'Eat Street' project complete, housing next

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April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

For over four years, neighborhood, business and city leaders have worked to make Loring Park's stretch of Nicollet Avenue's "Eat Street," more attractive to conventioneers and prospective developers.

The makeover's signature elements include two, 12-foot-tall salt-and-pepper-shaker-shaped kiosks. One stands near the Convention Center and another on the corner of Grant Street and Nicollet Avenue. To some, the blank gray kiosks have resembled strange alien pods plunked on the side of the street.

Earlier this month, leaders in the neighborhood's West Side Convention Center Project finally added text to the kiosks. Now passersby can find directories and maps for area

businesses and restaurants.

With the kiosk's final touches in place, the $300,000-plus beautification project is largely complete.

The project also added "Eat Street" banners to the neighborhood's portion of Nicollet Avenue, which spans from Grant Street to the Interstate-94 overpass. New ornamental fencing, low-level lights and fancier sidewalks featuring exposed stones have also been part of the makeover. This spring, some grassy areas on Grant Street will be replaced with flowerbeds.

John Van Heel, president of the neighborhood group, Citizens for a Loring Park Community (CLPC), highlighted the project's completion at the neighborhood's recent annual meeting.

Van Heel, an intern architect with BKV Group, an 222 N. 2nd St. architecture, interior design and engineering firm, credited the effort with bringing more pedestrians and businesses to Nicollet Avenue.

The street front between 14th and 15th street, in particular, has undergone a dramatic overhaul with brighter, spiffed-up facades. Two new popular restaurants have recently opened on the block -- Salsa a la Salsa and the Eat Street Caf/.

"Things have been picking up," Van Heel said. "Our goal is to bring in more businesses."

The Minneapolis Convention Center chipped in about $300,000 for the facelift. The neighborhood group and Parker Durrant, the Minneapolis-based architectural and engineering firm, contributed about $14,000.

Besides invigorating the neighborhood's commercial district, CLPC is working to secure more housing. It has recently partnered with the Center for Neighborhoods on the Corridor Housing Initiative -- a joint city-county effort to address a projected need of 26,000 additional housing units in the next 20 years.

The neighborhood group's plan envisions high-density housing development north of 14th Street on the west side of Nicollet Avenue.