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$50M ‘Nicollet Mile’ Project Will Add Trees, Seating Areas

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A $50 million transformation of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis is now in the final stages of planning. The latest renderings show a street with much more greenery and many more places to gather.

Planners are also testing out the name “Nicollet Mile” for the project, because it covers exactly a mile between Loring Park and the Mississippi River.

At a Wednesday afternoon preview, young dancers from Barton Open School performed for the lunchtime crowd outside the IDS Crystal Court.

The performance was designed to illustrate how planners envision the heart of the city, when a key street becomes more inviting: more people heading outside and more attractions to keep them engaged.

For months, a New York-based architecture design firm has been taking public feedback to form a design that’s now nearly complete.

James Corner is the principal architect of the firm, James Corner Field Operations.

“We ask simple questions like ‘what do you most want to see on Nicollet Mall’ and ‘what do you least want to see?'” He said.

Downtown workers like Steve Poechmann are excited to see all the extra trees and other greenery in the plans.

“We need green,” Poechmann said. “There’s just too much pavement.”

“So many people are going to the suburbs and so many people work downtown Minneapolis,” said Laura Kissoon. “This will be a good attraction.”

Other priorities include better lighting and better access to the skyway system.

“It’s more prioritized space for pedestrians, it’s more green space, it’s more places for people to gather,” said David Frank, director of transit development, “and we’ve continued to spend time to refine those ideas.”

The plan also calls for a small Theater In The Round near the public library. But despite a large number of people asking to move buses off the mall, the city is insisting that they stay.

“It was originally constructed as a transit mall, and there will continue to be buses on the mall,” Frank said. “The future streetcar will run on the mall. Nicollet Mall will continue to be a street for transit.”

Planners are counting on the state to pitch in half of the $50 million cost of the project in a bonding bill.

If the funding is approved, they could start construction in the spring of 2015, with completion in the summer of 2016.

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