Nicollet Mall redesign project clears another hurdle

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June 17, 2014 // UPDATED 4:20 pm - June 19, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
An illustration of the new Nicollet Mile.
Sarah McKenzie

A City Council committee has signed off on James Corner Field Operation's concept to transform Nicollet Mall into Nicollet Mile — a greener, more vibrant street designed to serve as a signature showpiece for the city.

The Council's Transportation & Public Works committee approved the concept for the project earlier today, which will now go through a more detailed design process and be guided by a 10-member implementation committee. The funding plan for the $50 million project includes $21.5 million in state bonding, $3.5 million from Mayor Betsy Hodge's proposed 2015 budget and $25 million from an easement on property owners along Nicollet Mall.

Construction on the Nicollet Mall redesign is expected to start in September 2015 and be complete by fall of 2016, said Peter Brown, a consultant on the project.

Lisa Switkin, a principal at NYC-based James Corner Field Operations, said Nicollet Mile is designed to forge a stronger connection with the Mississippi River and the Chain of Lakes.  

The street will also better serve pedestrians, bikers and buses and be equipped to fit a streetcar line. Designers are looking at a turning box concept for bikers to make it easier for them to navigate along Nicollet (see image below) and have plans for improved transit stops, too, Switkin said. 

The street's much maligned granite pavers, which are prone to cracking, will be replaced by a more durable pavement. City crews plan to test out the paving material for a pilot project to make sure it's a good fit for Nicollet. 

The new Nicollet Mile will also feature movable street furniture and a glass stairwell descending from the skyway at 7th & Nicollet, which could also house a cafe.

City Council Member Lisa Bender (Ward 10) had high praise for the design concept. "This is a great first step for revitalizing the public realm for downtown," she said.

She said she loved the concept for movable furniture, adding it brings an element of playfulness to the street that will help create a family-friendly atmosphere.

City Council Member Kevin Reich (Ward 1) said he is appreciative of the business community's commitment to pitching in for the redesign for Nicollet.

"It's been called Main Street Minnesota," he said. "It's a statewide amenity."