Image shows a map of a few blocks of Lyndale Avenue with parking lots and on streets counts indicated by number and by color. Green, yellow, and red indicate low, medium, and high parked areas accordingly. Most of the parking areas in this image are green.

Reimagining Lyndale Avenue’s Underutilized Space

Hennepin County’s recent parking study shows there is ample parking along Lyndale Avenue. What the street lacks is safe and inviting infrastructure that would make it more livable. An upcoming reconstruction is the perfect time to reimagine this as a space for people.

Countless studies show how diversity makes things better. Want to create a good product? Make sure perspectives from people of different backgrounds are at the design table. Want a strong stock portfolio? Diversify your mix. Want a safe, accessible and interesting street? Build in diverse uses, including multimodal transportation, a variety of green space and street furnishings.

The benefits of maximizing diversity applies to streets everywhere, but one of the biggest opportunities for this approach in Minneapolis right now is the 2026 reconstruction of Lyndale Avenue South from Franklin Avenue to 31st Street. This 1.1-mile stretch has not been reconstructed since the 1930s and has seen few changes to its configuration since before my grandmother was born and Hubert Humphrey was mayor of Minneapolis.  Currently in the design phase, this project is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime chance to make Lyndale more livable.

View of Lyndale Avenue from the Greenway Bridge looking north with Open Streets participants walking on the street.
View of Lyndale Avenue at Open Streets 2023 from the bridge over the Midtown Greenway looking north. The wide expanse of pavement is ready to be reimagined for a more livable Lyndale when the road is reconstructed in 2026. Source: Author

Some background: The right of way, or the public space between private property on Lyndale Avenue, fluctuates between 86 feet and 100 feet in width. That means there is more room than on other streets. For comparison, Hennepin Avenue is 88 feet at its widest. Along this corridor are sidewalks, some green space, two parking lanes, two driving lanes and a center turn lane. Plus, there is extra pavement between the driving and parking lanes as leftovers from a 4-to-3 lane conversion a few years ago. The majority of the right of way serves a single mode of transportation.

And yet, much of that right of way space is currently wasted. According to Hennepin County’s 2023 parking study, 49% of on-street parking directly on Lyndale Avenue is unoccupied. Naturally, the occupancy fluctuates from block to block, but every single block is at least 32% unoccupied.

Image source: Hennepin County

The parking study also shows off-street parking lots along the corridor are less than one-third full. This space could be a much bigger asset to the quality of life in the neighborhood than it is now. Instead of so many lots and underutilized on-street parking spots sitting empty — contributing to stormwater runoff and poor local water quality, and adding to the urban heat-island effect — imagine if we use this space differently. Moreover, per tax records, Minneapolis has the most valuable land in all of Minnesota. How can we use this space in a way that recognizes that high value and serves us better?

Local volunteers behind Livable Lyndale, a campaign supported by Move Minnesota, believe that making it easy to bus, bike, walk and roll on Lyndale is a great start. Buses are often caught in traffic, street crossings are dangerous and people on bicycles have no safe place to ride. If we recognize that there is strength in diversity, it’s time to add more variety in how land is used along Lyndale Avenue.

Let’s encourage shared usage of parking lots, increase wayfinding for those lots and repurpose some on-street parking space. Let’s add transit lanes to keep buses moving and build safe curb-level bikeways the entire length of the corridor. Let’s increase green space, make way for sidewalk cafes, add benches and consider art installations.

The image shows a white posterboard from a public open house with questions about what people would like to see as part of the Lyndale project.  blue and red stickers show participants support and nonsupport respectively for various elements. There is a zoomed in portion of the board specifically showing people's opinions about on street parking options.  The majority of the stickers are red in that space.
Photos show the results of Hennepin County’s fall open house. Blue dots indicate a vote in favor of a design element. Red dots indicate a vote against. Results from this open house show people value on street parking space less than many other uses. Source: Hennepin County

If we want lots of people visiting, shopping, eating, working and playing along Lyndale — if we want a Lyndale Avenue that is better for living — it’s time to diversify the use of the street. 

Let’s seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a better Lyndale that neighbors and visitors can enjoy, where businesses can thrive and all of us can get around! Tell Hennepin County that we expect to see a layout among the first draft concepts, due in March, with wider sidewalks, curb-level bike lanes and full-day bus lanes. Voice your views here!

Peter Schmitt

About Peter Schmitt

Peter Schmitt lives in the Lowry Hill East ("Wedge") neighborhood with his wife in the attic unit of an 1893 triplex that they own. Together, they are working to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible, including building a net zero energy passive house behind the triplex. Peter is a year round biker and pedestrian. Professionally, Peter works around the country as a solar developer.

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