Medina, Minn — The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners has announced a strategic relocation of the Hennepin County Central Library, to join the ideal location of Hennepin County Public Works in Medina, near the exact geographic center of the County. Since the Minneapolis Library Board merged with Hennepin County eight years ago, Central Library has sat at an extreme southeastern location in congested downtown Minneapolis
“There’s nothing ‘Central’ about downtown Minneapolis for the County,” observed Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who led the charge to move Central Library to his own District 7. “It’s really about equity. All square feet of all parcels of Hennepin County deserve equal access to all services. I’m tired of this Minneapolis-centric mindset.”
Johnson noted that Hennepin County Public Works has functioned well at its Medina site, and says he expects similar results and “exciting synergies” from the Central Library relocation.
A Library for All Modes
Like Hennepin County Public Works, the new Central Library will benefit from Medina’s excellent public transportation options. At any time between 3:29 pm and 5:59 pm, Minneapolis residents may take the 776 or 777 bus a short 51-minute ride from downtown Minneapolis to the Peonie Lane bus stop. From there, patrons need only walk 3.4 miles along the the shoulder of the Olson Memorial Highway to access the site. Those who catch the 3:29 pm bus are expected to be able to make the 2-hour journey with at least 30 minutes to spare before the Central Library closes at 6pm.
Buses will be available to return to downtown Minneapolis starting at 5:43 am the next morning.
Jim Grube, Hennepin County Engineer, stressed the importance of safe, dignified access to county facilities for people using all modes of transportation. “We felt that providing a sidewalk along the Olson Highway might give patrons a false sense of security. To improve pedestrian safety, we’ll be recommending they walk along the shoulder, with appropriate attire. Safety is a shared responsibility.” Noting concerns about access to the library
for persons with disabilities, Grube described the installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals at the intersection of the Olson Memorial Highway and Arrowhead Drive. “TH 55 is going to be a whole different place with those new beeping buttons,” Grube added.
One of the greatest critiques of the current Central Library is its inadequate and overpriced parking. “Government takes my income tax through the state, my property tax from the county, and then they ask me to pay for parking when I’ve already paid twice?” questioned Johnson. “Hennepin County residents deserve to get what they paid for, the first time.”
The new library will feature at least 30 acres of surface parking, with additional space to expand as demand increases. Access to the lot will be provided by 7-lane Library Parkway.
Some existing library users were dissatisfied with the relocation, claiming that — despite ample transit options — access to the new library would be inconvenient without a car. However, County officials note that the main benefit will be the expansion of library services to more patrons. Bessie, a 4-year-old dairy cow from Greenfield, agreed. “Too long have I endured the tyranny of having to travel downtown for basic services,” Bessie said while chewing her cud. “I deserve to have as convenient access to the library as I do to Public Works.”
Timeline and Future Projects
Hennepin County Library, Medina Central is expected to be complete by summer 2018. The former Minneapolis site will be razed to make way for luxury rentals, to be anchored by a Target Express.
At their next meeting, County Commissioners will discuss timeline and funding for relocating Government Center to the new Medina campus by 2020.