Things are getting shady on Washington Avenue South; work is underway to install 43 honey locust trees on six medians between Hennepin Avenue and South 10th Street.
The new greenery will "completely change Washington Avenue," the Downtown Council's Michael McLaughlin told the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA) at its 12 July meeting.
The $88,654 planting -- fully funded by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant -- is the first of two phases.
The second $40,000 phase -- funded by a DMNA Neighborhood Revitalization Program grant-- will plant as many as 1,000 hardy, flowering plants beneath the trees, according to McLaughlin, the Downtown Council's vice-president of district services.
Weather permitting, the Minneapolis Department of Public Works will remove concrete and put in new topsoil by Sept. 15, McLaughlin said. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board could begin tree planting as soon as Sept. 19.
McLaughlin said the work will have no major traffic impacts but will include closing one traffic lane during non-rush hours (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) Phase Two work could begin this fall, but might have to wait until spring, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said he hoped DMNA's shrubbery purchase would "start the process to spur the Planning Department to deliver streetscaping on the sidewalks, as well."
Shrub roses were originally planned, but that may have to change due to shallower-than-expected topsoil. Day lilies or other hardy, salt-tolerant flowering plants could be substituted, McLaughlin said.
The Park Board will maintain the trees. The DMNA motion allocating the $40,000 asked McLaughlin to establish a one-year maintenance plan for the shrubs. That plan could include a "3rd Avenue model" in which Washington Avenue businesses and property owners would contract landscapers to water, weed, prune and fertilize the rose shrubs or other flowers.
Participating businesses could possibly be identified on signs on the sponsored medians, although DMNA Land Use Chair Andy Hauer worried that such signs would be ugly.
In the long term, a Downtown special service district
could maintain the medians. Special service districts are paid for through additional property taxes on area commercial or industrial property owners to provide service above what city provides, McLaughlin explained. Such a district is in the research and planning stages and is at least a year away, he said.