The city of Minneapolis has taken great pains over the past few years to spruce up Downtown's Hennepin Avenue: old-style lampposts, shrubbery and park benches now adorn many blocks. That makes many Skyway readers even more disconcerted by those concrete bunkers with their twisted chain-link fences that have been perched outside Shinder's and the Orpheum Theatre lo these many months. What are those things?
No, they are not Homeland Security measures and, no, there is no current plan to move Guantanamo Bay's Camp Zero to Downtown. The concrete pillboxes are in fact, part of a continued beautification project for Hennepin Avenue. As Sara Dietrich, assistant communications director for the city explains:
"This is part of the Hennepin Streetscaping project, which runs on Hennepin from 5th to 10th streets. Some underground work needs to be completed at [those locations], so the concrete barriers and fencing were installed by a contractor to gain access to [those areas]. This will allow for much of the underground work to be finished with as little sidewalk closure as is possible."
Dietrich notes that the local businesses pay for the streetscaping project. "The city and the businesses that are working to make this happen appreciate everybody's patience during this project. We know people who come Downtown for work or for fun (or happen to live in the neighborhood) will enjoy our improved Hennepin Avenue when it's completed."
So there you have it. There was no word from the city as to whether these bunkers would indeed make good forts for snowball fights, however.
By the way, the pillboxes are expected to be gone by late spring.