An extraordinary opportunity exists along the Greenway that exists in no other American city that we’re aware of—the opportunity to redesign over 40 vehicular bridges that cross local surface streets over an approximate five-mile, east-west section of the city. This is an infrastructure program unprecedented to date. It is also a public art opportunity that should not be missed. We strongly recommend that artists be involved in the design of the replacement bridges over the Greenway. It is critical, both in terms of the integrity of the design process and cost-effectiveness, that public art be integrated into the process from the very initial stages. Public art should not be simply appended to traditional bridge design, and it need not result in increased construction costs. Artists can help add meaning to the literal “bridging of the community” and also create bridging bonds among the community, the city, and the Greenway.
These bridges would become special gateway/landmark features in the surrounding neighborhoods and within the Greenway. Artists should be part of the design teams for these design projects and work with project engineers, architects, and other design professionals in this process. Artists can be links to the communities that need to be engaged in the design processes. This concept was approved by the MCW Partnership, which recommended that the “City of Minneapolis put artists on the design teams for the two bridges (First Avenue and Chicago Avenue)” scheduled for replacement.
In response to MCWP’s recommendation, meetings were held to gauge the interest in corporate funding of the design fees and enhancement costs associated with artist involvement in these design projects. In these discussions, we referenced the Cummins Engine Foundation’s funding of design fees of world-renowned architects for fifty public/private buildings in Columbus, Indiana. Columbus is now known as “America’s Architectural Showcase” and the Foundation has changed the face of the community and put the town on the map. Target has already taken a leadership role in Minneapolis by assisting in funding the Third Avenue bridge design and construction this year.
Target’s Nate Garvis involved Tom Fisher, Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota, and Jan Abrams, Director of the Design Institute at UMN, in a meeting with Louis Smith (representing MCWP), the Freeman/Whitehurst Group, staff of the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Public Works Department of the City of Minneapolis, and staff from Hennepin County in a discussion about this possibility. Although funding is not yet determined, the Design Institute has agreed to hold a design workshop to initiate the bridge design process.
Freeman/Whitehurst Group recommends that artists be contracted in conjunction with the design and construction of the bridges at First Avenue and Chicago Avenue. This needs to occur in coordination with the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Minneapolis Department of Public Works to be most cost effective and have the most impact. We have met with the directors of the Public Works Department to alert them to the involvement of artists. We discussed maintenance issues and potential extra costs associated with these upcoming projects. The concept of establishing “special assessment districts” in areas within close proximity to the bridges, to assist in covering ongoing maintenance costs, was explored as well.
Note: Currently, there is a special rhythm of bridges as one moves through the Greenway due to the closeness of one bridge to the next. Care should be taken not to disturb this rhythm, as it would be difficult to recreate. Consideration ought to be given to designing the bridges in sets, rather than individually (whenever possible) to avoid disruption of this unique situation.