Proposed stairwell could connect heart of Dinkytown to greenway

Plans for the recently resurfaced after initially being proposed in 2014.

A runner passes the possible site of a new stairway connecting the Dinkytown Greenway to the intersection of Fourth Street Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Emily Urfer

A runner passes the possible site of a new stairway connecting the Dinkytown Greenway to the intersection of Fourth Street Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Emma Dill

Plans to make a bike trail running through Dinkytown more accessible could be moving forward.

The City of Minneapolis first proposed a stairwell connecting Fourth Street Southeast to the Dinkytown Greenway below in 2014, but it was never constructed. Plans for the stairwell have recently resurfaced, prompting students, University of Minnesota officials and others to consider the impacts of the stairwell for pedestrians and cyclists in Dinkytown.

“One thing I wanted to see if I could help make happen is to provide better access for students to get to the Dinkytown Greenway,” said Minneapolis Park and Recreation District 1 Commissioner Chris Meyer. “Because right now, you can’t get to the Dinkytown Greenway from Dinkytown.”

Funding for the project could come from park dedication fees, which developers pay based on the number of living units and commercial spaces they build. Neighborhoods can use park dedication fees for a variety of green space projects. This helps ensure that people living in higher density areas, like Dinkytown, have access to green space, Meyer said.

Meyer said the stairwell would benefit students living in or near recent developments in Dinkytown. 

“I wanted to try to do something close to where the new construction is and the Greenway is the closest green space to the construction,” he said.

The University received plans last week for a potential stairwell, which would be constructed on school property. 

Monique MacKenzie, the University’s director of Campus and Capital Planning, said that while the University recognizes the need for increased access to the path, more discussions with stakeholders are still needed.

“We are not opposed to making the connection,” MacKenzie said. “We just need to see more detail to understand how it’s going to work and make sure we’re not causing impact.”

The University is concerned about the design of the stairwell, which could put pedestrians into the path of bikes and may cause potential safety issues, MacKenzie said.

In addition, the University operates an electrical facility nearby, which could be affected by the construction of the stairwell, MacKenzie said. 

Meyer addressed the proposed stairway project at a Minnesota Student Association meeting last month. MSA sent out a campus-wide email last week to gauge support for the measure, said MSA communications team member Katy Briggs in an email.

“We decided to include this initiative in the all-school email to test support for it, and we did receive a few messages in favor of advocating for a stairwell,” the email read.

Meyer said that recent staffing changes in University administration, including the addition of President Joan Gabel, may give the new proposal momentum.

“We may be more successful this time around since there are those new people looking at the issue,” Meyer said.