Penn & 66th is the best small business district in Richfield. Why replace it?

Last spring, at a voter forum for Richfield’s west-side Council seat, there were a number of questions about the mid-century commercial development that lines Penn Avenue between the Crosstown and 68th Street. Voters and candidates spoke of “tired” buildings, non-conforming sites, and inadequate parking. These questions about Penn Avenue seem to come up in every election cycle, and our elected officials are often put on the defense of why there continue to be vacant storefronts, and almost no major redevelopment.

The longer I’ve lived in Richfield, and the more deeply I’ve become involved in conversations around development, the more I have come to realize something: yes, Penn Avenue has all of those “problems”. But many aren’t problems at all. They’re what makes this corridor the best hub of small business in Richfield. And there are better ways to make this area even better.

Small businesses along Penn Avenue

Small businesses along Penn Avenue

Meet Penn Central
Immediately south of Crosstown Highway, Penn Avenue is true mix of styles and types of businesses. The massive parking lot of the Lunds store is the first thing you’ll see on the west, while the east side is littered with independent small businesses, ranging from Woof Central doggy daycare to Johnston’s Vac and Sew to one of only two classic barber shops in the city. Around the corner at 66th, you’ll find Aida, one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

The distinctive small business district has an informal business association, and has branded their neighborhood as Penn Central. This organization, together with the City, hosts Richfield’s annual Open Streets festival, PennFest.

Open Streets at PennFest

Open Streets at PennFest

The fact that small business is concentrated on Penn is no accident: these “tired” buildings on small lots are affordable and accessible to small businesses. As a planning commissioner, I have often heard residents share concerns that new development only brings more chains to the community. This, also, is no accident: chains can afford higher rent, and have more specific requirements for their building that are easier to do with new construction.

Cities do not have the right to control if a chain or small business is allowed to occupy a building — but we do make a choice in terms of what environment we want to create. Replacing affordable older buildings with brand-new buildings will have the effect of displacing small business and attracting more national chains. That may be inevitable, but it does not have to be a process we help accelerate.

The Penn Avenue Guidelines are the wrong solution to a problem that doesn’t exist
In 2008, in response to ongoing desires to improve the Penn corridor, the City contracted with an outside consultant to create a new master plan for the area. This process was valuable, and has given us a rigorous, high-quality zoning code for the area, that includes important features to improve the pedestrian environment, ensure high-quality development, and to limit uses that detract from the neighboring properties, like auto sales and drive-thrus.

Penn Avenue corridor plan, north end

However, the big picture proposed by the plan is disturbing. In a hypothetical redevelopment scenario, the plan envisions every single unit of small, affordable space for small business being eliminated — replaced by larger, mixed-use buildings. Even worse: the plan envisions every single piece of existing naturally occurring affordable housing being replaced.

This is not a good end-goal to have — if we were “successful”, we would eliminate important parts of our local economy, and the exciting, interesting businesses that help make Richfield a great place to live.

With no problem to solve, we don’t need to be desperate
The first project proposed after the Penn Avenue plan was a CVS Pharmacy. This project went against many of the principles of the plan: it was large, single-use retail. Facing the sidewalk, it didn’t offer the customer entrances, display windows, and awnings envisioned — instead it had a large, blank retaining wall, which allowed the parking lot to loom over Penn Avenue. But it was approved, feeling that demonstrating some sign of life would help inspire additional redevelopment.

Since that building was built six years ago, there has been no new construction on the corridor, although most existing businesses continue to thrive. Now, the City is considering an application for the first new development proposed in years: a fast food restaurant. Like CVS, this would be another single-use chain, this time with half the required density, and with a drive-thru speaker that is half the required distance to housing.

Proposed fast-food restaurant space at Penn and 66th

Proposed fast-food restaurant space

The Planning Commission, on which I serve, voted against the variances that would allow this fast-food restaurant to build — although it remains to be seen if the City Council will accept or overrule that recommendation. The problems with the development are significant, and it was clear to me as a planning commissioner that they did not meet the specific standards for the variances they were seeking.

In the bigger picture, developments like this fast food restaurant offer little to the community. They are certainly not the high-intensity development that the Penn Avenue Guidelines envision. Occupying a tiny portion of the site, they do not offer much improvement to the tax base. They have significant externalities in terms of noise, air pollution, and traffic. And they replace more-affordable commercial property with less-affordable new development.

How to fix Penn Avenue? Fix Penn Avenue.

Although it offers a lot to the community, there are admittedly problems on Penn: some spaces remain persistently vacant, and the cosmetic appearance of the corridor is poor. If we want to improve the appearance of the corridor, let’s start with something that doesn’t have to cost businesses a dime, and something that we can do right away: rebuild Penn Avenue.

Penn Avenue sidewalk

The sidewalk by the Fireside Foundry parking lot is simply an unstriped portion of the lot, made inaccessible by the driveway apron. Image: Google Street View.

The four-lane death road, owned by Hennepin County, is a grim relic of yesterday’s engineering. Sidewalks are completely inaccessible. Speeding is common. On-street parking that could serve businesses exists for only a single block. Crossing from one side of the street to another — a key component of a walkable business district — is all but impossible.

Let’s not eliminate our small business corridor. Let’s help it thrive, by giving businesses an attractive home, and giving their customers and our residents a safe place to walk, shop, and live.

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33 Responses to Penn & 66th is the best small business district in Richfield. Why replace it?

  1. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell October 20, 2017 at 7:33 am #

    Great article Sean. What can a city, county or planning commission do? Can you specify the size of rentable spaces in a multi-use development? E.G., no contiguous spaces larger than 6,000 sq ft, at least 50% of spaces must be smaller than 2,000 sq ft and 25% smaller than 1,000?

    There does seem to be a bit of a common thread of planning commissions not approving a bad plan, like the fast food place, and then have the city council overrule that decision and allow it. City Councils and Planning Commissions look at development through different glasses.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary October 20, 2017 at 8:30 am #

      This is a good question, and I’m less sure what options exist. In the past, the City has offered a streetscape matching grant program. I think this kind of stuff is a good start. Potentially, I think it would make sense to offer a more generous match (>50% from City), on the condition of preserving affordability of the space for a certain period of time.

      I don’t think hemming in new development is the right approach, especially in a situation where the area hasn’t seen as much new development as many in the community would like. I think the best way to keep it affordable for small business is to encourage preservation and revitalization of the old buildings we have today.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 20, 2017 at 10:15 am #

        I somewhat agree about new development. I am a fan of good mixed use though so personally I wouldn’t mind seeing some of those existing buildings replaced with buildings with good storefronts on street level with 2 to 4 stories of residential above.

  2. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman October 20, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    So in other words they want to copypasta Penn-American there? If we’re honest, the problem the city has is that the land isn’t generating it’s theoretical maximum tax revenue (see also Best Buy) so the existing development gets scapegoated. And cities highbrow ambitions don’t match with reality, Bloomington wanted some fancy mixed use or something and the only proposal they got for American and Lyndale Ave was Hyvee’s “souped up gas station” concept. Or how the 1980s Oxboro development fizzled. Meanwhile Bloomington still has plans to get rid of a lot of the low-rent commercial in the city, particularly at 98th and Lyndale Ave and Old Shakopee Ave and Old Cedar.

    As far as drive-thrus, unless we want to severely inconvenience the majority of their customers and regress 50 years they need to go somewhere. A commercial area on a major street seems to be as good of place as any, and the Bloomington Taco Bell proves they can coexist near residences, but if they need to seek a bunch of variances it’s probably the wrong particular site.

    • Bob Roscoe October 20, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      An important aspect of any urban environment is the pedestrian “feel” that makes people want to shop there come back. The streetscapes should have architectural elements that make ‘mismatched’ a virtue. Planners that want everything to conform are missing what what streetscape vitality is all about.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 20, 2017 at 10:22 am #

        Bob, excellent point about the value of mismatched. We just have to be careful not to end up with faux mismatched like Applewood Pointe in Shoreview with 5 different materials that are mostly randomly placed.

        Applewood Pointe - Shoreview MN

        There’s also a related bit about natural vs man-made materials. Natural wood and stone with all of its imperfections is generally much more appealing than even the best man-made stuff. Some years ago we visited a Parade home that had its exact copy a few houses down. The only difference was that one was Hardieboard and the other was natural wood. The Hardieboard house looked cheap and plastic and not as appealing next to the other one. It was much less expensive to build though.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 20, 2017 at 10:56 am #

      With drive-thru’s, like many things, we need to think about all of the bits. While a drive-thru may be a convenience for drivers, they create a number of inconveniences for others like increased pollution, noise, difficulty getting in to a parking lot, or the problems we’ve seen with the Starbucks on Snelling.

      You could also argue that drive-thru’s contribute to our poor health and highest of all developed countries healthcare costs.

      On a larger level we need to begin developing our communities in a way that allows safe and comfortable walking and bicycling to local eateries instead of encouraging people to drive for even the shortest of trips.

      Confession: We have a Panera a bit over a mile from our house. I’ll often ride my bicycle but there is a stretch of road that is quick uncomfortable from a safety standpoint so I will often choose to drive because of that one segment and when I drive I do often use the drive-thru.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman October 20, 2017 at 11:41 am #

        Lets’s not do drive-thrus sounds like the whole paternalistic lets tear down the skyways argument, that people are too dumb to know what’s good for them so lets force the kids outside into the rain, snow, and sleet. Walking and bicycling is never going to be comfortable when it’s zero degrees outside.

        If there’s so much incredible demand from people for a drive-thru coffee on Snelby that’s it’s causing traffic trouble, wouldn’t a reasonable response be to find room for another one to take some of the pressure off?

        • Eric Anondson
          Eric Anondson October 20, 2017 at 11:54 am #

          Just because there is incredible demand for drive thru anything does not mean we are smart when we replace amazingly adaptable, affordable (but old and could use a bit of a refresh) with drive thrus. Let’s put drive thrus in areas that are drivable but also isn’t walkable.
          By replacing walkable with drivable we lose walkable. For multiple generations.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 20, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

          Is there demand for a drive thru, or, does the drive through induce the demand?

          For drive thrus, I think it’s a question of where, with the questions being whether there’s enough room for cars to get to the drive thru and/or wait off of the street. At Snelby, and in the near future at 47th and Cedar, the answer is no, which creates conflict and traffic chaos that’s bad for all users of the street. Drivers get delayed and thus aggressive – either maneuvering around stopped cars or lurch onto the sidewalk/bike lane – and that behavior endangers everyone who isn’t in a car too.

          I’m not sure about this location on Penn. Maybe it falls in between.

          Walking in the cold is great though. Just gotta keep exposed skin from the wind and you generate your own warmth by moving around. I know I’m not going to convince you, but I think it’s actually warmer than hopping in a cold car and waiting for it to warm up.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary October 20, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

          I think others are right, that there is induced demand for drive-thrus. One of the claims from the representative of the fast food franchisee was that 70% of their customers at drive-thru locations, and therefore if they had to build without a drive-thru, they would lose 70% of their customers.

          There is no way every single drive-thru customer would refuse to park and come in for their coffee and donuts. Instead, many people choose to use the drive-thru when it’s there, or get out and go in when it isn’t. I believe they may lose some business — but only because other businesses have drive-thrus that they now have to compete with. As soon as that CVS mentioned in the article built with a drive-thru, Walgreens was interested in rebuilding with a drive-thru. Seems like the same cycle has happened between Starbucks and Caribou — both locations that even ten years ago, almost never had drive-thrus.

          However, the question about the drive-thru here wasn’t a general question about whether drive-thrus are good or bad. The question was if it is appropriate on that exact site. In this case, it was much too close to residential (~80 feet instead of the required 150). You can get a variance for that, but among other things, we had to find that the situation was unique for that area (is isn’t — they’re all narrower lots by residential), and that it wouldn’t be injurious to the neighbor (it would be, at least according to the owner/landlord).

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman October 21, 2017 at 11:57 am #

            Is “induced demand” a bad thing though? In the case of roads it means people are having the freedom to travel when and where they want. In the case of drive-thrus it’s having the opportunity to not have to park and get out into a cold, slushed-filled parking lot. And isn’t inducing economic activety something cities try to bend over backwards to do, see Amazon but also any number of subsidized or TIF projects. In this case we can induce economic activity just by not banning drive-thrus. I agree the 70% number is ridculous overall, but it’s not zero for any situation and probably close to the 70% for coffee shops. Everyone needs to eat and if you’re going eat but coffee is discretionary.

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary October 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

              Good point. I suppose we *do* want to induce economic activity, there’s probably a more precise trade-off of:

              1. How much economic activity will the drive-thru create? Some, probably. I’m not sure from the City’s perspective it’s a win if we just got people to come to Dunkin Donuts instead of Starbucks, because Dunkin has a drive-thru and Starbucks doesn’t. But you make a good point that some of these things are discretionary — perhaps someone who has kids in the back or doesn’t want to get out in the cold would simply skip their coffee.

              2. How many customers did we convert into drive-thru customers? If we imagine that 30% of the total customers will only go there with a drive-thru, that’s another 40% who use it now that it’s there, but would have stopped and gotten out otherwise.

              3. What are the externalities of the the drive-thru, and how badly does that impact other properties? Is it “worth” the added economic activity? This is probably the most relevant one here — and in part what the variance process asks us to consider. Some externalities to consider:

              a.) If the speaker noise affects the apartment units 80′ away, that means possibly reduced sleep for the tenant, reduced rent that the landlord is able to get, and potentially reduced property tax base if the rents go down steeply or many units end up vacant. If it prevents another underutilized property from being developed into a higher-intensity mixed use parcel, that’s loss of potential tax base.

              b.) Queues to get in and out of popular drive-thrus can create an inconvenience or danger to the traveling public — costing others time and creating slightly higher risk. This is obviously the case at “Carbucks” in St. Paul.

              c.) Air pollution from queuing cars, that also likely affects the apartment residents the most.

              d.) Space lost to the drive-thru that could be higher-taxed building, pervious surface for stormwater, or another feature that would improve the land.

              These are all things that everyone else has to “pay”. If you compare that to something like a walk-up traditional development, what kind of externalities are there? Maybe some competition for street parking, maybe some cigarette butts from people standing outside. The major traffic, air pollution, and noise issues are significantly less.

              However, I think that list also means drive-thrus are fine in certain locations. If you looked at a rural truckstop off a highway, that really has none of the issues — parcels are plenty big to accommodate queuing, there’s no residential to disturb, and air pollution levels are very low. The more compact and mixed-use the area gets, the more impactful it seems like drive-thrus are.

              • Cobo R October 23, 2017 at 9:46 am #

                I’ve done a couple of google maps drives down Penn Ave in this section of Richfield.

                And honestly this is an extremely car-centric stretch of stroad. With tons of parking and empty space.

                I don’t see a drive-through having the negative impact you described since its already requires driving, and has little potential of becoming a pleasant place to walk.

                • Sean Hayford Oleary
                  Sean Hayford Oleary October 23, 2017 at 10:12 am #

                  I’m not sure how much of this is the businesses versus the street and sidewalk itself — which as I wrote in the article, I agree are appalling,and are holding businesses back.

                  In general, the individual businesses have limited or no front parking. On the 6700 block, many are immediately adjacent to the sidewalk. The individual structures are very similar to much of the development on E Lake St and older parts of Excelsior Blvd — both streets that have seen a pedestrian-oriented renaissance.

                  And of course, whether you believe Penn will see that or not, there are many existing residents impacted by a drive-thru — an apartment building that is only 90 feet away, and two more apartment buildings within the 150′ radius our city code requires. Reducing their quality of life, and reducing potential rent and property values of the building’s owner, are real impacts of a drive-thru.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell October 20, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

          You could also argue that there is demand for speeding. Should we eliminate speed limits and let people drive as fast as they want? There’s demand for not stopping at junctions, should we eliminate stop signs and stop lights? We could also talk about demand for cocaine, meth, underage kids, free labor, and a very long list of things.

          There may be demand for something but we have to also take in to account all aspects of it, many of which may be harmful.

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman October 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

            If you had a referendum I don’t think many people would vote for cocaine and meth to be legal as opposed to drive-thrus.

        • Morgan October 20, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

          Okay, now please apply this logic to regulations on housing density.

        • GlowBoy October 25, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

          The alternative to drive-thrus isn’t necessarily “walking and bicycling when it’s zero degrees outside,” as you suggest. It’s not drive-thrus vs. active transportation.

          It’s drive-thrus versus parking in the lot and walking 20 yards to go into the restaurant. Sure, drive-throughs are convenient, especially if like me you have young kids, but I still get out of the car with them to patronize the Chipotle at 77th and Lyndale. Even when it’s zero degrees outside!

  3. David Markle
    David Markle October 20, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    While I know nothing about this specific situation, the article strokes me as just the kind of discussion that shows the value of streets.mn.

  4. Jeffrey Klein October 20, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    “Four-lane death road owned by Hennepin County” tragically describes basically every arterial in Minneapolis. In terms of elected officials I think we could do more by electing an urban-friendly commissioner than any other local office.

  5. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini October 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    It’s interesting to compare your (proper!) worry about losing low-cost commercial and residential spaces along a corridor like Penn (thanks to city planning guiding development there) to the assertion that directing redevelopment to major corridors is appropriate in the comment section of my post on the topic and a similar comment on broad upzoning away from the infrastructure that makes development politically palatable.

    In the case of Penn, we wouldn’t need to be as worried about losing what few (due to decades of restrictive zoning) low-cost multi-family and/or flexible, somewhat pedestrian-friendly commercial spaces exist in the area if we allowed for more housing (and even commercial) elsewhere. How many homesteaded single family homes 1-4 blocks off Penn could be redeveloped into 3-4 story apartments or townhomes – which would be more likely to have a modest rent (or sale price) than complicated mixed-use development along Penn? How many homes could be converted or expanded to make space for businesses like Aida, Fireside Foundry, Chipheads, or a doggie daycare (or new ones that serve the Penn/66th area we haven’t even considered)? Obviously not all commercial uses on Penn are suitable for (or would choose to locate on) side streets, but many could.

    I completely agree with your call for making Penn more accessible, calmer, and ultimately better for a pedestrian-oriented private realm. But I’m not sure that would fix the real problem of commercial and residential tenants at risk of losing their spot in the community. They seem to be two distinct problems. If Richfield chose to abandon their Penn Ave Revitalization Maser Plan on the zoning/form side of things in order to maintain the current business mix, while focusing only on the street redesign, there’s no guarantee those businesses and residents won’t be lost anyway due to market forces. Of course, there are *other* solutions to displacement by market forced the city could pursue, and I happen to disagree with their efficacy.

    Final thought: thank you for highlighting the type of suburban commercial areas that urbanists often ignore. I’ll admit I haven’t stopped at a business here since I bought my Trek back in 2013! I think there’s a bit of high-browism among some pro-city types, assuming auto-oriented strips can’t house locally-owned businesses that serve their neighborhoods.

  6. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary October 23, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    Just saw this, and that is a good point. I think my perspective in that comment section was largely the thinking: “what type of housing is more feasible along major streets — single-family or multi-family?” I continue to believe multi-family — especially large, ~100 unit + apartment buildings make a lot of sense on busier streets, since the structures can be much better insulated from noise. (Example: the new building going up on 15th St and LaSalle — the first floor is entirely lobby and parking. The closest a unit will get to the street is the second floor, behind a wall that is more sound-insulative than a house. Similar example on a larger scale at Longfellow Station.)

    But you’re right: concentrating demand for larger redevelopment toward major streets does mean that you may be more likely to crowd out affordable businesses. I think I continue to have an underlying personal conflict: I want to see land used to its best potential, especially along major community streets. But I don’t like that to mean the wholesale destruction of what is already there, and what already brings value to the street. I really don’t have a good solution to that.

    And glad to hear you went to (I assume) the original Penn Cycle. Penn continues there, and we now have another bike shop — Richfield’s only independent shop — called Positive Pedals. Come back down to Penn sometime 🙂

  7. Jack October 24, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

    I would love to see Penn Ave repaved, with new, wider sidewalks with some trees and nice lighting. Let the market decide what businesses come and go. An attractive streetscape would help lure new shops and restaurants.We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

  8. GlowBoy October 25, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    As a resident of Minneapolis but only a couple blocks away from Richfield, I frequent this area, and value many of the non-chain businesses there. In the couple years I’ve lived here I’ve patronized Johnston’s, Aida, Arc’s Value Village, Cone Brothers, Penn Cycle and even the ugly retaining wall with a CVS on top of it.

    I’m all for allowing multi-use development (such as at 77th/Lyndale), but can’t we allow that while also encouraging the continued use of small parcels by small businesses?

    I will admit I’ve been going there less the last year due to the 66th Ave reconstruction project. Once it’s done it will be wonderful, but I hope the businesses there aren’t suffering too much in the meantime.

    As for not being in a car, 66th is going to be great, but Penn is definitely unpleasant to bike and walk on. When I’ve biked there, I’ve had more problems with exiting drivers blocking the sidewalk than just about anywhere else. I’d like to say that when 66th is done I won’t have to take Penn, but the problem is that EVERY arterial connecting 60th in Minneapolis with 66th in Richfield is sucktastic for biking. Portland, Nicollet, Lyndale, Penn and Xerxes are ALL awful for getting over the Crosstown between the two cities. Much of this is the fault of Minneapolis, which refuses to extend bike lanes the last block or two from 60th or 61st all the way to the city limit.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary October 26, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      Regarding the gaps to go north-south across the Crosstown — I agree, this is a *huge* barrier. As I think you know, there is a plan slated for 2020 to fill the gap across Portland. This is probably the most significant, since it’s a continuous bikeway all the way from downtown to 77th St (less that 6-block gap).

      Here are some other updates from what I know.

      Nicollet: Nicollet will go down to one lane in each direction at 66th next year, with the installation of the roundabout, which certainly sets the stage to narrow up the remaining 4 blocks of four-lane roadway. However, I don’t know that anything specific is planned or funded.

      Lyndale: There are striped bike lanes under the bridge, with the worst gap on the Minneapolis side. In the not-too-distant future, I’d like to see Lyndale go down to one lane in each direction through this area. Richfield previously had a plan to restripe Lyndale immediately south of the Crosstown; however, the prospect of negotiating with MnDOT and Minneapolis to get it to be continuous to 61st meant that the Crosstown area was still unresolved. In any case, the striping project was canceled due to a funding issue.

      Penn: the idea was that the bikeway would go up Oliver, and then go along that east side trail on the bridge, and then go to Penn. Minneapolis threw a wrench in that when they did not complete the Penn Ave bikeway as planned during their reconstruction. And Hennepin County threw another wrench by building a tall median across the Oliver & 66th intersection, with no curb cuts. So, I think it is very much unresolved.

      Xerxes: No plan AFAIK, although Edina identifies Xerxes/York as an eventual future bikeway. Richfield could push some for the area north of 66th, but for the most part, this road falls entirely to Edina and Hennepin, and Edina really hasn’t prioritized bikeways in these major commercial districts so far.

      And then there’s 494. Where I don’t think there’s a plan for any specific bike crossings. If and when a new Portland Ave interchange is funded, I’d expect it would look more bike-friendly than the earlier Lyndale and Penn ones. The Orange Line underpass at Knox Ave will also have a bike-ped trail, which will be a nice low-traffic way to get from those apartments to the Southtown/Penn-American area.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller October 26, 2017 at 10:17 am #

        There really should be bike/ped crossings over 62 between each of Lyndale and Penn and Penn and Xerxes too.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary October 26, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

          Good idea. Lyndale to Penn is an especially long distance, at about a mile even. It would have been nice if they would have done even some sort of basic box culvert underpass at Girard or Humboldt. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely now, given how new the Crosstown Commons is.

          If I were to prioritize a newly built bike/ped overpass of the Crosstown, I would nominate 12th Ave, to replace that kind of worthless bridge at 14th (1/2) Ave. Would be a better route up 12th Ave, and provide better access to Veterans Park to Minneapolis residents.

          • GlowBoy October 27, 2017 at 10:09 am #

            Thanks for all that info Sean. I wasn’t aware of a lot of the history, though I did know of the plans for Portland. Is it confirmed that Minneapolis is also participating, to close the 1/4 mile gap between 60th and the Crosstown? That’s a hairy stretch (very close to my house), and even when I’m in a Strong & Fearless mood I still ride the sidewalk there.

            On Lyndale, I agree it would be great to see that go down to two lanes between Lakewinds and 66th. Fortunately this is a small gap, since there are already bike lanes from between the Crosstown and 64th (and a signalized crossing at 64th where drivers actually stop for pedestrians some of the time!), and also fortunately there are buffered lanes between 58th and 61st on the Minneapolis side. It wouldn’t take much work to make this the least-bad crossing for cyclists between Minneapolis and Richfield.

            I think calming Lyndale would also resolve some of the problems for vehicles coming and going at Lakewinds, Richfield Liquor and Lyn 65. These flows all come together and cross paths (particularly for vehicles exiting these establishments to go left onto Lyndale), creating a lot of conflict for drivers right now.

            I agree that the bridge at 14th is redundant, now that the Bloomington Ave bridge has a nice path on it. A new path over at 12th would be better connection, for sure.

            One more potential Crosstown crossing worth mentioning: I’ve seen the Pleasant Avenue rail underpass shown as a potential path on some planning maps. If that ever happens, it would be fantastic, though there would be a potential increase in truck traffic around the cement and steel plants there (replacing a couple of 2-car trains a day? Maybe not that many trucks).

            As for 494, right now the best crossing is the new trail bridge at 12th Avenue. Obviously that’s pretty far east; there is an aging pedestrian bridge (stairs, no ramp) at 2nd Avenue too. Again, a rail-trail conversion at Pleasant would close this gap nicely.

            West of 494, I wasn’t aware of the proposed Knox Street crossing. That will also be an excellent development.

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary October 28, 2017 at 10:00 am #

              re: Portland — 60th to Crosstown. Yes, the project is County-led (since Portland is a County road) and does cross both jurisdictions. Minneapolis is cooperating, but i am unsure of the exact design. From Crosstown to 66th, the design is protected bike lanes with a center turn lane, no parking. (Already no parking in this area.)

              60th to Crosstown, they were looking at doing partially 2-lane with parking-protected bike lane, but moving to 3-lane with no parking closer to 60th. This means a lot less parking available than there is today — since this is one of the more heavily parked portions of Portland, that may face some pushback.

              Unfortunately, in a previous extension of the Portland bikeway, the City of Minneapolis insisted on prioritizing parked cars over bicycle safety at Diamond Lake Rd, allowing the bike lanes to repeatedly stop and start, to avoid giving up even a few spots adjacent to Pearl Park. However, that was five years ago, and the City has since adopted policy and been more intentional in a way that I would hope would lead toward doing this new segment right.

              And re: Pleasant. It’s a big underpass — it would have been nice if they incorporated a trail alongside the rail in the Crosstown Commons project, although there isn’t a clear street to directly connect to on the north. The long-term vision is still having this be a rail-to-trail conversion, but won’t be feasible as long as that line is in use. That could be 5 years or 50 years, who knows.

    • Rosa October 27, 2017 at 10:30 pm #

      this is the part of Richfield I’m at most often (love that Arc) though we also end up at the Home Depot that I think is also on 66th (or is it 60th?) and the Hub. You’re right about the north south connections, though, they all kind of suck. It’s doable along Portland, Nicollet, and Penn but not fun.

  9. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman October 27, 2017 at 10:04 pm #

    Worth noting that until 1990 the building on the site proposed for Dunkin Donuts was an Arby’s- with a drive thru, you can still see the enclosure on the north side of the building. (Although it was farther from and not pointed towards the apartments). I recall eating their a few times. Arby’s elected to close when they widened Penn to add a turn lane and took a couple of their parking spaces.

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