Reporting Susie Jones
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak walked backwards down Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday, stopping to promote both the finer points and the not so finer points of the historic street.
“Just like when you fix up a house and you decorate it well, this is going to be a really exciting street,” Rybak said.
The first priority is to repair cracks in the sidewalk and street. New light fixtures will replace the old. But beyond the maintenance work is a goal to make the 12-block main street an iconic merge of natural and urban, old world meets new.
“Forty years ago, when downtowns were dying all over the country, Minnesota got a different idea. We said that our largest city with this incredible business community and all the assets of Minneapolis wouldn’t just watch the city die,” Rybak said. “In fact, we built a main street that was a model for others in the country and around the world.”
The last time the street was renovated was 1965.
“A lot of things start to deteriorate,” he said, pointing to a crumbling sidewalk and pot holes on the pavement.
Every day, 140,000 people come from around the state to work. Many of the city’s poor and homeless congregate along the mall.
“This isn’t about keeping anybody out,” he said. “Nicollet Mall is about a lot of things. It’s about people. And it’s about the experience they have.”
Three design firms are planning to present their ideas for a refurbished Nicollet Mall next week. Part of the plan may include streetcars.
“One of the reasons I’m so fond of having a streetcar is because we think it will expand the market of the mall by thousands of people,” he said.
Rybak says it’s important to improve the public space by repairing what needs to be fixed and blending business and commerce with a greener, more inviting space.
The final design of the new mall will be chosen Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. at the Guthrie Theater.
Construction is expected to begin in 2015.
The makeover is estimated to cost around $40 million. Businesses along Nicollet Mall have agreed to help front the cost along with the city and state.