Minneapolis sees expansive construction

By: Samantha Rose

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The developing skeleton of the U.S. Bank Stadium juts into the skyline. Roadblocks close streets at Nicollet Mall. New apartment buildings shoot up throughout area, reconfiguring the landscape of this Midwestern city.

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Minneapolis is a city in development. Billions of dollars worth of construction projects — such as the U.S. Bank Stadium and Downtown East — are underway, setting a new record for city-issued building permits and eliciting mixed responses from residents.

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“I think [the construction is] good and it’s bad,”  said Patrick Poston, 48, of White Bear Lake who commutes to work in Nicollet Mall for a software development company. “I don’t really agree with how much the taxpayers are throwing into it…[but] it does bring a lot of people to the downtown, which does increase smaller businesses around the downtown, which is important.”

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Downtown Minneapolis’ residential and commercial development has been underway for a few years. As the boom gains momentum, projects have emerged including community efforts to rebuild the once-popular and historic Peavey Plaza, an open-air space in the middle of Nicollet Mall, which has also just started an overhaul.

“I think they’re trying to attract more people down in this area,” Poston said. “They want to make it look nice. [With the] new Vikings stadium, if they’re trying to get bigger sporting events… the city’s got to be in decent shape to attract those kind of events.”

The U.S. Bank Stadium is to become the new home of the Minnesota Vikings football team and is joining an ever-changing city skyline locals are watching come together.

“My cousin and I have commented on how enormous it is and how arrogant it looks,” said Kira Peters, who recently moved to Minneapolis. But, she added, all of the cities’ updates “will be a nice way” to modernize Minneapolis for the next generation.

Lisa Switkin of James Corner Field Operations, the architecture firm behind the Nicollet Mall redesign, told Minneapolis Public Radio that the renovations to their retail center will add more green spaces, enhance pedestrian access and join efforts across the city to revitalize the downtown. The Nicollet Mall Project’s redesign will be complete in 2017, according to the website.

But development means construction. And construction means dust, blocked roads and noisy machines and crews invading Nicollet Mall, said Peters. She works at the Young Women’s Christian Association in Nicollet Mall and often eats lunch in Peavey Plaza, a park adjacent to the mall.

“The other day I was here trying to eat my lunch and they were working on the concrete and all of the dust was flying this way. That’s really, really gross,” Peters said. “So I had to move when that happened. And I know that in the end it’s supposed to be really nice but it’s really frustrating while it’s happening.”

Like the rest of the city, Peavey Plaza is undergoing its own rehabilitation after falling into disrepair during its 40-year lifespan. City officials announced at a press conference in June that the large gathering space — which features an awkward amalgamation of inoperable water fountains and an empty concrete floor worn with age — would get a facelift.

But the details are unclear. The cost, funding and design plans of the project have not been formally announced. Minneapolis city officials did not respond immediately to requests for comment on the status of the project.

But at the June press conference, held by City Council Member Lisa Goodman and Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer, Goodman said that the city hopes to have a concrete plan in place by 2016, a construction schedule in 2017, and a “hopeful” grand opening in 2018

“It’s just simply not acceptable and not enough to leave the plaza in its current condition,” Goodman said.

In years past, preservationists decried plans from the city to demolish the existing structure, claiming it had historic significance. A lawsuit followed but was resolved in 2013. Now, Goodman said at the press conference that before construction starts, the city will commission a study to identify renovations that improve the park while satisfying preservationists.

Some visitors agree that the park needs an update.

“[Renovations] would be great,” violin repairer Annelisa Guries, 33, said. “I’d be all about that. It’s weird that there’s just a huge concrete thing in the middle. Some more grass would be nice.

For now, the plaza’s trees offer shade and seating on its outskirts where many Nicollet Mall workers retire during their lunch breaks despite its ailing state.

“[It’s] nice to be able to come down to a place like this little park area and sit for a little while and relax,” Poston said.