As an outgrowth of the design process of a new Walker Library on the site of the current library (NW corner of Hennepin & Lagoon), a second design process begun with what to do with the grassy space next to the library. That space is what is known as the “top of the Mall”. The Mall is a parkway that runs from Hennepin (though not connected there by street) to the channel between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.
The Mall once had a direct street connection to Hennepin but was later replaced with what is there today. For the most part, it’s just a bunch of grass, a few trees, and a single sidewalk that usually is poorly plowed in winter. Few people use the park with the exception of those cutting through to Hennepin Avenue.
The land is controlled by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, who agreed to conduct a design process with Close Landscape Architects, Hennepin County Libraries, and the public. The result is a concept plan that will be considered by the MPRB Commissioners on November 9th for acceptance.
Does this mean there will be a new park once the library opens? The answer is not necessarily. Hennepin County has indicated that their library budget at this time only includes the costs to replace what is currently there since the space would likely be used by the contractor building the library and could need new soils (since they’d be compacted during construction), new grass, maybe some new trees, etc. With this redesign pegged by Close as potentially a $1,000,000 project, the question then is where’s the money coming from to build it?
In my view, that funding source could potentially be the Hennepin County Transit Oriented Development grant fund, which maybe bring up to $500,000 to the project. The Park Board could potentially find some funds, but with declining revenue, I won’t be that hopeful. Perhaps they could find a couple hundred thousand. Another option is that the Metropolitan Council is attempting to implement a new transit oriented development fund that could go towards public infrastructure, but at this point it’s unlikely that Uptown will be an eligible area since it’s not in a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED) Transit Improvement Areas (TIA). TIAs are not allowed, per state statute, to exist outside of certain light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit stations (operational or soon to be believed operational). And from my conversations, it’s unlikely that the Metropolitan Council will include major, frequently served bus stations, such as Uptown Transit Station. So there goes that option.
So if you’re interested in checking out the vision, feel free to visit the MPRB project page to learn more. There’s information there about the November 9th hearing.