Final plans, funding set for Nicollet Mall redesign to begin this summer

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Plans for the redesign of Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall are nearly complete, just in time for construction to begin this summer.

At the project's final public meeting Tuesday, the company behind the redesign – James Corner Field Operations – unveiled the final design plan for the $50 million project, which aims to make the city's main downtown thoroughfare more pedestrian friendly.

“This design will be the shining example of the new, modern main street,” James Corner, of James Corner Field Operations, said in a news release. “With structures designed to encourage public engagement, art installations that reflect the city and attract people to Nicollet and keep them there to visit restaurants and shops, cities across the country will want to emulate this mile stretch of downtown.”

Included in the plans are various updated design features along Nicollet Mall, including details on the types of trees and plants, lighting, and street paving materials and patterns that will be installed.

The plan also includes designs for some new features that will be incorporated along the street, such as a Theatre in the Round, and Art Walk/Light Walk and a Reading Room.

The detailed design plan also includes potential logos, branding and signage for the redesigned area, as well as a timeline for construction, which begins this summer with utility work. Construction on the street itself is expected to begin in 2016, with the grand opening schedule for the following year.

Earlier plans for the project included stairs from the skyways down to the mall, but that idea has been dropped, MPR News notes. Previous design presentations can be viewed here.

Funding finalized

“We went from a great idea two years ago to a fully formed team, we are at the end of public meetings and we have all of our money,” David Frank, director of economic policy and development for the city of Minneapolis, told the Star Tribune.

The $50 million project is being funded by both private and public money. The state Legislature committed $21.5 million, the City of Minneapolis is paying $3.5 million and downtown property owners will pay the remaining $25 million through a special assessment, the Nicollet Mall Project website notes.

There are 7,100 properties that are included in the special assessment zone that will have to pay a tax, either up front or through installments over the next 20 years, to fund the rest of the project.

And at Tuesday's meeting, property owners were still trying to make sense of the price tag, the Star Tribune reports, as owners questioned why properties located adjacent to Nicollet Mall were being charged less than those farther away.

The assessments range in price from $10 to nearly $1.3 million, reports note. MinnPost points out the Minnesota Twins will have to pay the third-highest assessment at roughly $1.08 million for Target Field, while the owners of the new Vikings stadium – located just outside the assessment zone – won't have to pay a dime.

Some property owners, including the Basilica of St. Mary, which will have to pay $50,000 for the assessment, have challenged the price tag, while most property owners say they were surprised, but won't be challenging it, the Star Tribune notes.

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