City planners want to transform Eighth Avenue into a one-way, pedestrian- and bike-friendly street that entices visitors into Hopkins’ downtown.
At a work session Tuesday, City Engineer John Bradford unveiled a redesign that includes such enhancements as a bike lane, wide sidewalks and various decorative elements.
Officials aim for Eighth Avenue to become a “pedestrian-seductive” corridor that welcomes people into the city’s central business district—particularly Southwest Light Rail Transit riders passing by the stop planned just across Excelsior Boulevard.
“I think this is probably the signature move of the city over the next large timeframe,” Bradford said.
Yet there is nothing on Eighth Avenue’s intersection with Excelsior that hints at Mainstreet shopping and dining opportunities. Passers-by see only an industrial building and —a streetscape that offers no reason to venture into the downtown.
The project would use design elements to change with that. Decorative paving, landscaping and a safe haven on the median at the Excelsior Boulevard crossing would reduce what Bradford called the “sea of asphalt” feel. A gateway structure or arch would hint at something special beyond.
Meanwhile, Eighth Avenue would be remade into a “” that accommodates pedestrians, bikes and cars. There would be wide sidewalks, public art and separation between walkers, cyclists and drivers. Decorative paving, lights, plantings and columns could further enhance the street.
As the road operates now, it can’t accommodate all these changes. It’s too narrow for two bike lanes, two driving lanes, parking and wider sidewalks.
So planners suggested turning Eighth Avenue into a one-way street between Excelsior and Mainstreet. That would allow a two-lane bike path and a single driving lane separated by a median that makes it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.
That would have the added bonus of forcing drivers to exit Eighth Avenue via Mainstreet, exposing them to more Hopkins businesses.
At the same time, the Eighth Avenue bike lane—which would connect to the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail—would give Hopkins a good argument to ask the Three Rivers Park District to end the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail at Eighth Avenue. That would encourage more cyclists to pass through the downtown.
The full costs of such a makeover aren’t yet known. The expenses for certain elements would likely be minor. The Three Rivers Park District could pay for the bike lane, and the street portions wouldn’t be much more expensive than a normal street project.
“The actual road portion of it isn’t a budget buster,” Bradford said.
The city could then phase the other elements in step with the market.
Hopkins already has a $125,000 design grant to put toward the project, and it has $295,000 from the sale of the Park Nicollet site . It also recently received a $50,000 grant to host a community art summit in November to discuss how to integrate public art into the corridor.
There is no set timeline for the proposal, but it'll likely be a few years before any changes happen. Over the next couple months, staff and the City Council will discuss the project. After putting together a public input plan, the city will then seek input from businesses and residents.
“Change is hard, and we really need to have a spelled-out, sophisticated public input plan,” Bradford said.
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