The city plans to dedicate a new bridge linking downtown to the West Bank in honor of Hussein Samatar, a beloved community leader who died in August after a battle with leukemia.
The bridge will be named Samatar Crossing and be part of a larger project that will feature a new exit off of Interstate 94 onto 7th Street for drivers headed westbound from St. Paul. The new exit will replace the current exit on to 5th Street.
Mayor R.T. Rybak announced the project during his last press conference as mayor this afternoon in City Hall's Rotunda. He called Samatar a friend, hero and "one of the greatest people" to ever live in Minneapolis. Samatar served on the city's school and library boards and founded the African Development Center after working as a commercial banker for Wells Fargo and Norwest Banks.
Samatar is believed to be the first Somali-American in the country to be elected to public office when he won a School Board seat in 2010.
Rybak said the new link from downtown to the West Bank, which will be built just north of the new 7th Street exit should not "be just another roadway." He envisions it as a "great pedestrian walkway" linking the city's core to an area that has long been home to immigrant communities — first Scandinavians and Somali-Americans today.
He called the West Bank the "Ellis Island" of Minneapolis.
As part of the project, the city also plans to dedicate a portion of land on the West Bank to a new skate park.
Paul Forsline of Mpls City of Skate, a volunteer group working with park leaders to create new skate parks in the city, said they hope to raise $1 million for the new park.
Steve Kotke, director of the city's Public Works department, said a design process that will engage the community on ideas for Samatar Crossing will start in 2014. Construction, meanwhile, is expected to start in 2015.
Reporters also asked Rybak to reflect on the end of his tenure at his final mayoral press conference.
When asked about his proudest moments, he pointed to how the city responded to the North Minneapolis tornado and collapse of the I-35W bridge. He also said the 18,000 youth who have gone through the STEP-UP summer internship program has been especially meaningful to him.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” he said, adding it’s time to turn attention to the new leadership team taking over at City Hall. “They’re ready to roll.”
One of his main goals when coming to City Hall was to encourage more civic pride.
“We have our collective swagger back,” he said.