Clearing paths for growth
In an effort to revitalize Minneapolis’ Camden neighborhood, Hennepin County, Minn., has reconstructed roadways, replaced housing and expanded recreational opportunities in the area. The $7 million project was completed last summer and has boosted property values and expanded housing options in the neighborhood.
Parts of Camden are situated just outside Minneapolis’ renowned Grand Rounds parkway system. The system is a 50-mile long ribbon of parkways and trails that weave through the city along Minnehaha Creek, the Mississippi River, golf courses, lakes and parks. Some of the most expensive homes in the metropolitan area are located along the parkways that are characterized by narrow roads, ample sidewalks and generous green space. Camden, however, was just far enough away from the parkways to miss out on the stable property values created in part by the system.
Officials in Hennepin Community Works resolved that problem by connecting the neighborhood with the parkway system and redesigning its roadways to mimic the system’s characteristics. The county focused the project area on one mile of Humboldt Avenue, which runs north-south, and two intersecting east-west roads, 49th and 50th avenues. The project included the acquisition and demolition of more than 200 low-value properties, reconstruction of two miles of urban roadway and streetscape, improvements to regional trails and water-quality enhancements to nearby Shingle Creek. The county contracted with the Minneapolis office of San Francisco-based URS in 1997 to plan, design and build the project.
The firm changed Humboldt Avenue from a straight road to one with strategically placed curves that highlight views of Shingle Creek and open space, giving motorists and pedestrians the sense of traveling through a park. The width of the street was decreased from 40 feet to 28 feet, which opened up space for wide sidewalks set further away from the curb.
Some of the land that was cleared on both sides of Humboldt Avenue was kept as green space to improve views of the creek. Several market-rate, single-family homes, townhouses and apartments for seniors were built on parcels assembled from the cleared land.
Four blocks of 50th Avenue were reconstructed to create a spacious green corridor between two schools, and the 32-foot-wide road was minimized to a 14-foot-wide, one-way street with parking bays at select locations. Meandering sidewalks were used to give the street a garden-type feel, and a generous amount of landscaping was installed. Also, overhead utility crossings were removed.
49th Avenue also was narrowed, and houses on the north side of the road were removed and replaced with green space. A 10-foot-wide regional trail was built along the one-mile-long road that ends at a park on the Mississippi River.
Neighborhood storm runoff that previously had flowed directly into Shingle Creek was diverted to pretreatment grit chambers and stormwater ponds before being channeled into the creek. The ponds also increase floodplain storage, increase habitat diversity and create more open space. Riffle areas were constructed in the creek to increase aeration, generate a water-sound feature for park users and improve the appearance of the creek.
Completed in August 2003, the Humboldt Greenway project has succeeded in revitalizing Camden by enhancing public spaces, improving the water system and creating new housing choices. So far, private developers have built approximately 170 new single-family homes, townhouses and apartments to replace the homes that were cleared, and the county plans for more than 100 additional homes to be built in the neighborhood. Lots that the county purchased for as little as $40,000 have been replaced with homes that are selling for $150,000 to $350,000.