A late June day, when all the plants are greened up and leafed out, is about as good as it gets for evaluating a public space.
Granted, I was sitting in the Stadium Village public space on Washington Avenue — between the tracks near the Green Line station — on a Sunday, and also between the end of spring term and the beginning of the first summer term, so there were fewer students around to enliven it than there might be normally.
Otherwise, I think it was about as optimal a time to observe the reality of the space as you could ask for.
What was it like as a place to hang out in, to talk with a friend? What can it tell us for other spaces like this, which some of us wish for in the future, such as the Twin Cities Boulevard vision?
First, it was windy. The tall buildings create a wind canyon effect, enough to blow off my hat several times.
Second, the plants were not all doing great, which contributed to a feeling of neglect. I have seen much worse in a lot of public places, but these are plants at the University of Minnesota, which generally takes better care of public plants than anyone. There were big gaps in areas that were probably supposed to be planted with Karl Foerster feather reed grass, and the chokeberries looked sickly.
The Sorbaria plants seemed to be doing well. Overall, the plants selected for the area are low-maintenance, but not all were succeeding. The pollarded linden and ginkgo trees were interesting. Though I don’t understand how they will ever lend any shade to the area, I can see they need to remain narrow for the passing transit.
There must be a water source out there, but I would speculate that the plants have probably been left to the mercy of rainfall for the last seven or eight years, and last year’s drought would have been hard on them.
Third, the furniture was good, generally. The wooden benches are well-designed, comfortable, and seem to have weathered well in their eight or so years. They were compliant with accessibility guidelines, as far as I could tell.
The tables haven’t fared as well. Their top paint is gone, but they’re still functional and not unattractive. The chairs are mobile, though discreetly tied down, and in better shape than the tabletops, though both tables and chairs will need maintenance soon.
Fourth, the sound level was fine. The passing trains and buses were not distracting or overwhelming. The only unpleasant noise was from an occasional helicopter (welcome to Minneapolis!).
Fifth, it’s a relatively narrow space, compared to what I think the spaces in the Twin Cities Boulevard design look like. With a transit-only lane on each side and no car traffic, that works. For the Twin Cities Boulevard, with multiple traffic lanes and especially with semi trucks in the mix, I think some thought needs to go into what the edges of those public spaces are like.
All in all, I like this middle space on Washington Avenue a lot more than what used to be there (two lanes of car traffic). But I also think it’s a good learning opportunity for landscape architects and planners to think about what needs to change, and how maintenance needs to be done and paid for in large-scale public space projects along the climate-sensitive streets of our future.
For all the positive notes about the space, I don’t think ever saw anyone sit there and hang out in the 2 years I lived in Stadium Village as a student, besides the occasional homeless person pitching a tent there.
During the week, when school is in session, and when buses and trains and pedestrians are passing far more frequently, the narrow strip of walkway is no doubt far less pleasant. While a quiet spring Sunday between semesters might be the most pleasant time to visit the location, it’s far from typical how the space appears most of time.
Interesting parking space for the blue sedan plopped on the narrow sidewalk in front of the “Japan” something or another. Apparently the “buses and trains only” rule doesn’t apply to pick-up and delivery vehicles.
And surprise, surprise, the concrete encased shrubbery isn’t flourishing. Who would-a thunk it? Must of been beyond the scope of the $50 million or more AECOM environmental assessment.
My understanding is that because this isn’t University property, the U doesn’t maintain it, but I could be wrong. I know it often serves as a smokers haven in the middle of a smoke-free campus. I enjoy the space and frequently use it when I’m transferring between the Green Line and the 2. I enjoy the bustle, and it often becomes a place colleagues and classmates stop to greet each other and converse as they’re walking through campus.
Interesting – it makes sense that it may not be U of M property (since it’s it in the middle of county (?) right of way and adjacent to Met Council/Metro Transit infrastructure. It would be good to know if it’s a partnership or what.
Partners in crime. The University Parking big business got what it wanted – free train rides between the Humphrey Bureaucracy Institute-Carlson Business School-Social Sciences concrete project parking mess and the parking mess surrounding the whatever it’s called these days Bank Football Stadium for it’s 20,000 or so parking customers. And the County-State highway department got what it wanted – a billion dollars to piss away on a $100 million road construction project. Public transit and pedestrian-bicycle access were the last things the government agencies and other business interests considered when routing the Central Corridor LRT on Washington Avenue.
And yet the entire area is vastly improved from the noisy car sewer it was in the ’90s!
The asinine Central Corridor concrete project, with its accompanying idiotic Goldy Gopher this or that Bank Football Stadium, did not reduce motor vehicle traffic in the vicinity of the U of M East Bank campus. No idea what “entire area” you’re referring to, but the entire area surrounding the U of M East Bank campus is more of motorway hellhole today than it has ever been.
You sure sound like you never spent any time on Washington Ave in the ’90s.
How much time do you spend there today? Been to any events at the Goldy Gopher Football Stadium lately?
I’m very familiar with the Yudof “Beautiful U” construction boom-Parking Department expansion of the ’90s. The disastrous development that Yudof and his “get the money” partners in crime championed in the 90s laid the groundwork for the even more horrific concrete project madness that envelopes and permeates the area today.
Just curious Sheldon how many times do you think you’ve posted these videos on this website? It’s got to be more than 100 at this point.
Planting Linden trees in what’s intended to be a heavily used public space is not a good idea. They’re vulnerable to aphids, and an affected tree produces sap that attracts swarms of stinging insects. Some genius planted the courtyard at my workplace with Linden trees, and it’s essentially unusable for several weeks in the summer.