Cedar Avenue to get a facelift this summer

A $1.75 million project will improve the pedestrian environment along a stretch of the street.

Two girls walk on the sidewalk outside of Midwest Mountaineering on Cedar Avenue on Saturday.  The sidewalks and Cedar Avenue between 3rd and 7th Street are going to be renovated this summer.

Holly Peterson

Two girls walk on the sidewalk outside of Midwest Mountaineering on Cedar Avenue on Saturday. The sidewalks and Cedar Avenue between 3rd and 7th Street are going to be renovated this summer.

Ethan Nelson

Concrete slabs lay broken and weeds pop through the cracks of the West Bank’s Cedar Avenue. But $1.75 million worth of changes are coming to the street this summer.

The project will revamp the pedestrian environment along a stretch of the street, with improvements such as better lighting and increased sidewalk accessibility.

“The original idea was to improve just the pedestrian area,” said Chris Engelmann, project engineer for the city of Minneapolis, “[but] we wanted to do more than just fixing cracks and splinters in the sidewalks on Cedar.”

The city will hold a public hearing for the renovations June 17, which will be two months after the City Council approved the project.

The construction, which will start later this summer and wrap up in October, includes lighting improvements, wider
sidewalks and new boulevard trees along Cedar Avenue between Third and Seventh streets south. The four-lane road will also be converted to three lanes with a central turn lane.

“This is a high-traffic area for all modes of transportation,” said senior city planner Joe Bernard, adding that activity will only increase with the opening of the light rail Green Line next month.

While the renovations are aimed at making the area more inviting, Bernard said safety is a higher priority.

Jamie Schumacher, executive director of the West Bank Business Association, said the sidewalks are currently not up to code.

“They’re not wheelchair accessible,” she said, “and some businesses have received calls from people saying they can’t use the sidewalks.”

Businesses offer mixed reactions

Construction projects like this are usually accompanied by controversy, Bernard said, because they can cause disturbances like road closings and noise.

“There’s a lot of people who are excited about this one, though,” he said.

A similar project two years ago resurfaced near Riverside Avenue, including its intersection with Cedar Avenue.

“Acadia Cafe was able to have a sidewalk café, which makes it much more friendly,” Schumacher said.

Other organizations and businesses on Cedar Avenue are taking advantage of the construction to do some of their own.

The area currently doesn’t have much space for visitors, said Adrienne Dorn, director of development for the Cedar Cultural Center.

“There’s a lot of people,” she said, “but no space for them.”

She said the center plans to build a multiuse plaza and open an outdoor coffee cart that will serve as a public gathering spot.

The cultural center’s renovations — which include removing existing fences, adding lighting and doing general cleanup — will begin at the same time as the Cedar Avenue construction in order to minimize impact on the neighborhood.

But other businesses aren’t as happy about the upcoming construction.

Rod Johnson, owner of Midwest Mountaineering, said it will be a “disaster” for his business.

“There’s a lot of growth now. There’s new apartments coming up and new parking lots being built,” he said. “We would see more traffic, but making the street into a three-lane won’t bring more traffic.”

Johnson said he and other Cedar Avenue property owners have sent a letter to the City Council and will “be in full force” at next month’s public hearing.

Usually business owners foot the bill for sidewalk reconstructions, Schumacher said. This time, a Hennepin County grant covered some of the costs, but the $200,000 not covered by the county will be distributed equally among property owners, Johnson said.

Still, Schumacher said, the project is overdue.

“Cedar [Avenue] isn’t just for trucks passing through,” she said. “It’s for pedestrians and the thousands of students who use it every day.”