Stay in the Loop

Rethinking The Viaduct: Urban Planning Students Have New Visions

Fifteen U of M students have spent this semester dreaming up creative visions for what could happen with the North Loop viaduct that towers over a series of parking lots along 4th Street and helps drivers get between I-94 and downtown Minneapolis.

Their visions–everything from tearing it down and building parks, to leaving it up and building elevated housing on top of it–are set to be unveiled to residents and public officials on Thursday, May 9th, 6:30-8:30pm on the roof deck of the Steelman Exchange building, 241 N 5th Ave. The public is invited.

Their instructor, Fernando Burga, assistant professor of Urban Planning in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has strong opinions about the viaduct’s current status.

“I think it is an opportunity,” he said. “I live across from it and I look at the viaduct every single morning when I wake up. I understand how it was created at a time when the urban core was envisioned to really cater to cars. But we live in a different time now.”

His students, in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program, have spent three months doing site inventories and studying the present character of the North Loop as a walkable, dense urban environment.

At this point, this is only an academic exercise with no commitments from government officials to implement any changes, but they hope residents will show up to see the students’ ideas and provide input of their own.

“We want to promote idea generation,” Burga said. “They can voice their opinions, they can write on Post-It notes, they can develop their own designs if they want, they can play with clay to come up with their own ideas.”

Three years ago, Mpls St Paul Magazine featured this column with similar sentiments about the need to reimagine the viaduct.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop volunteer


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