Various local neighborhood-related news stories
Jail skyways advance
Hennepin County is working on two new skyways to connect its new Public Safety Facility, 401 4th Ave. S., to the city-owned parking ramps that flank it.
The combined cost of the new skyways is $4.3 million.
Work began first on the $1.8 million skyway spanning South 5th Street to the Government Center Ramp, 415 S. 5th St., said Tom Bravo, the county's project manager. The county expects the skyway to open in October, he said. Workers have already erected the steel skeleton in advance of light-rail transit's June 26 opening; LRT will run underneath the skyway.
The skyway will have a three-foot-plus drop from the Public Safety Facility to the parking ramp, said Dennis Sachs, a consulting architect with Stageberg Beyer Sachs, Inc.
The Government Center parking ramp will have a 300-foot-long open-air walkway through the unheated garage to the Public Safety Facility. The ramp, built in 1971, does not have enough structural support for an enclosed walkway, Sachs said. The walkway also will connect to skyways to the Thrivent Financial Building, 625 4th Ave. S., and through the Opus-owned 4th Avenue Ramp to the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St.
A $2.5 million skyway will cross South 4th Street to the Jerry Haaf Ramp, 424 S. 4th St., Bravo said. It is more costly in part because the Haaf Ramp floors and Public Safety Facility floors are not directly across the street from each other and do not line up.
The skyway will jog 43 feet and drop 8 feet from the Public Safety Facility to the Haaf Ramp, Bravo said. The design includes stairs and a lift for people with physical disabilities.
The 4th Street skyway is going out for bids and is scheduled to open October 2005.
The city required the county to build the ramps as a condition of getting permits to build the Public Safety Facility, Bravo said. The federal government is contributing $1 million to the 5th Street skyway. The county is applying for federal aid on the 4th Street skyway, Bravo said.
-- Scott Russell
Elliot Park developers OK archeological dig
A Chicago-based developer planning a 26-story condo tower at the corner of Portland Avenue and South 10th Street in Elliot Park will allow a public archaeology project later this summer.
Kent Bakken, a doctoral student in archaeology and an Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc. board member, plans to organize a neighborhood dig in August at the proposed tower's site.
Bakken suspects the dig will turn up old household wares, such as chipped plates and other odds-and-ends from the early 1900s. He hopes to glean insight into everyday life of the neighborhood's earliest residents and provide current residents a sense of common identity and shared history.
Paul Marks, a principal with Tandem Developers, which is proposing the 250-unit condo tower called Elliot Park Lofts, said his firm has agreed to let Bakken check out the site until construction starts later in the fall.
"We spoke to him and think it's a wonderful thing," Marks said.
The developer plans to help Bakken round up volunteers and is looking for local businesses willing to donate equipment for the dig.
The Elliot Park Lofts proposal is expected to go before the city's Planning Commission for review Monday, June 7. It would rise near the 27-story Grant Park tower and feature units priced between $170,000 and $300,000.
Tandem has completed six loft and town home developments in Chicago and Milwaukee. It has focused on historic rehabs, including a renovation of an old bicycle warehouse in Chicago's South Loop.
-- Sarah McKenzie
Dome-area church gets 'chemical peel'
An old Swedish church near the Metrodome is in the middle of a major face-lift.
Crews have peeled away fading maroon paint from the exterior of First Covenant Church, 810 S. 7th St., revealing the church's original red brick faade.
The maroon paint, which had turned to a purplish hue in some spots, had covered the original brick since the 1940s.
Church member Brian Wass, who serves on the church's elder board, said the makeover is expected to be complete by Aug. 1.
"It's an incredible transformation," he said. "It's a statement for the neighborhood. We're giving hope and help in the heart of the city."
Besides the "chemical peel," crews are working on stone and stained-glass-window restorations, tuck pointing and removing old mortar. The restoration efforts will total $700,000, Wass said.
A group of Scandinavian immigrants founded the church in 1874. Twelve years later, crews began work on the church's current sanctuary at the corner of 7th and Chicago Avenue.
The new church accommodated seating for 2,500. Wass called First Covenant one of the earliest "mega" churches since it boasted the largest auditorium in Minneapolis when it was built.
First Covenant is an Evangelical Covenant church -- a denomination of more than 600 churches in the United States and Canada. The denomination is rooted in the Lutheran Church of Sweden.
The Downtown congregation has 300 members from all over the Twin Cities.
-- Sarah McKenzie