City Council to vote on major updates to Riverside Avenue

It will be the third construction project in the Cedar-Riverside area in a year.

by Nick Sudheimer

Plans to renovate a half-mile stretch of Riverside Avenue are moving forward in the Minneapolis City Council.

The project will widen sidewalks, add bike lanes, install street lights and repair a half-mile stretch of Riverside âÄî the first major repairs to the road since it was constructed in 1957. The Transportation and Public Works Committee approved plans for the second phase of the $6 million project Tuesday, which will be partially funded with state aid.

Casper Hill, a spokesman for the city, said work should begin in April and be complete by next fall semester.

Michael Schmitz, executive director of the West Bank Community Coalition, said Riverside Avenue businesses and residents are hoping that the makeover will help change negative perceptions of the neighborhood.

âÄúIn the short term, businesses will struggle a little bit, but in the long run, people believe this will be a positive for the neighborhood,âÄù Schmitz said.

Schmitz added that the current state of the street, as well as poor lighting and sidewalks in disrepair have likely influenced peopleâÄôs perception of the area.

Erik Hansen, the principal project coordinator for the city, said with ongoing Central Corridor light-rail construction, this summer may be an especially difficult time for businesses on Riverside.

âÄúThe city has been working closely with businesses to try and make this as easy as possible,âÄù Hansen said.

The city will offer financial assistance to eligible businesses and promote them through the city website and also with signs along detours, Hansen said.

Hansen added that some businesses will be eligible for forgivable loans through the Metropolitan Council because of light-rail construction.

Still, Riverside businesses and residents remain supportive of the reconstruction.

City Councilman Cam Gordon, whose ward includes the Cedar-Riverside area, said the community was very involved with the project and successfully petitioned the city to install a median with the project.

âÄúThe median will include plants, prairie grasses and flowers which will really improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood and make it more appealing,âÄù Gordon said.

The first phase of the project, which involved the half-mile stretch of Riverside from Franklin Avenue to 23rd Avenue, was largely completed last summer.

Todd Smith, chair of the West Bank Business Association, echoed Gordon, saying that the bike lanes, expanded sidewalks and street lights will make the neighborhood more welcoming and appealing to visitors once the project is completed.

âÄúWeâÄôre happy,âÄù he said. âÄúI mean the construction is no fun, but the streetscape will be significantly enhanced.âÄù

The full city council will vote on the project Friday.