With the emerging debacle of The Yard prominent in the press (Strib and blogosphere), it is natural to overlook the fact that downtown Minneapolis just opened a brand new public space. It is called Target Field Station (formerly The Interchange), and despite Tom Fisher’s review on MinnPost, people actually use it and it is pretty nice. So considering downtown Minneapolis, with its skyway system, failed parks over the years, largely treeless sidewalks, and overall general inability to produce a good downtown park or public space, Target Field Station is a huge victory for the city. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Target Field Station shouldn’t win any awards (although it probably will) but we’ll take it because it does decidedly improve the public realm downtown. But the real litmus test of the success of Target Field Station will be how people use it over the years, so let’s capture an early snapshot.
Target Field Station is more than a train station. It is part park, part place to pass through, board and disembark from a train, attend a pregame event, or just sit. It achieves these things with varying success. Just northwest of the plaza on the north corner of Target Field is a lawn, large LED screen and of course light rail and commuter rail transit stations. Target Field Stations includes two light rail stations, Platform 1 and 2. This works well for Twins games, as one can clearly be used for the Green Line and the other Blue. This reduces confusion and makes riding the train much easier.
Looking across the lawn towards the HERC is a pleasant view. Have you ever seen a nicer setting for a garbage burner?
The lawn itself provides zero shade but is great for watching the big screen. Many, if not all, baseball games are shown on the screen, as were several World Cup games. The drawback is when no game is being shown, you have to sit and watch a combination of ads for Target and the Minnesota Twins – not exactly riveting viewing, and frankly a bit distracting on an otherwise pleasant day.
On an off day, benches under the trellises provide a natural place to sit. The trellises don’t provide much shade, however, so may not be too popular on hot days.
The other seating next to the lawn will be nice when the trees grow a bit more. However, given that they are in planters above a parking deck, I wonder how high these trees can grow. How nice to have a backrest – people seem to really appreciate that!
Addressing the elevation difference between Target Field and the train platforms above and 5th Street below is a challenge overcome by a large combination stairway/seating area. On a day I visited, a Kettlebells class was taking advantage of the stairs and circular route around the lawn for their workout. A nice use of public space, and I hope more than a Kettlebells class has discovered this.
The curvilinear seating area is interesting, but perhaps a bit hit and miss. Whereas on a day I visited the bench-height seats seemed to get used quite a bit…
…at the very same moment the steps were vacant. I guess I thought the steps would also be used for seating, but maybe they aren’t as conducive, aren’t the right height or don’t offer any shade.
Those steps and seating face the underpass below the Green Line platform. This area serves many purposes. It is a shared space, and could be a very neat space at that, as it is part pedestrian path, part event area, part outdoor seating for Caribou, but also part car turnaround and part parking area and ramp entrance. I for one like the pedestrian/seating/event uses far more. The more events can that are held in this space, the better, including. On an everyday basis, Caribou should just take it over for shady outdoor seating. Cars be damned.
On game days, bollards pop up out of the pavement preventing cars from entering the underground ramp. That ramp has two entrances, so why cars are ever allowed in this space is beyond me. They should just always use the other entrance/exit. The bollards supposedly block traffic ongame days, but after the one Twins game I attended so far this year, the bollards were down, allowing cars to take over the space. Also, why should anyone be able to park their car closer to Caribou than the bicycle parking, much less do it for free? I don’t really get it.
From the approach to the 5th Street crossing, the 5th Avenue sidewalk doesn’t line up with the pedestrian path on the other side. Maybe this is a minor quibble, but the drive lane does line up, and this kind of design flaw always drives me nuts, particularly in an area that purports to be so pedestrian friendly. While I’m at it, why is there even a signal here? The street is about 20 feet wide. A four-way stop sign would do, or just extend the shared space concept in to the intersection. A waste of $200,000 if you ask me.
Overall, Target Field Station is good. It is a big improvement on what was there before, and it does give the light rail station more breathing room while adding public space. Is it necessary to build a public space at the terminus/transfer point between transit lines? Absolutely not, but it is very important to provide a walkable environment near that kind of location, and Target Field Station does so. It also provides a nice space for before and after games and for residents and workers coming to and from the North Loop. I won’t go out of my way to spend time here, but when I am in the area I certainly appreciate there is a place to sit and have a coffee.
Make no mistake, I like this space, as I do Target Plaza on the opposite side of the Stadium. I’m proud of how we’ve woven Target Field in to a tightly knit urban area crazy with infrastructure. Hennepin County and the Minnesota Twins have done a good job. But let’s not get too congratulatory. Target Field Station adds significantly to the public realm of downtown, but that isn’t saying much. We should look at it as the absolute bare minimum in the context of providing public space, pedestrian connections and transit stations in Minneapolis. Target Field Station helps Minneapolis not fall farther behind similar competitive cities but doesn’t help us get ahead. Just look at the Denver Union Station project as one example. That magnificent, sublime downtown park is still out there somewhere.
Good write-up, Sam. I largely agree.
But no discussion of Target Field Station is complete without mentioning the INSANELY LOUD CONSTANT CLANGING OF TRAIN WARNING BELLS
Yes, Matt, I failed to mention the constant clanging. On a non-game day that seems all you hear. Yet another reason I wish we could find a way to bury light rail in a subway for it’s path through downtown.
Do trams running through European “city centres” have clanging crosswalk bells? Feels like a rural treatment for an urban setting.
This and the chirping crosswalks on the U of M campus (Washington Av) also drive me nuts.
I feel like I’ve heard European clangs, but I can’t say for certain or where (Bratislava?).
If Dr. McGuire and the Pohlad’s, via United Properties, build the rumored MLS soccer specific stadium next to the farmers market and adjoining the transit center it will be interesting to see how the Target Field Station would then be used for those pre-game rallies and other events done in other cities like Seattle and Portland. United Properties also have an interest in building a hotel near this in the North Loop which would also increase use of the spaces at the Target Field Station.
Brian, I wonder if the proximity of Target Field Station to a new farmers market soccer stadium would be close enough? Wouldn’t another event space near the Royalston station be in order? That begs several questions – among them “why do we need three event spaces, one next to each of our new stadiums?” and perhaps more importantly “why do we need a separate soccer stadium when the Vikings Stadium is built to specs?” To the first question, how many stadium event spaces do we need in one town, particularly when it draws resources away from building a proper downtown park?
Regarding the hotel, this is clearly another advantage of the project, as it creates a development parcel. A hotel would be a welcome addition to this area.
Sam, ask Bill or any baseball purist how much fun it was to watch the Twins play indoors at the Metrodome. I personally stopped going to games there because it was an absolutely miserable experience for baseball.
I’m not trying to be snarky but it’s not a lot different then moving the Wild into the new stadium because 18-20 K in a 60K stadium would be pretty much the same sort of experience a soccer team would have in there. An outdoor sport being played indoors during the summer and on a plastic pitch. None of those things will help with attendance.
The Vikings will tell you that it was built to spec but it would be one of smallest fields in MLS. Remember, the Vikes had to meet all sorts of specs to make the stadium multi-use for everything to baseball, NCAA basketball finals to motocross. It is clearly not an ideal situation for soccer. With quality soccer pitches size does matter.
Lastly, the Vikings own the exclusive rights to bring a MLS team in to play in the stadium. That deal is with the state, not MLS. If MLS decides to award the 24th team to McGuire which I am hearing would be the more likely scenario since he has already shown a big commitment to the game here in Minnesota and invested heavily in the current NASL team and the soccer community, then where do they play? Certainly not the new stadium.
I agree on the venue point – I love Target Field, and would much rather watch a mediocre Twins team outdoors at Target Field than consistently good teams in the Metrodome. I support McGuire’s efforts to lure a team, even if it means another stadium – I’d prefer to watch soccer on grass, outdoors as well. I just wish we salvage something more of a benefit from the Vikings stadium, and I’m very afraid we won’t.
All that said, event spaces and good transit linkages to stadiums are important, but I still believe the city needs to double down on its public realm, including building a genuine downtown urban park with a robust budget that becomes a regional draw. I believe the best location for that is the Nicollet Hotel block, but I just don’t see a lot of political will for such a potentially hugely beneficial park.
Exclusive rights to use the new stadium for MLS soccer.
Which means if McGuire gets an MLS franchise, he has to get another stadium built or cut a deal with the Wilfs.
The People’s Stadium, unless you’re a person who owns a prospective MLS franchise.
Because they ring constantly the warning bells are not even doing their job of warning people that a train might be approaching. Surely there is some way for the bells only to activate when the train starts moving and approaching points where people cross the tracks.
(1) Why do the trains stop twice 100 feet apart? The original Target Field stop needs to be eliminated
(2) As horrifying as it may seem to some, I rather like the idea of a big television as part of a public space. It would be nice if they could keep it showing things of general public interest – other local non-baseball sports and national playoffs, political events like state of the unions, debates, and swearing-in ceremonies; the kind of things that people often gather to watch in my favorite public spaces, bars. If nothing else toss on a popular old movie.
Jeff, regarding #2, there is certainly lots of opportunity for programming. Twins highlight reels from yesteryear, Mary Tyler Moore Show reruns, Prince videos….
The two platforms are useful for separating the Blue Line and Green Line postgame crowds. It also adds much-needed space for queuing passengers after the game. Eliminating the original platform makes no sense because it’s much more convenient for baseball dropoffs before the game, as well as transfers to the Northstar Line.
Missing from this thread was the positive improvement of grade separating ped access from the north. Pedestrians previously had to cross the tracks at the north end of the station.
Aaron, good point. In describing the steps I left out the previous condition. This is a pretty big improvement.
Was the at-grade crossing really a problem? I crossed it at least once a day for several years and never had a problem, it seemed fine from a pedestrian perspective. Maybe it was more annoying for the train drivers, but this is the end of the line, so I can’t imagine it was a problem worth spending $80m to solve.
Maybe I’m just being a wild-eyed optimist, but I think it might actually be a good thing that the Yard seems like its going to end up administered by a consortium of some type that will end up with financial responsibility for it.
Clearly, I need Bill to remind me of the evils of self-public private spaces or something.
*semi* not self
I encourage all of you to submit a complaint Metro Transit about the constant ringing of the crossing alarms. Let them know it’s more of a minor problem, that it seriously degrades the quality of the space. Here’s the link:
Thoughts on those bike racks they added? Bet the architect photoshops them out.
The two stations thing is super confusing. More signage is needed. And how will it work once SW and/or Bottineau goes forward? Will trains stop at both or just one or the other? It’d be really annoying to stop at both, so maybe they should simply make one of the stations just game-time only? Thoughts?
As for the bike racks, they are playful and perhaps not for everyone. They are also not necessarily located in the best places.
I think Metro Transit (and the Twins) are keeping their options open. For Twins games now, Green and Blue line trains only board passengers at one platform, and don’t stop at both. Perhaps this should be permanent, although it doesn’t allow for changing trains between Green and Blue lines in the future, although the stations aren’t that far apart.