Western Columbia Park: Industrial Gateway to the Camden Bridge

My firstsecond, and third days in Columbia Park covered almost the entire neighborhood, but one small area along the river still remained, which was cut off from the rest of the neighborhood due to the St. Anthony Parkway’s Northtown bridge being in the midst of replacement. At the start of the 20th Century this area was home to brick yards, and it still has a distinctly industrial character.

I started my walk at the intersection of 37th Avenue NE and Technology Drive. First I walked down a spur (shown in red on the map) to the southern end of Technology Drive, where it connects near the inflection point between Marshall Street and East River Road. After returning to my starting point, I walked the main loop (shown in blue) around 37th Avenue, East River Road, Marshall Street, and St. Anthony Parkway. Two other short spurs led east on 37th Avenue to the railroad tracks and on St. Anthony Parkway to the road closure.

The entire east side of Technology Drive is occupied by LKQ Corporation’s Keystone Automotive Operations. The northernmost building (36 37th Avenue NE) more specifically houses Key Kool, their air condition division, while the two larger buildings further south on Technology Drive appear to be devoted to reconditioning salvaged plastic bumper covers.

My first clue of the bumper-cover operation was seeing a few of the covers on the pavement outside the northern entrance along with a stack of two pallet-sized plastic bulk liquid containers labeled with hazardous material number 1824, which indicates sodium hydroxide solution. I can imagine this chemical being used in the refinishing operation, which includes chemically cleaning the bumper covers and stripping them of clear coat and other paint. At the southern end of the street, a larger assortment of the bumper covers reinforced the notion that this site makes a specialty of them. In between, another somewhat older industrial building (1960 vs. 1996) includes a small office area.

North End of LKQ Keystone, 3641 Technology Dr NE, with Bumper Covers and Sodium Hydroxide

More Bumper Covers South of LKQ Keystone on Technology Dr NE

Southern (Office) End of LKQ Keystone, 3621 Technology Dr

The city’s property records list the LKQ buildings as being on Marshall Street NE rather than Technology Drive. I suspect that this was the street’s name until 1985, when the Honeywell Technology Center was built on the west side of the street. That building, now occupied by OATI, is listed as 3660 Technology Drive NE. Looking through the security fence, I saw the large concrete-and-glass building that suited a technology center of that era. I also spotted a house tucked away behind the security gate (where it defied easy photography), which struck me as odd until I read a news report that Honeywell had built this house in order to test products for the residential market.

OATI, Formerly Honeywell Technology Center, 3660 Technology Dr NE

Once I returned to 37th Avenue, I walked eastward and crossed over East River Road to the short segment of the avenue on the far side. This leads past the northern entrance of WestRock’s corrugated container plant, but for a pedestrian its main interest is how up close and personal it allows one to get with the trains — contrary to normal practice, there is no fence or other barrier between where 37th Avenue ends and the tracks themselves.

BNSF Tracks at 37th Ave NE

Returning to East River Road and heading south and onto Marshall Street, I passed a parking lot full of trucks for Brown’s Ice Cream Company as well as a few labeled with well-known ice cream brands that Brown’s apparently distributes. They look a bit out of place standing in front of the WestRock plant, but they made sense once I was past them to where an entry road leads to 3501 Marshall Street NE, a warehouse nearly a half-million square feet in size that is tucked back along the tracks. It houses the ice cream distribution for Brown’s and Kemps as well as the Triangle Warehouse of Benchmark Logistics.

Brown’s Ice Cream Trucks, Marshall St NE

Sign for 3501 Marshall St NE

My view of the giant warehouse was obscured by a smaller building closer to Marshall Street, Production Engineering Corporation, a family-owned machining and fabrication business serving aerospace, defense, and other industries.

Production Engineering Corporation, 3515 Marshall St NE

Across the way at 3400, Bell Manufacturing is a custom metal fabricator that includes the furniture and accessories retailer Room and Board among its customers, making dozens of products for them. Finance and Commerce reported on July 16, 2015, that Bell’s then-impending move to this 130,000 square foot building was an expansion from a smaller facility in Golden Valley, which itself was an expansion from the building that Key Kool now occupies on the other end of Technology Drive.

Bell Manufacturing, 3400 Marshall St NE

Venturing briefly east down St. Anthony Parkway, I saw another large industrial/warehouse building that was fronted by a rather elegant office area consistent with the 1955 construction date. Ford Motor Company was the original occupant, followed by Despatch Industries, a maker of thermal processing technologies. In 1998, Despatch ceased manufacturing operations at this site, and they must have later relocated the remaining “engineering, research and development, sales and marketing, purchasing, service and administrative operations” as well, because the building now houses All Furniture, having changed hands a few times in between.

63 St. Anthony Pkwy NE (1955)

Turning the other way on St. Anthony Parkway, I took it west to the river and then followed it as it bends north. At first the pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile portions of the parkway spread apart from each other along the riverbank, but then they bunch back together to pass under the railroad bridge. The signage on the bridge displays the railroad’s former name as though it were a partially completed crossword puzzle answer: blank-blank-blank Line.

St. Anthony Parkway Along Mississippi River North of Camden Bridge

Soo Line (Canadian Pacific) Bridge

As the parkway nears the Camden Bridge, the pedestrian path divides. The right fork stays close to the roadway. I had originally thought I’d follow that fork so that I could go onto the bridge as far as the mid-point of the river. (I’m walking every block of every street, remember?) However, I’d already included the other half of the bridge when I walked the Camden Industrial Area, and this half wasn’t likely to be much different, whereas the left branch of the path looked far more intriguing. So I threw my plan away. The route map shows the route I actually walked, not my original plan.

The left fork leads down the river bank and under the bridge, where I was able to admire the infrastructure over the river. It then leads back out into the sunlight to where two park benches provide a view upstream.

Path Leading Down from St. Anthony Parkway

Path Under the Camden Bridge

Camden Bridge Infrastructure

View North Along the River Bank

Benches North of the Camden Bridge

Once I was back up to street level, I was near my starting point on 37th Avenue. Between the avenue and the river, two city facilities stand side by side. The more imposing one on the left is the water department’s historic Pumping Station Number 4, but I don’t believe this is in use any longer, unlike the more easily overlooked Minneapolis Police Canine Unit training facility on the right.

Pumping Station Number 4 and Canine Unit Training Facility

Editor’s Note: Max Hailperin is walking each of Minneapolis’ 87 neighborhoods, in alphabetical order. He chronicles his adventures at  allofminneapolis.com, where the original version of this article was published February 28, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

Max Hailperin

About Max Hailperin

Max Hailperin's personal project is allofminneapolis.com. Minneapolis has 87 neighborhoods, including the three industrial areas. Some he knows well, others he has not yet entered. However, he has committed to explore all of them on foot: every block of every street in every neighborhood. He is working through the neighborhoods alphabetically, from Armatage to Windom Park, so as to focus in one area, then hop to somewhere else.

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