet be for or against whatever it is.

          Most likely, its going to continue as it is for the foreseeable future.

    • Obvious Oscar April 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      One way you might consider “managing” the urbanist “brand” is, you know, actually taking taking up these oh-so-pesky issues of racism and gentrification and making them absolutely central to the conversation, instead of endlessly kicking the equity can down the road while focusing only on the shiny, privileged White people-y side of urban development.

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