A public-private partnership hoped to green up 3rd Avenue South but has more mulch than beauty to show for it
The 1917 Plan for the City of Minneapolis called for a \"grand boulevard connection from the city\'s riverfront to the newly built [Minneapolis] Institute of the Arts.\" In the 1990s, Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton promoted a plan to create this \"grand boulevard\" by converting 3rd Avenue South into the \"Avenue of the Arts.\"
But Minneapolis officials say the city was unable to levy special taxes to fund the plan\'s \"unique streetscape elements\" and \"public art installations.\" In the end, they spent $300,000 from the original project to build five median-planters on Downtown\'s 3rd Avenue South; three were completed this spring.
The planters are constructed of not especially artful concrete blocks; their beauty is to spring from blooming plants and trees paid for by nearby corporations. Despite the promise of a public-private partnership to beautify Downtown, two of the three planters remain treeless, though not exactly plantless: After falling prey to weeds, the city had to lay a thick layer of woodchips on each.
City officials aren\'t eager to explain the barren planters between 8th and 9th streets and between 10th and 11th streets. One is unsponsored, said Craig Wilson, an intern working on Downtown greening projects for Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward). American Express is believed to sponsor the other - the company did not return phone calls by press time, and Wilson deferred to Goodman, who refused to comment until all five 3rd Avenue planters have corporate patrons.
Mike Kennedy, a city public works official who supervises the project, hinted at difficulties that could affect the American Express-area planter: \"When you have a public-private partnership, there\'s bound to be red tape.\"
Kennedy and Wilson say the city is responsible for building and maintaining the planters, while the corporate sponsors decide what to plant and maintain the foliage, including the installation of sprinkler systems and decorative lighting.
However, sponsors\' crews cannot work on \"their\" median-planter whenever they please. They must stick to low-traffic times, chiefly evenings and weekends. And while the corporate sponsor may be charged with injecting some personality into the planters, the city keeps an eye to such concerns as driver visibility, limiting the palette.
Still, the solitary planted median - between 6th and 7th streets - stands as an example of the project\'s potential. Kennedy said its sponsor, Heins Corp., worked closely with the city on an upkeep schedule, landscaping, etc. and their median is now a thriving, welcome glimpse of green amidst concrete.
On the corner of South 11th Street and 3rd Avenue, three Downtown workers enjoying a summertime smoke break were quick to say they looked forward to flowers rising from their own concrete-and-mulch median soon.
American Express\' Hamid Abukar hopes for roses while his coworker, Nate, favors sunflowers. A third worker who asked for anonymity chimed in only after mention was made of the dislodged bricks on the northwest corner of the median. \"A city bus hit it,\" the anonymous man said.
When informed of the dent in the median, Kennedy said it was just one of those things \"we\'re going to have to monitor.\"