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Velodrome proposal still alive for Shoreham Yards

Updated: August 25, 2016 - 11:59 am

The MN Cycling Center continues to build momentum for a cycling destination in Northeast Minneapolis.

A group of cyclists once pitched a grand vision to transform a historic rail yard into a world-class biking and entertainment destination right on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. Now, a few years later, that dream is still alive.

The MN Cycling Center (MNCC) is planning a multi-purpose center anchored by an indoor velodrome in the eastern corner of the Shoreham Yards rail yard that could host everything from student groups to world-class events.

Not much has changed with the proposal since it was first announced in 2013. The volunteer-run nonprofit of biking enthusiasts is proposing to build a velodrome, or a banked track designed for fixed-gear bicycle racing, that would be able to house a multi-purpose sports field on the infield. The complex would also be home to an outdoor BMX biking course, commercial space for several businesses and a ruins garden incorporating parts of the site’s historic Roundhouse building.

Jason Lardy, president of the MNCC, said the project is needed to forge connections to the next generation of more diverse cyclists. Lardy, whose marketing company works with the National Sports Center in Blaine, said the velodrome there is reaching the end of its useful life and they now have the opportunity to connect with kids in underserved communities.

“Blaine is a long way from downtown Minneapolis and the other neighborhoods,” he told The Journal. “Our goal is to build a facility that is much more accessible for kids and the community as a whole.”

The velodrome, which, if built, would be the country’s only indoor velodrome outside of Los Angeles, would have support from roughly 20,000 square feet of revenue-generating commercial space, enough for about three or four community-oriented businesses, Lardy said.

The complex would also be home to industrial spaces and event spaces that could host weddings, conventions and concerts. On top of ample bike parking, MNCC is currently planning room for about 450 vehicles, though that could change dramatically as the proposal develops.

SHOREHAM YARDS proposal 3

The MNCC is proposing the project on about 12 acres of land near Central & 28th, just a tiny corner of the 230-acre Shoreham Yards site owned by Canadian Pacific. The group intends to partially preserve the semi-circular Roundhouse, an 1887 storage building for steam locomotives, into a plaza much like Mill Ruins Park, Lardy said. In 2000, the City of Minneapolis designated the little-known landmark — the last remaining roundhouse in the city — after the railroad company attempted to demolish it.

Lardy estimates the project would cost somewhere between an estimated $35 million and $40 million. That’s up from the $20 million to $25 million price tag originally pitched to community members, which is due to higher estimated costs associated with historic preservation and parking, he said.

The MNCC is ultimately looking for $25 million in state bonding money for the project. First it’s asking lawmakers for $250,000 in pre-design work. Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-60), who represents Northeast Minneapolis, and Rep. Tim Sanders (R-37B) of Blaine were chief authors of that request in the Senate and House, respectively. The Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, which manages the National Sports Center, is the MNCC’s fiscal agent, Lardy said.

Council Member Kevin Reich, who represents much of Northeast Minneapolis, was there early on in conversations and pitched the site to the MN Cycling Center. He touts the site for its connectivity, a central tenet of MNCC’s proposal. Central Avenue is a state highway with bike facilities, connections to the Grand Rounds and some of the city’s most popular transit routes.

SHOREHAM YARDS proposal 1

On top of that, there’s the culture. The area has a “Northeast cool,” Reich said, with its own proclivity for biking, popular events like Art-A-Whirl and an expanding commercial corridor.

“You just have this real downhome, kind of small-town thing going on in the big city, which they could be a part of,” he said.

It also has young people, Lardy said, with an estimated 4,000 students within a few miles of the site. The MNCC would employ youth through a bike-centered job-training program and offer a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, athletics and math) curriculum to students.

Local leaders and residents groups have been open to the proposal, including Jane McCarney, co-chair of the Columbia Park Neighborhood Association, and the Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. The latter wrote a letter of support following a July community meeting.

The MN Cycling Center wants to open the facility by the December of 2019. With roughly 14 months of construction, Lardy said they’re hoping to break ground by fall 2018 if state support comes through in the next sessions.