Yudof initiates blasting series

by Nathan Whalen

Students in Coffman Union on Wednesday morning felt a rumble as University President Mark Yudof ignited the first of a monthlong series of explosions.
The explosions, signifying a new stage of construction for Riverbend Commons, took place behind the student union where the old East River Road Parking Ramp was located.
The blasts, used to excavate limestone deposits, will occur every weekday and continue twice a day for about a month, said Tony Armlin, a project representative who reports to the University.
Yudof yelled, “fire in the hole,” as he set off the blast in front of a crowd of about 50 people. Goldy Gopher was also in attendance, handing out earplugs to onlookers.
Explosives set along the north face of the exposed bedrock detonated something more like an avalanche than an explosion, but onlookers and people in surrounding buildings felt the rumble.
When the Riverbend Commons project is complete, the area will be part of a six-level underground parking garage with 1,700 parking spaces.
Riverbend Commons is being built in conjunction with the Coffman Union renovation to connect the Mall and the union to the river.
“This is the beginning of Cass Gilbert’s grand design for the East Bank of the campus,” Yudof said. Gilbert was an architect who helped design the original 1907 plan to incorporate the riverbank into the campus.
In this first phase of the Riverbend Commons project, an underground parking ramp, housing for 500 students and a sloped plaza will be constructed. Ramps will be incorporated to make the plaza accessible.
“It will be one of those places that you’ll see on postcards,” said Bryan Carlson, senior vice president at Ellerbe Becket, the firm that designed the Riverbend Commons.
The second phase, focusing on renovation of the Washington Avenue side of Coffman Union, will begin once the first phase is complete.
As part of the Riverbend Commons project, the Minneapolis Park Board is considering renovating River Flats Park, said Mary Merrill Anderson, Park Board superintendent.
Anderson said a citizen action committee has formed to examine the possibilities of renovating the park. She wants to ensure city residents have input about the use of the public park.
Another aspect of the project includes narrowing East River Road to slow traffic, making the area safer for pedestrians, Carlson said.
This phase of the Riverbend Commons project is expected to be completed in fall 2000.

Nathan Whalen covers construction and facilities and welcomes comments at nwhale[email protected]. He also can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3237.