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by Sam Kessel, Bolton & Menk, Inc.
The concept of the "Artery," in Hopkins, Minnesota, as a potential gateway connection between Excelsior Boulevard and the Historic Downtown Mainstreet began with the Hopkins Planning and Economic Development Department in 2008. The need for action reached a tipping point in 2014 when the Southwest Light Rail Transit System (SWLRT) unveiled plans for an extension of the Twin Cities commuter network that would establish a station in Hopkins at 8th Ave. South and Excelsior Boulevard. News of the 'Green Line' served as a 'call for action' for the city to ensure that a safe north-south connection was available for pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, and motorists traveling to and from the proposed light rail station and Downtown Hopkins.
Community Driven Design
Bolton & Menk, a landscape architecture and engineering firm based in Mankato, Minnesota, was hired to "conceptualize, design, and develop a corridor to improve connections for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists that would bring neighbors together and strengthen the bonds of the diverse community." The project's multi-faceted development process brought out a truly collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort: from economic development and planning professionals, engineers, landscape architects, bicycle advocates, public artists, contractors, and many other specialists. The firm believes few other projects challenge us to think differently about our problems and consider a diverse range of perspectives while creating something unique and successful on multiple fronts.
Building project support was a challenge as it required business and property owners along 8th Ave. South to adjust their travel routes. Extensive community engagement and attentiveness to project design were employed to gain public consensus. Many techniques were integrated to garner communal appreciation, but the city-led tactical urbanism activity, "The Artery Experiment," cemented community support for this unique project. This public event introduced residents and visitors to a hands-on introduction of the city's vision with a temporary installation mimicking the proposed Artery design. Guests experienced the separated two-way cycle track, modified traffic patterns, and creative gathering spaces filled with public art activities. More importantly, the city was able to demonstrate their vision of making the Artery a prime destination along the proposed SWLRT Green Line.
As seen in LASN magazine, August 2020.
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