When Julie Ingebretsen drives down Lake Street, the challenges and opportunities for her Scandinavian food and gift business are apparent every time.
“The traffic keeps getting heavier, that’s good and bad for us: it means Lake Street’s alive, but access is getting to be more of a problem. Plus, some sections of the street are starting to look pretty rough-it will really be great having a street that adds real value to our businesses again.”
Making the most of the new opportunities along Lake Street is a major challenge, but Hennepin County’s ambitious new reconstruction and streetscaping project aims to do just that. When complete, the new Lake Street will have uniform streetscaping from Lyndale Avenue all the way to the West River Parkway. In addition, the County will be adding turn lanes at key intersections, upgrading traffic signals, and reducing some mid-block access points. This is all on top of a complete reconstruction of the street itself, including the whole sub-street structure. Funding will come from federal, state, county and municipal sources, and construction is set to begin in 2004.
“This project has great possibility, but we must do our best to minimize any negative impacts on the surrounding community,” said County Commissioner Gail Dorfman. “The County Board is committed to supporting a process that includes all interested voices, so that we can make Lake Street a destination that well serves neighborhood residents and businesses.” The effects on local businesses and residents will be substantial during construction, and that is why Hennepin County is putting together a broad-based project advisory process that will engage stakeholders in envisioning and implementing the project.
The project advisory process is important for minimizing the disruption for the surrounding neighborhoods, but also for making the final product a valuable asset to everyone involved. As Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin notes, “Lake Street is the community development focus for fourteen Minneapolis neighborhoods, and much of our new population growth will be focused here. We have to make sure we get this done right, for local residents, for established businesses, and for the exciting new businesses growing out of the immigrant communities.”
With so many diverse interests involved, the project advisory process will work closely with neighborhood and business organizations. Many neighborhoods and business groups may want expanded improvements at specific commercial intersections, and the City of Minneapolis will take the lead in finding additional funding to support them. “If all goes as planned,” offered McLaughlin, “the Lake Street reconstruction project will be part of the rebirth of a 21st century Lake Street. It will draw even more people to South Minneapolis, and do a better job of connecting neighbors, businesses, and communities along their corridor.”