Story of new Girard Ave access to Midtown Greenway

(This guest post is authored by Thatcher Imboden from the Ackerberg Group. Thanks Thatcher for your work!)

For those of you who biked the Midtown Greenway recently, you may have noticed a new bridge at Girard Avenue, just east of Hennepin. It’s the result of a public-private partnership to improve access to and from Uptown along with being a catalyst for transit-oriented development.

The project was dreamed up over six years ago as an amenity of the MoZaic project when it was first proposed. MoZaic is the project on the south side of the Midtown Greenway between Fremont Avenue and Hennepin Avenue behind the Lagoon Cinema. At the time, the project consisted of a condo building on the west side and an office building on the east side with a public parking garage, plaza, and Greenway connection. Since then, it morphed several times to today’s west building that has parking, restaurant space, and office space along with a plaza and future development site (current surface parking lot).

This is where I fit into the picture. I work for The Ackerberg Group, the developer of MoZaic, as a project manager. I’m an Uptowner by origin and recreational biker turned bike commuter about four years ago. We decided in early 2010 that we would need to split the project into several phases in order to get it built. As such, building a public plaza, bridge, and ramp would be too much to put into the first phase.

During that time, a bike advocate I met during the Bryant Avenue Bike Boulevard planning process suggested that our project should seek grant assistance to help make it a reality rather than wait and hope to include it in a future phase. It was a great suggestion and we applied for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) grant from Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority to help pay for a portion of the costs.

We were awarded the grant and committed to building it regardless of whether the project went forward, as well as maintain both the bridge and ramp. The development moved forward in early 2011 and today we’re nearly complete.

The bridge over the Greenway and ramp down to it had never been fully planned. My role was to work with our Civil Engineer (RLK Inc.), the bridge manufacturer (Contech), our general contractor (Ryan Companies), City of Minneapolis Public Works, and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority on a plan that would meet everyone’s needs. We also met with the Midtown Greenway Coalition and the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association.

At the same time, Greco Development and their Flux project across the Midtown Greenway from MoZaic, also agreed to help fund the project and enhance the design by adding a more attractive and safer gateway on the north side of the Greenway. The trail previously had a fairly tight connection point and will now feature an enlarged landscaped area by removing some of Girard Avenue South. That allowed for a more sweeping entrance on what is otherwise a very constrained site.

The bridge itself arrived October 27th in the middle of the night. It was pre-fabricated off site and came in one piece. Starting around 8:30am, Bald Eagle Erectors used a crane provided by Vic’s Crane to lift the bridge from the south side of the Greenway up and over and drop it in place. They anchored it in place and before 11:00am, the Midtown Greenway reopened to traffic. On the 28th, they poured the concrete deck of the bridge.

Currently, the retaining wall is being worked on along the north edge of the Midtown Greenway. Work on the entire ramp and bridge should be complete in late November and hopefully open to the public in December.

This project will make accessing the east side of Uptown much easier. Previously, getting to anywhere east of Hennepin requires going out of the way for most bikers and using streets like Lake Street or Hennepin Avenue. Those are streets that many bikers don’t feel comfortable on. This access point will allow bikers to more easily get to Calhoun Square, the Lagoon Cinema, or hopefully the offices at the top of our building. We benefit by having a great amenity that we can share with our tenants. We are very excited to see it in use and can’t wait for our future phase of the project where we can create a better connection to Fremont Avenue.

If people have questions about the project, they can reach me at [email protected] .

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