Paving for the Pedestrians

Minneapolis’ new community pathway hasn’t reached its final destination

Illustrator: Katie Heywood

Illustrator: Katie Heywood

After a summer of construction, the woonerf on W. 29th Street officially opened on Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. Its pavement was smooth, the parking lines of the quasi-public spaces painted, and the trees planted. However, a locked chain link fenced stopped the path before it crossed underneath the street bridge, the place where the apartments’ private properties ended and the Park Foundation’s half of the woonerf would begin.

A woonerf is an urban planning device that means “home zone” in Dutch. The goal of it is to create a public space that is centered on the pedestrian; cars and bicycles also share the space but with reduced speeds.

Originally, the woonerf was just going to be a public path between two developments, the affordable apartments Mill City Quarter and Ecumen’s senior high-rise, Abiitan. They had set aside the land as their contribution to public space due to Minneapolis Parks Board & Recreation requirements, but when the Parks Board heard about their project plans in 2014, they proposed extending the woonerf to reach the riverside.

The woonerf will lead the way to the $25 million public parks project Water Works, which is meant to highlight the mill industry ruins and the waterfront, Parks Fellow Bruce Chamberlain said.

Although the woonerf represents two very large projects that seek to make Minneapolis more diverse and accessible, Chamberlain dreams past its initial completion.

At the time of project development, Chamberlain was the assistant superintendent for planning for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

Although the woonerf represents two very large projects that seek to make Minneapolis more diverse and accessible, Chamberlain dreams past its initial completion.

“In 25 years when there will need to be some inevitable reconstruction of spaces like this, we will be in a different place societally around how much we use our cars,” Chamberlain said, “and hopefully more pedestrian amenities and activation will be able to be infused.”