The future of Nicollet Mall — poetically placed on new sidewalk and gardens

Art and infrastructure are coming together in a new display on several blocks of recently reconstructed sidewalk on Nicollet Mall. Three blocks of new sidewalk at the north end of the Mall are now open to pedestrians, with more trees and new planting beds. The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID) replaced the sidewalk as an interim measure while the DID, the City, the community, and many partners plan for the reconstruction of the Mall in the coming years.

While the construction work was under way, the DID held a poetry contest, asking people to describe their vision for the future of the Mall in a short poem. Hundreds of people put their poetry to paper and entered, and 12 winners were chosen in four different age brackets. Each winner and runner-up will have their poem displayed on their own steel signs in the garden areas of the new sidewalks.

During this same time, the City of Minneapolis Art in Public Places program reinstalled a major work of public art that had been in storage over the last ten years. Enjoyment of Nature, by Kinji Akagawa was originally created when the Mall was renovated in 1990, but major portions of it had to be removed after being damaged by skateboarders. Akagawa is a nationally known sculptor who teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and received the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award in 2007.

A celebration is planned to unveil the new poetry signs and honor the winners and Kinji Akagawa:

The Future of Nicollet Mall Celebration
5 p.m. Sept. 13
Nicollet Mall between 3rd and 4th Streets South
(in case of rain, the event will be held at the Central Library)

People who stop by the event will be able to meet the contest winners and artist, read the poems as the signs are unveiled, and enjoy a glass of lemonade while using the benches that are part of Enjoyment of Nature. To see the winning poems and photos of the public artwork, visit the DID’s website .

The sidewalk reconstruction

For decades, Nicollet Mall has been the main street for Minnesota’s biggest economic engine, Downtown Minneapolis. In addition to being home to some of the state’s largest companies, the Mall also hosts dozens of civic and entertainment events throughout the year.

The Mall’s sidewalks have deteriorated with years of wear and tear, and they have become more difficult and costly to maintain over time. The current granite pavers were installed in 1990, and years of freeze and thaw cycles together with heavy pedestrian traffic and vibration from vehicle movement have caused the mortar bed below the pavers to crumble, which in turns has caused the pavers to heave.

City of Minneapolis and business community leaders will soon begin a public process to redesign and reconstruct Nicollet Mall. The Mall is a regional asset, and its reconstruction will be a public-private partnership that recognizes its importance to business and the community.

While community engagement around the future of the Mall begins, the DID this year replaced the sidewalk on three blocks of the Mall that were most in need of work-- on both sides of Nicollet Mall from Washington Avenue to 3rd Street, and the east side of the Mall from 3rd to 4th streets.

The new sidewalks are concrete and have more trees and greenery than the previous sidewalks. Eight new trees were planted, and portions of the sidewalk have been opened up to create gardens for new flowers and other plants. The granite pavers on these three block faces were salvaged and will be stored as the long-term plan for the Mall is developed.

By paying into the DID (and its predecessor district), downtown businesses have been paying for the maintenance and repair of the Nicollet Mall for nearly five decades. This repair continues that business community investment.

Published Sep 7, 2011