Continuing our look at the proposed SWLRT station locations within Minneapolis (which may soon expand to other lines), let’s take a look at the proposed Royalston station. But first, please remember where we’ve already been. The area around Van White is largely empty, but ripe for redevelopment. Penn Avenue is in a park under a freeway and perhaps unlikely to get much use.
Royalston is maybe the combination of those two. There’s definitely property for redevelopment, but there’s not a lot of stuff currently going on in the area.
You can see the closest I got to a panorama of the area in the photo above. This is looking south, essentially at the intersection with Olson Memorial Highway with Royalston Avenue running away from us in the center of the photo. On the right is a large, empty commercial building, that for some reason I think might have been part of Target’s distribution system at some point (i.e., I think I saw a Target sign on it at some point). On the left is Sharing and Caring Hands.
Here’s a map of the area, with the rough location of the proposed station as a not-necessarily-accurately-placed red box:
The first thing I want to note is that little blue box with the picture of the train just a bit to the right there. The one right above the diamond-shaped green of Target Field. That’s the Target Field Station. The fancy one that just opened with some pomp and circumstance. It connects the North Star line to the Blue and Green LRT lines that will soon use the station as their western terminus. Do you see how close it is to the proposed Royalston Station? SWLRT is essentially supposed to leave the Target Field Station, hang a left and stop again, maybe two blocks as the crow flies between stops.
It reminds me a bit of this bit of silliness in Bloomington:
What you see here is four train stations in a five block span (admittedly, large, suburban blocks, but still). Even better, there isn’t much of anything surrounding two of those stops. Riding through today, one has to assume that the plan was to build infill that would justify all these stops, but so far, it’s not there. It looks to me like the stops serve one condo development, a few businesses, and a lot of parking lots. And even if all of them get turned into something more useful, do we need stops that are that close together in what is unlikely ever to be a particularly dense area?
But I digress. Back to Royalston. The question I want to ask is whether this station is needed. Could we get essentially the same thing by building better pedestrian and bike access across Olson Memorial Highway? Would a few ramps or something serve the same purpose?
Again, though, I’m getting ahead of myself. The question first is what can we hope to get around this station. Let’s start is what’s already there. My understanding is that the station will go on top of this existing public works facility:
I don’t know what they do here, but I can’t see anything from the street that makes me think I should shed any tears over losing it. So, that part is good. So what’s nearby that will get improved transit access? Well, there’s this:
The Fish Guys is a going business that maybe employs some folks who will use the train. I don’t really know, but hey, it’s something.
But I’m being unfair and maybe burying the lede a little. I think the best (or at least best feeling-inducing) part of this station is the access it will provide for some of our more vulnerable community. As I mentioned before, this is right across 5th Avenue North:
Where my photography has failed is that I didn’t get a good shot of what’s on the other side of the station, just to the south and east. What’s over there is Mary’s Place, which is transitional apartments for homeless families with children. In other words, it’s housing for people who probably could use improved access to transit as they try to improve the lives of their family. That’s really nice.
The area also has plenty of opportunity for redevelopment, in particular this large property across Royalston from the stop, which as far as I can tell from the outside has been vacant for several years:
Assuming that this commercial property doesn’t have historical significance that isn’t jumping out at me, this certainly looks like a place where something new could be built (even if it involves a dreaded tear-down).
So in conclusion, Royalston looks like it will provide access to people who might really be able to take advantage of it, and offers some redevelopment potential (in the interests of full disclosure, it will also be the closest proposed LRT stop to my home), which means it has some definite attractive features, even if there aren’t currently a whole lot of people living within the walkshed.
But one last photo highlights the lingering question:
The foreground left if where the new station will be. The foreground right (with the yellow walls and grey, sloped roof) is Mary’s Place. Just behind Mary’s Place, but separated by a raised North 7th Street and a below-grade rail corridor (and the Cedar Lake Trail), is Target Field. The Target Field station is just on the far side of the stadium, between it and the red-brick Ford Center (where the used to make Model Ts) that you can see in the background. Could they be connected to this area without adding another stop?