Crews sand-blasted stenciled designs into the new Nicollet Mall sidewalk near Peavy Plaza on Sept. 12.

Nicollet Mall sidewalk designs unveiled

Updated: September 20, 2016 – 3:03 pm

Stenciled concrete to replace brick pavers in original design

Crews are beginning to apply stenciled designs to the new sidewalks going in on Nicollet Mall as part of an ongoing, $50-million reconstruction project.

Project manager Peter Brown on Monday showed off the first section of completed sidewalk, located near Peavy Plaza, where crews were sandblasting a tree-branch pattern into the concrete using rectangular metal stencils. Brown said adding stencils to the cast-in-place concrete sidewalks offered the “maximum amount of aesthetic effect” while still being easy to maintain.

This tree-branch design is one of three planned for Nicollet Mall. The others are leaves and a basket weave.
This tree-branch design is one of three planned for Nicollet Mall. The others are leaves and a basket weave.

Stenciled concrete replaced the brick pavers originally called for in James Corner Field Operations’ winning design for Nicollet Mall. The change was a cost-saving measure after the city received a single bid for the construction project in December and it was over budget by $24 million.

The stencil pattern will change from leaves at the far ends of Nicollet Mall — areas dubbed the “Loring Woods” and “Mississippi Woods” by designers — to a basket weave near the IDS Center in the middle of the mall. In-between, in areas the designers refer to as “the groves,” the sidewalk pattern will be tree branches.

Peter Brown, project manager for the Nicollet Mall reconstruction
Peter Brown, project manager for the Nicollet Mall reconstruction

Brown said the reconstructed mall would include about six different shades and textures of concrete. Other pedestrian-friendly design details include low-profile gutters. Raised or “tabled” intersections mean that pedestrians will never have to step off a curb during a 12-block walk down Nicollet Mall, Brown said.

Brown said most of the concrete work was expected to be complete by the end of 2017, and the majority of new plantings should also be in the ground by that time. The finished design includes about 65-percent more trees compared to pre-reconstruction Nicollet Mall, he said.

Downtown Council President and CEO Steve Cramer said the question her hears most often is: “What’s happening with the mall?” Now, Cramer can tell them some blocks will be “substantially complete” by the end of this year.

Projected completion date for the project is late fall 2017. That means the new Nicollet Mall will be ready to welcome Super Bowl crowds to Minneapolis in February 2018.

“We’re pretty sure this area will be a big part of the Super Bowl experience,” Cramer said.

Art update

Eight city-owned public art pieces were removed from Nicollet Mall for reconstruction, and six will be restored and returned to the mall by the end of 2017, according to the city’s official timeline for the project.

Those six returning pieces will be joined by three new artworks, including a wind sculpture by Ned Kahn, who designed “The Wave,” a kinetic sculpture at Target Field that masks an adjacent parking garage; suspended lanterns etched with poems and prose by local writers, designed by Blessing Hancock; and what has only been described so far as a “key feature” of the mall by Tristan Al-Haddad of Atlanta-based art and design firm Formations Studio.

In addition, Regina Flanagan, a local landscape architect and photographer, was chosen to curate a public art program on the mall.

The returning artworks include “Sculpture Clock.” A relic of Lawrence Halprin and Associates’ design for the original 1968 version of Nicollet Mall, the artwork survived a 1990 reconstruction of the street but was no longer in working order when it was removed for repairs in December.

According to the city, the five-member restoration team working on the clock has applied for a Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant to conserve the piece and get its moving parts back in working order.

  • Buster

    I like the idea, but won’t the stenciling make the concrete more prone to cracking due to freezing and thawing ice?

  • jemihami

    Not as log as they properly seal it … like any reputable concrete company would do.