Reconnecting the Urban Landscape

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Reconnecting the Urban Landscape

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University Avenue, a historic stretch of road linking the Minnesota Capitol in Saint Paul with Northeast Minneapolis, is arguably the most historically important and diverse stretch of road in the state. For years, University Avenue has been home to a sprawling heavy manufacturing and industrial area, known as the Midway Industrial District. Naturally, heavy rail infrastructure was built to serve industrial properties, eventually forming a dense network of arteries and spurs. Moreover, for over 50 years, University Avenue was an auto-oriented corridor.This will soon change. By 2014, University Avenue will feature a light rail line, bringing with it an unprecedented change in the built environment. A predominantly retail and industrial avenue will be home to housing and ameneties such as parks and trails. According to the Central Corridor Development Strategy, Saint Paul's development framework for the light rail line, over 14,000 new housing units are projected for University Avenue as a result of light rail. As of 2008, the city and it citizens are planning for higher densities around light rail stations, new pedestrian amenities, mixed use buildings, etc. However, in so doing, it is vital that the existing and new residents of these 14,000 housing units will have access to a network of trails, recreation and natural areas. The Central Corridor light rail line is projected to cost $1 billion. With such a large public investment, it is important to fully capitalize on the benefi ts and amenities possible with light rail. As with any light rail project, the line must connect to a multi-modal network that will be used by passengers of all means of transportation. Successful light rail lines service not only passengers within walking distance, but those who arrive by bus connections, other rail lines or through a trail system. However, without the necessary infrastructure to encourage multi-modal transit, the ridership and development potential of the Central Corridor light rail line will be diminished. This feasibility study examines the potential for rails to trails conversion in the Midway industrial area. Important factors include the amount of right of way available, ownership, connectivity, land values and proximity to other modes of transit, among others. These and other factors are mapped and diagrammed. Moreover, using dimensions from the Beltline, a successful rail conversion project in the city of Atlanta, it is possible to graphically demonstrate the feasibility of a similar project within the Midway. Ultimately, these analyses are used to recommend potential development areas. The recommendations also offer an implementation plan for development that includes a timeline and list of development partners.

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Conducted on behalf of University UNITED. Supported by Neighborhood Partnerships for Community Research (NPCR), a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota.

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Maleitzke, Adam. (2009). Reconnecting the Urban Landscape. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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