Each day 142,000 people drive through the interchange at I-494 and Highway 100 in Bloomington and Edina on their way to work, shop, or otherwise. What they don’t realize is, as of today, they are driving through the second most iconic place in the state.
That’s because UrbanMSP has placed the interchange in the number two slot on its list of Minnesota’s most iconic things. This move comes after years of pressure from the general public, along with private and government interests.
“This interchange has always been under-appreciated,” said a spokesperson for the City of Bloomington in a press conference. “But we knew that someday, those who run UrbanMSP would come to appreciate the mix of modern architecture and traditional interchange construction, as well as the place it holds in the history of our city.”
One of the first segments of I-494 constructed, the famed interchange opened to great fanfare in 1959 during a time of massive growth for the then-village of Bloomington. From 1955 to the 1960s, the population almost doubled from 28,000 to 50,000. The interchange opened three years after Metropolitan Stadium and at the same time as I-35W, which then ended at MN-13. At the same time, the growing city of Edina had only six police officers. Over time, however, the 100-494 Interchange became the center of a sprawl of hotels and corporate offices, each with a uniformly paved parking lot or garage. The buildings, however, are anything but uniform.
“On the one hand, you have the Hartford Building, which is mostly glass, with some nice beige, and of course its gorgeous multi-colored parking garage,” said the driver of a broken-down car we interviewed in the left lane of 494. “But then you have the crown jewel: the Doubletree Hotel. Man, I could stare at that building for ages.”
“That’s exactly what my agency wanted to happen when they built this 50 years ago,” said a member of the MnDOT tow crew that arrived later. “We’ve always said highways spur economic development, so to see this become the centerpiece of Bloomington and Edina and the second most iconic thing in Minnesota? It just confirms what MnDOT has been saying all along.”
So how did an interchange so widely appreciated go overlooked for so long? We spoke to one of the UrbanMSP icon judges, who operates under the pseudonym Mndible in order to avoid direct pressure from, artists, architects, and others who want their creations to be added to the list.
“I’ve always kind of stuck to the urban parts of the state,” they explained. “Minneapolis and Saint Paul have some really iconic stuff. I never really thought the suburbs could match it. But then my fellow judge, mister.shoes, found the website for an upcoming development called ‘The Link.’ On its homepage, one of their main selling points was its location at the ‘iconic interchange of Hwy 100 and I-494 in Edina’. Well, if it was that iconic, maybe everyone who’d been emailing us these past years was right.”
“They contacted us and asked for a tour,” said a spokesperson for the City of Edina. “So we took them through and showed them all the great buildings, the parking lots, and, of course, the cloverleaf that anchors the whole thing. We explained how we worked with MnDOT to create a very minimalist landscaping plan so that we wouldn’t distract from the roadway around it.”
UrbanMSP judge Mndible loved it. “They didn’t need to do much convincing. I knew immediately it should go on the list.”
But it couldn’t beat the Spoonbridge and Cherry, of course. “That’s just so Minnesotan that I couldn’t move it down a spot even if I wanted to. Purple Rain and the Stone Arch Bridge though? They’ve got nothing on this.”