Minneapolis Park Board OKs Woonerf for Ecumen Mill City Project

Ecumen is among a trio of developers working to bring senior housing to downtown Minneapolis in the Mill City district along the riverfront.  One of the acclaimed features of the development is a “woonerf” — a Dutch-inspired concept for a shared pedestrian, bike and car street that will run between two apartment buildings.

The woonerf will provide public access to the riverfront, acting as a gateway to the Minneapolis Park Department’s riverfront trail system and to a new waterfront park now in the planning stages. 

Last week, the Minneapolis Park Board approved the plans for the woonerf.  The story below, reprinted from Finance & Commerce, gives the details.


By: Cali Owings, Finance and Commerce February 23, 2015

A shared street that accommodates bikes, pedestrians and vehicles through the Mill City Quarter project in downtown Minneapolis was approved last week by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as a privately owned public space.

The board approved a parkland development and easement agreement for the shared street — known as a “woonerf” — through the mixed-use development on Third Avenue South that would pass under the First Street Bridge and lead to the Mississippi River, where the park board has trails.

Eagle Iron Partners, collaboration among Lupe Development, the Wall Cos. and nonprofit developer Ecumen, is planning two buildings with workforce housing, senior housing and retail on two parking lots formerly owned by the city.

Under the agreement, a $62,400 park dedication fee is waived in exchange for the private land dedicated for public use. A woonerf is a Dutch concept for a shared bike, pedestrian and car street on which vehicles move at slower speeds.

The developers received a $500,000 transit­oriented development grant for the project from the Metropolitan

Council and a $150,000 grant from Hennepin County. Several developers are incorporating woonerfs to direct traffic flow through larger mixed­use projects.

Developer Steve Minn, principal at Lupe Development, shared the concept with members of the Park Board at its meeting last week.

But members of the Park Board raised concerns about how public the street would actually be because the developer plans to install and control a gate that limits public access. Minn said the gate would be locked during non­park hours to keep homeless people and others from loitering near the development. He added that it was an important safety mechanism because some of the residents in Ecumen’s 149­unit senior housing development would be vulnerable adults.

The Park Board approved the agreement, while noting that the developers planned to further analyze whether the gate is needed once the development is complete.