Former U professor looks to connect Cedar Riverside and Seven Corners

Mic Johnson wants to develop land between I-35W and the 19th Avenue Bridge in hopes to better connect the neighborhoods.

Frank

A new method of transit often means change for a neighborhood and with light-rail transit coming in the future, the West Bank area of Minneapolis is no different. A former University of Minnesota architecture professor was one of the first to draw up plans to develop areas around the new light-rail line that will run down Washington Avenue in order to revitalize the West Bank community. The plans donâÄôt specify the nature or use of any potential buildings, and planners said this specific project is completely hypothetical. Former adjunct professor Mic Johnson , who works at the Ellerbe Becket architecture firm, envisions a cohesive West Bank neighborhood linking the Seven Corners area with Cedar-Riverside without Washington Avenue dividing them. âÄú[The plan would] bring a much more cohesive neighborhood profile through that area that was more representative of what was there before the freeway was put in,âÄù Johnson said. Washington Avenue is in a trench that borders University of Minnesota property between the 19th Avenue Bridge and Interstate 35W. Along with graduate students from the UniversityâÄôs College of Desig n, Johnson has worked on the plan since the light-rail line was in its initial planning stage four years ago. He said now is the perfect time to implement it because of the upcoming construction on Washington Avenue. âÄúI think thereâÄôs a lot of political will on the part of everyone to make something happen that would be positive.âÄù Johnson said. âÄúI think something will happen and I think thereâÄôs a lot of interest and everyone doing the right thing makes this a great development area for the neighborhoods involved.âÄù Srdj Jovicic , a University graduate student from JohnsonâÄôs class who works with him at his architecture firm, assessed the situation similarly. âÄúItâÄôs perfect timing,âÄù Jovicic said. âÄú[The trench] can be a place where you can explore what you can do with leftover areas, but at the same time improve diversity and friendly urban space,âÄù Jovicic said. New developments would not adversely affect lower income residents, Jovicic said. “It will diversify the neighborhood rather than edge out residents,” he said. “It’s kind of an interesting cultural dynamic all in one place âÄî we have a very interesting mix of culture, from students to immigrants from Somalia.âÄù Jovicic also said that by linking the two neighborhoods, there will be more affordable housing for students. But community leaders said now is not a good time to begin large developments in the area. âÄúWhatever the actual building uses are and the development plans are, itâÄôs not a great time to be building any market condos or properties,âÄù Rob Simonds , executive director of the Cedar Cultural Center , said. âÄúWe seem to be in an excess of that in the downtown area.âÄù However, Simonds said that development seems inevitable because of the areaâÄôs prime location. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot of thinking that needs to go into it, a lot of interested stakeholders need to be involved in the process,âÄù Johnson said. âÄúThat kind of community involvement is going to make it great.âÄù