Posted by: gravessack | August 17, 2015

Accessible Minneapolis: Revamping Downtown East

If you traveled through Downtown Minneapolis lately, you would have noticed that construction workers have been busy bees, particularly on the East Side. Starting in the last quarter of 2013, the area around the now-defunct Metrodome has been getting a major makeover. Yes, there is the construction of the new Multi-Purpose Stadium (future home of our Vikings), but so much more is taking over the area. Crews have been constructing several things over on that side of town; including 2 Wells Fargo buildings, a parking garage with a skyway into U.S. Bank Stadium, and a 4.2 acre park. Additionally, Minneapolis, with help from the Vikings, will be constructing a pedestrian bridge over the Light Rail tracks to enhance safety. However, these new additions won’t do much for disabled people if accessibility is unaccounted for.

Let’s start by talking about the two Wells Fargo buildings that are going up. There is going to be one elevator in each building, as it was made obvious looking at the structures before the walls were put up. Since these are new buildings, these should be ADA-friendly, meaning wide entry ways and halls, accessible rooms, and automatic door openers. In addition, a couple restrooms in the multi-storied complexes should be accessible to people using walkers and wheelchairs.

Now, going in across the street from U.S. Bank Stadium is a multi-layered parking ramp. This parking ramp will be for fans who are attending events at the stadium and maybe some Wells Fargo employees. The ramp should provide a few handicap vehicle spaces on each floor in the vicinity of the elevator. Each spot should be wide enough to let out a wheelchair from a van. In addition, there should be some extra accessible van spaces on the floor that the connected skyway into the stadium is on because it could be hard to cross streets during the wintertime, and that would diminish the stress for some people. Moreover, there should be automatic doors to get into the skyway, which also should connect to the Wells Fargo buildings.

The main piece of the rejuvenated Downtown East will be a two-block park that will be the front door of U.S. Bank Stadium. The yet-to-be-named park will feature art, a stage, a water feature, green space, courts, and a pavilion. The park will be used for a variety of events and will be open to the public on days when it is not reserved or is not being used by the Vikings. This large space will be fantastic for that area, but it has to be ADA-compliant. There should be several smooth paths around and in the park, with operable features low enough for wheelchair users to use. Where paths turn into grassy areas, there has to be no dip so that people on wheels can go on grass if they choose. As for the courts, they should be available for all sports in the summertime, including Power Hockey, Power Soccer, and Wheelchair Rugby. These sports are growing in popularity, and they can’t be overlooked in the newest park in Minneapolis.

In order to connect the park to the stadium’s plaza, a pedestrian bridge will be built over the Light Rail tracks for people to cross. This bridge is going in due to safety concerns and anticipated high pedestrian traffic. There will be stairs to get on and off the bridge, but I’ve been told that on each side there will be elevators. Although, I’m still hoping for ramps on each side of the bridge! In either case, this walkway will be a great safety feature in Downtown East.

Lastly, in my opinion, crews must repave sidewalks around the area to provide more accessibility. Currently, some sidewalks and curb cuts are bumpy! Fixing paths will just enhance the Downtown experience even more! Overall, I’m excited to see how the new Downtown East will look, but accessibility must be a key factor in revamping the area.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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