MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

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MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby twincitizen » September 30th, 2014, 8:47 am

MN-121 area needs a dedicated thread (I searched but could not find one).

I emailed CM Quincy's office a few months back and got a great response:
Councilmembers Quincy and Palmisano,
I was recently reading through the South Lyndale Corridor Master Plan and had some thoughts and questions. I work in a planning department in a neighboring city, so this is what I consider "fun light reading".
My question pertains to the proposed "turnback" of the Highway 121 stub, north of the crosstown. The discussion of this is found beginning on page 48 of this document: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/gro ... 121370.pdf
I am wondering if you have any updates on that process of getting MNDOT to turn that roadway over to the city or county. This looks like a great project, which will boost existing property values by removing a mini-freeway from the neighborhood, as well as put several blocks of valuable land back on the tax rolls and increase the city's population. Is there any progress on this situation, now that Crosstown reconstruction has been complete for several years?

I created a "fantasy map" of what I believe would be the highest outcome of eliminating Hwy. 121 and creating the most developable land possible. Obviously this isn't entirely realistic, but it is certainly a conversation starter. If we could get even half this amount of land back on the tax rolls, that would be an incredible benefit to the City and undeniable boost to neighborhoods in this area. The South Lyndale Corridor Plan identifies a reduction and calming of MN-121, but I believe we could go even further and eliminate the road entirely, replacing it with a more complete street grid and traditional neighborhood development.

Fantasy Map: http://goo.gl/maps/MnLeu

In summary, I'd like to know if there has been any progress on getting MNDOT to turn the road back to the city/county or if the city is even pursuing any changes at this time. I really believe this is one of the greatest redevelopment opportunities in the entire city and now is the time to get the ball rolling.

Thank you,
Mr. Twincitizen
Thank you for your e-mail. Council Member Quincy has asked me to reply back to you on his behalf. I have been working with Council Member Palmisano on this project since she has taken office and we are on the same page when it comes to this project.

Back prior to the small area planning process, the City talked with MnDOT and Hennepin County to determine who owned what property in the area. At that time it was determined that MnDOT had purchased the land under what is currently Hwy 121 from the Crosstown up to 58th St. and that Hennepin County owned the land from 58th to 56th St. And that this was all ownership rather than easement of the property. We also looked at the possibility of eliminating Hwy 121 entirely as part of the 35W/Crosstown project because of the additional access from Lyndale Ave. But because you can’t get from Lyndale Ave to 35W S., MnDOT determined that they needed to maintain some sort of roadway to serve the Lyndale to 35W South traffic. But they were in agreement that the current roadway is overbuilt and could be a single lane each way.

The plan is based on those two suppositions, governmental ownership of the land and a smaller roadway would suffice. As you can see, the plan calls for two lanes of traffic, on the eastern side of the current Hwy 121 property, which then would T-intersect at 58th St., with Lyndale Ave being reopened to two way traffic between 56th and 58th. That would create a small strip of land on the western side of Hwy 121 to be developed as additional housing, likely townhomes, and a much larger parcel in the area between 56th & 58th that would be sold via RFP for a mixed use development and potentially a small green space.

A member of the Bachman family participated in the entire process and provided very helpful feedback. But after the plan was already adopted, the Bachman company contacted the City and stated that they believe that Hwy 121 as it runs behind their property is an easement, so if the City chooses to vacate any of that easement, the property should be returned to the adjacent property owners from whom the easement was obtained. If that is true, that is obviously a bit of a fly in the ointment. So we have changed plans a bit. All along, the big gain from this project is converting Lyndale to two way traffic all the way through and the large opportunity development parcel between 56th and 58th that would be gained by closing that off. So the latest we have been working on is a modified plan that would keep Hwy 121 a four lane divided highway from the Crosstown to 58th, but at that point it would T-intersect at 58th St.. Lyndale would be converted to two way traffic between 56th and 58th and the large development opportunity could still be realized.

The next hurdle is paying for it. Our Public Works Department has determined that, besides not owning most of those streets, the streets are also not in bad enough condition that they are in the queue to be reconstructed anytime in the near future. But it may still make sense from an economic development standpoint. So I have asked Community Planning and Economic Development to look at whether they would recoup enough revenue from the sale of the development opportunity parcel to pay for the infrastructure changes. Or if that is not sufficient, if a TIF district might be in order. Right now we are waiting for CPED to weigh in.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


John E. Dybvig
Aide to Council Member
John Quincy- Ward 11
(612) 673-3314

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby sdho » September 30th, 2014, 11:18 am

Although I support converting 121 to a 2-lane (rather than hugely divided 4-lane) south of 58th, I'm not sure how much development potential that has, given the fact that it will still essentially be a freeway on-ramp.

I think 56th-58th has great potential, and that in general reopening Lyndale in both directions will improve mobility and improve the overall feel of Lyndale from 56th to the Crosstown, possibly even to 66th. Still, land uses like a substation and very large garden center are a bit of barrier to good development near the Crosstown.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby sdho » September 30th, 2014, 11:20 am

Regarding your map: I think the only real flaw I see is lack of very direct access to Lyndale or to 58th. I don't think the neighbors on Colfax would care for all NB 35W traffic going in front of their homes to access 58th. If anything, it seems more realistic to end 121 at 61st St, since that's a slightly better access over to Lyndale.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby twincitizen » September 30th, 2014, 12:30 pm

I concur. The map was made as a "maximum development/ perfect street grid" scenario, not a realistic traffic flow scenario. I agree that directing the MN-121 traffic to 61st (and onward to Lyndale and Nicollet) is the best option.

It would also be appropriate in that scenario to buy out the 20 houses on the north side of 61st, because
A: There's no alley, so there would be 20 driveways spaced closely together on a now very busy street
B: The existing 61st Street would have to be widened anyways to accommodate the much higher traffic counts, making these homes far less desirable in the process.

Heck, maybe the City/County can help Bachman's can buy those 20 homes out in exchange for giving up their supposed ownership of the rest of MN-121. As I suggested in my map, there could be some other property swaps between the city and Bachman's to get full city blocks put back together.

The one thing that troubled me about the response from CM Quincy's aide was the status of that supposed easement. That seems like something that would be relatively easy to determine, with a little research into old property files, legal descriptions, etc. Like in the 3 months since I got that response, the answer to that question should already be known. Maybe it will have to go to court if it is truly ambiguous ownership between the state or Bachman's, and the state simply has less vested interest in getting this figured out than the city does.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby sdho » September 30th, 2014, 12:48 pm

I concur. The map was made as a "maximum development/ perfect street grid" scenario, not a realistic traffic flow scenario. I agree that directing the MN-121 traffic to 61st (and onward to Lyndale and Nicollet) is the best option.

It would also be appropriate in that scenario to buy out the 20 houses on the north side of 61st, because
A: There's no alley, so there would be 20 driveways spaced closely together on a now very busy street
B: The existing 61st Street would have to be widened anyways to accommodate the much higher traffic counts, making these homes far less desirable in the process.

Heck, maybe the City/County can help Bachman's can buy those 20 homes out in exchange for giving up their supposed ownership of the rest of MN-121. As I suggested in my map, there could be some other property swaps between the city and Bachman's to get full city blocks put back together.
TH 121 only has 7500 ADT today. You might have to restrict one side of parking, but 61st St could easily handle that volume. The driveways aren't ideal, but many many blocks of Lyndale Avenue do just fine, with higher volumes and driveways. A related problem would be the whole neighborhood, though; since losing their access at 62nd St, that neighborhood is only accessible via 61st St.

As for buying out the homes: I guess I don't see a compelling public need to do so. But if homeowners were eager to get out, I think it would be fine for city/MnDOT to assist in selling the land to Bachman's. If homeowners were *not* eager to get out, they might ask why we're drowning existing, established neighbors in freeway traffic, simply so we can develop more land that's an expressway today. That is: why not just continue it to 58th Street. Policymakers and residents alike tend to bias toward preserving current conditions, even if they might make less sense in theory.
The one thing that troubled me about the response from CM Quincy's aide was the status of that supposed easement. That seems like something that would be relatively easy to determine, with a little research into old property files, legal descriptions, etc. Like in the 3 months since I got that response, the answer to that question should already be known. Maybe it will have to go to court if it is truly ambiguous ownership between the state or Bachman's, and the state simply has less vested interest in getting this figured out than the city does.
Agreed entirely here. It seems like something that would be relatively easy to resolve. Bachman's words should not be solely authoritative.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby twincitizen » September 30th, 2014, 12:56 pm

This is also really stupid (on MNDOT's part, not the CM's aide):

"We also looked at the possibility of eliminating Hwy 121 entirely as part of the 35W/Crosstown project because of the additional access from Lyndale Ave. But because you can’t get from Lyndale Ave to 35W S., MnDOT determined that they needed to maintain some sort of roadway to serve the Lyndale to 35W South traffic."

Um, you can get to 35W southbound pretty painlessly at 66th Street [via Lyndale] or slightly less conveniently via SB Penn>EB 62 to SB 35W. How is that not enough to serve this area? (35W northbound is easily accessed via both 60th and 54th Streets)

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby mister.shoes » September 30th, 2014, 1:08 pm

That's a great question. MNDOT could justify eliminating Portland Ave's access to WB 62, but this was just too much change?
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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby Archiapolis » February 12th, 2015, 1:27 pm

I live in this neighborhood (kind of) and I'm frequently in this area. Cheers for proposing something of value and for following up with the CM about it.

After reading the aide's response, I'd like to keep the pressure on. I also think it is ridiculous to accept Bachman's claims without follow-up. There is no way they would accept "Joe Homeowner's" word on what he/she thought the legal boundaries/definitions should be.

As to the cost, wouldn't any purchase from Hennepin County be offset by the development opportunity? It *seems* like the city sale of the land to a developer and then the additional tax revenue would be a net gain. What am I missing?

As a 12 year resident of the area, I can report that this whole stretch is lightly trafficked.

Lastly, I'm not an urban planner (lowly architect) but to take your fantasy map and ask the city of Mpls to push a little harder on Mn DOT, it seems like it would be better to create the new intersection at 59th by continuing 121 to the east as it becomes 59th. There are only 3 homes directly to the north side of 59th with Bachman's "show house" and a sea of parking to the south - neither of which would suffer from a busy intersection at the doorstep. If you took a couple more houses to the north, it seems like you could create a roundabout at 59th and Lyndale. That intersection would then be bordered by: a green space buffer (from SF homes at the northwest) a sea of parking and a "show house" for Bachman's (southwest), a cemetery (southeast), and a church (northeast). Wouldn't this be ideal in terms of minimal disruption to single-family residences? This would also bring the block bounded by 59th, Bryant, Aldrich and 58th into play for development as well further swelling the city coffers.

I understand that 59th isn't a great street to continue east but if you wish to do that then you'd make the roundabout northbound and turn on 58th - seems easy.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby twincitizen » March 30th, 2015, 1:11 pm

Uncommon Gardens (5750 Lyndale) has closed.

HINT TO CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS: Buy this property now and save yourself the trouble and expense later.

I am reminded of MNdible's call (in some thread somewhere) for there to be a liquid "strategic acquisition fund" that the city could use when opportunities such as this arise and property needs to be purchased quickly.

I never thanked Mr. Quincy's policy aide last year when he sent me that detailed response, so I followed up today with this email:
Mr. Dybvig,

Thank you for the very detailed response on this complex issue. I meant to follow up and thank you last year, but it seems I never responded.

Regarding the issue of MNDOT easement or ownership over Hwy. 121 land, it seems that a definitive answer could be reached through title research, correct? Your response suggests that, as of last year, the City (and/or MNDOT) had not been able to conclude the ownership status of that land. With great public interest in reclaiming and redeveloping this land, the city would not simply take the Bachman family at their word, would it? There has to be a conclusive answer one way or the other on whether MNDOT owns the land or merely has an easement.

The specific reason I'm following up with you today is that it was reported in the Southwest Journal that Uncommon Gardens (5750 Lyndale Ave S) has closed. In order to convert Lyndale Ave to a two-way between 56th and 58th Streets (as you noted in your response), it would seem prudent for the city to acquire this property ASAP. At the least, some additional right-of-way would be needed, likely wiping out the current parking lot along Lyndale there. It makes more sense for the city to buy the vacant property now than deal with the next property owner and kick out a functioning business. Furthermore, following reconstruction of Lyndale, this little wedge-shaped property would be a key part of the redevelopment of MN-121, framing the northwest corner of Lyndale and 58th.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby Archiapolis » March 31st, 2015, 7:59 am

Uncommon Gardens (5750 Lyndale) has closed.

HINT TO CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS: Buy this property now and save yourself the trouble and expense later.

I am reminded of MNdible's call (in some thread somewhere) for there to be a liquid "strategic acquisition fund" that the city could use when opportunities such as this arise and property needs to be purchased quickly.

I never thanked Mr. Quincy's policy aide last year when he sent me that detailed response, so I followed up today with this email:
Mr. Dybvig,

Thank you for the very detailed response on this complex issue. I meant to follow up and thank you last year, but it seems I never responded.

Regarding the issue of MNDOT easement or ownership over Hwy. 121 land, it seems that a definitive answer could be reached through title research, correct? Your response suggests that, as of last year, the City (and/or MNDOT) had not been able to conclude the ownership status of that land. With great public interest in reclaiming and redeveloping this land, the city would not simply take the Bachman family at their word, would it? There has to be a conclusive answer one way or the other on whether MNDOT owns the land or merely has an easement.

The specific reason I'm following up with you today is that it was reported in the Southwest Journal that Uncommon Gardens (5750 Lyndale Ave S) has closed. In order to convert Lyndale Ave to a two-way between 56th and 58th Streets (as you noted in your response), it would seem prudent for the city to acquire this property ASAP. At the least, some additional right-of-way would be needed, likely wiping out the current parking lot along Lyndale there. It makes more sense for the city to buy the vacant property now than deal with the next property owner and kick out a functioning business. Furthermore, following reconstruction of Lyndale, this little wedge-shaped property would be a key part of the redevelopment of MN-121, framing the northwest corner of Lyndale and 58th.
I'm going to write to Quincy and Dybvig as well. This area needs to change and there is a great opportunity here to be seized.

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Re: Road Geek Topics

Postby mattaudio » February 1st, 2016, 8:26 pm

Did we have a thread about the Hwy 121 / South Lyndale Corridor Master Plan?
We continue to meet and discuss this internally, and it is moving forward at the speed of bureaucracy. As we were looking at implementing the plan, we discovered a slight hic-up. When the plan was developed, it was the understanding of all involved that the underlying property was purchased and owned by either the State or Hennepin County. Several years ago, Bachman’s came to the City and stated that their investigation into the providence of the property indicated that the State had purchased only an easement, so if the road behind Bachman’s were to be removed and no longer used as a roadway, that property would revert back to Bachman’s. Our attorney looked at it and confirmed that was the situation for the land south of 58th. St. So, more recently we looked at the property north of 58th St. and discovered that it is similarly held. In spite of the fact that there are entire parcels that have been inaccessible to the property owner, there is still a third party, from somewhere back in the 1930’s or 40’s who still own the underlying property, so would need to be compensated for that. So we asked or CPED staff to develop a cost estimate of what it would cost to purchase the ownership stake in those parcels, plus make the changes to the infrastructure to remove Hwy 121 north of 58th St., connect 57th St. and reopen Lyndale as a 2-way street between 56th and 58th. The very rough estimates put those costs at approximately $10 million. So now we are looking for the money.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby Drizzay » February 3rd, 2016, 1:19 pm

The merging of 121 & Lyndale N at 56th is a PITA during rush hour. if they at least figure out how to re-do that, I will be happy.

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Postby Archiapolis » May 17th, 2016, 11:47 am

I recently engaged with CM Palmisano and CM Quincy's office on this. Three "updates" below which all seem to be in accord. Looks like it's going to be awhile.

1. From Jon Dybvig in CM Quincy's office:

Yes, there is a plan for this area.

http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/gro ... 121370.pdf

When this plan was created, the information the City had was that MnDOT and Hennepin County owned the property under the road, rather than using it via an easement. Since the completion of the plan, it has been discovered that the roads are on easements, which complicates the process. For the section between 58th and 56th St., we have been working with our Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) office to develop estimates of what it would cost to obtain clear title to the land as well as change the infrastructure to allow for that area to be redeveloped. Our office is working with CM Palmisano and her staff to keep this moving forward, and right now, the next step is identifying the money to buy clear title to the land and build the infrastructure.

Right now, CPED is also working on a request from the Council to develop a list of criteria to prioritize development projects that will require some level of City funding. If that process is weighted toward how quickly the anticipated property taxes would be expected to cover the City investment, then this project will score very high. But there are some projects on the list that are much more high profile (Upper Harbor Terminal, the Kmart location at Lake & Nicollet, etc.) that unfortunately may end up ahead of this project in the queue. We’ll likely know more in June.

===
2. From CM Palmisano

I’m sorry, I am just that far behind on the emails that take me a long time to write out… I am going to do this while I’m in committee here and without my old notes. I have not forgotten you or your note, I promise that.

Basically, last year and early this year, we have been discussing a development project in that corridor. Unfortunately, a LARGE amt of the space in what was known as the “LASER CC” plan we’ve learned only in the past 24 months(!i know, seriously!!!) is owned by Bachmann’s. And negotiations with them have not been successful. So the triangle-shaped piece we are working on is roughly the ‘tip top’ of the original triangle. It would mean the purchase of the garden store that is currently for sale. And… our city attorney has outlined about 18 additional ‘easements’ that would need be finally transferred to the city for this development.

Sadly, the time (1950s if I recall correctly?) where this land was removed from people’s properties by the county for the road project was just before they started to purchase them outright. So this means tracking down approximately 18 heirs of land and figure out a purchase price and doing all the public notice involved. It is feasible and I keep fighting for it. Unfortunately the council is waiting for a prioritization from our Planning Dept of this against investment in several other parts of our city that includes the Mississippi riverfront scrap site, the Kmart project (to reopen Nicollet near Lake St), and a few others. It is especially frustrating because relative to these other projects, the amount of investment to set the table for development of this space is quite small.

I will indeed look to get a public notice of all of this out to the community once that report comes back. This is a somewhat complex project by way of the county/city and who owns what streets, but, we have that part all sorted out. Our efforts with the county/MN Dept of Transportation and their willingness to work with us has gone rather well. What is holding us back is the investment it will take to set the table.

I refer to this as the “bet on vanilla ice cream” project. It is low risk, high probability of success in improving the neighborhoods around it and adding more housing to the city. I do promise to stay on it. More importantly I should get the word out, because I have shared this information at the Kenny neighborhood meetings several months ago but that doesn’t mean that everyone who was curious has learned that we continue to work on it.

Linea
===

3. From Ken Dahler

I’ll get back to you with a more detailed answer soon—sorry for the slow reply. I think the gist of the answer will be that while the development of this area is on the city’s radar (partly due to pressure from our office), it’s still years away from anything meaningful being proposed or done. I want to talk to a couple more folks on staff, however, before I give you a somewhat more detailed and thoughtful answer.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby twincitizen » May 17th, 2016, 2:07 pm

Don't know if Thatchio is still reading this thread from Seattle, but I wonder what his take is...

If CPED has its hands full and is unable to rate this project as a top priority (due to greater prominence of riverfront, Kmart site, desire for development in North, etc.), is it possible that Hennepin County Community Works could take the lead here? This "new" section of Lyndale (56th to 58th for Phase 1) would presumably become (or already is?) part of CSAH-22, in concert with the vacation of MN-121 between 56th-58th. Perhaps it is actually preferred that they be the project lead here, rather than the city. They may also have greater resources for acquisition and the ability to scale the project out over a longer period of time than the city is able. Thoughts?

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby Archiapolis » May 23rd, 2016, 11:41 am

I'd welcome ANY involvement that would push the development of this area forward. I've never heard of Hennepin County Community Works so others should evaluate that prospect.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby David Greene » May 23rd, 2016, 1:53 pm

Does Community Works need an actual project to attach to or can it just start a transportation project on its own? I only know their work through SWLRT and the C Line.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby thatchio » May 23rd, 2016, 11:38 pm

Given that I used to work for Community Works, I'd going to keep some distance on whether CW should be the lead or not. One question would be why should HC be the lead if Minneapolis isn't making it a priority? While part of it is the terminus of a county road, CW is as much about partnerships as it is about investment.

As a past Kenny resident and someone who was advocating for this turnback and redevelopment along with other Kenny neighbors, I'd suggest keeping pressure on the city, getting the county commissioners to understand the opportunity and issues, and identify what the real next steps are to get this moving.

Keep in mind that when the City of Minneapolis moved to resurface NB Lyndale between 58th and 56th, they assessed the property owners and said it'd add about 10 years of life to the road. When I raised the issue then, Public Works stated there was no plan to do a turnback and so the resurfacing wasn't in vein. That resurfacing was a couple of years ago, so while 8 years sounds like a lot of time, it really isn't in terms of figuring out the title issues, working out funding agreements, and then going through the funding cycles trying to get resources. The title setback that Linea mentions is serious business as selling the land to a developer to help offset the capital costs of realigning roads is unlikely.

While Linea mentions aligning the city's development funds, another angle would be for residents (and CLIC members, Matt) to continue to push on Public Works to understand how they determine the road projects they bring forward to CLIC and the city council to consider. That black box needs to be cracked, as economic development should be a consideration. Lyndale between 62 and 56th is aging out and it would be a shame to see PW start to plan its replacement in a vacuum.

Lastly, this should be a great lesson for planners on why understanding property title for bigger ideas like turnbacks is critical. It set community expectations and now it is far from happening without a lot of effort on the part of elected officials to prioritize it.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby MNdible » May 24th, 2016, 9:41 am

While I think this project makes an awful lot of sense, and I'd like to see it happen, and I believe that a city of Minneapolis's size should be able to undertake multiple large complicated projects simultaneously...

Per the dust-up at the recent Community Development Committee, given the other big important projects on the city's plate right now, I'd say that this one rightly sits several slots down from the top of the list.

Also, racial equity.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby Archiapolis » May 26th, 2016, 9:06 am

Thanks for the breakdown Thatchio. My takeaway - complicated AF.

MNdible: I'm wondering about the racial equity comment. Could be real or satirical or other (Poe's Law?) but I'd think that this area represents a major opportunity for integration with an eye towards breaking up the segregated nature of the city. Aside from the pump house site at France, I can think of no other large swath of developable land in southwest Minneapolis. While the NIMBYs would be on the march (in force), I see an opportunity for integration.

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Re: MN-121 "Lyndale Connector" Turnback and Redevelopment

Postby MNdible » May 26th, 2016, 9:24 am

I was just trying to channel Cano.


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