A roadmap for Downtown East’s future

Updated: October 20, 2014 - 2:51 pm

Greater MSP, an economic development nonprofit that promotes the Twin Cities region, has developed a blueprint for the future of Downtown East designed to attract new businesses and cultural amenities to an area undergoing a major transformation.

The nonprofit’s strategic vision for Downtown East identifies 28 potential opportunity sites for new development around the blocks home to the future Vikings stadium, Wells Fargo office towers, new housing and the Commons park.

Michael Langley, CEO of Greater MSP, said the vision has been presented to the Minneapolis Downtown Council and is being used to court developers and companies to the area.

He called it a “food-for-thought” piece that includes conceptual ideas that could serve as a jumping off point for community leaders to help shape the future of Downtown East.

“No other area in the metro has this level of development potential,” he said at a recent East Downtown Council business forum. 

The strategic vision outlines a concept for future development with three distinct zones — a live, work play area in the Mill District, a corporate area near the Central Business District and an innovation area near Hennepin County Medical Center that would capitalize on the proximity of the University of Minnesota. It also calls for green corridors along Park and Portland along with urban plaza-style streets along 5th and Chicago avenues to make better connections to the riverfront.

Downtown East will also have a new connection to Cedar Riverside when the I-94 entrance ramp onto 5th Street is redesigned into a new pedestrian bridge called Samatar Crossing.

University of Minnesota architecture and design students have also created a vision for lidding I-35W to make way for new parks, businesses and housing between downtown and the University of Minnesota. To turn from a proposal into reality would require approval from the state Department of Transportation and lobbying from U of M and City of Minneapolis officials. Cost estimates range from $40 million to $60 million.

Lynn Regnier, executive director of Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc., said she’s excited about all of the possibilities for the area.

“Following years of disinterest and disinvestment it is a welcome change to now have so many champions focused on the untapped opportunities in East Downtown,” she said. “Greater MSP has many partnerships and resources in place that are a positive and welcome addition to the energy and dynamics that are unfolding. The challenge ahead is for everyone to work in concert, to stay connected and to be mindful of the distinctive neighborhoods that comprise this region — Elliot Park, Downtown East and the emerging Mill District.”

Dan Collison, executive director of the East Downtown Council, said Greater MSP’s strategic vision for the district, is a “strong marketing tool for what many have considered ‘the final frontier’ of downtown Minneapolis.”

“It may be a tool that we update as development unfolds such that we can catch future waves of investment as well as the current one,” he said.