While the Twins and Yankees were playing an afternoon game over at the Metrodome (the result of which is best left unrecorded here), I was making my way all around next year's ballpark and getting some rosy color on my scalp. Could there have been a more perfect day for outdoor baseball?
I parked in the A ramp and started there with some observation of the Seventh Street walkway.
A new staircase is beginning to emerge which will connect the walkway with the sidewalk below on the ballpark side of the street. It drops out somewhat unexpectedly from the west edge of the walkway and proceeds east -- crossing beneath the walkway above.
I'm sure there's a good engineering reason for this, but it is rather unusual in appearance.
Reverse stairway view
Inside the A ramp on the Skyway level, you can see where the walkway connects to the parking.
Walkway entrance from ramp
I snuck just a bit beyond that to get a quick look at the walkway up close.
Walkway sneak peek
Now, lest you think the walkway is the only way to cross Seventh Street, you can rest assured that the original crosswalk and stop lights will be reinstalled where Third Avenue branches off from Seventh Street.
This crosswalk won't be quite as elaborate as the one on the opposite corner (which has to accommodate the LRT station), but it will be beefed up. Cars which currently zip through here at about 45 MPH will have to stop.
It's an open question just how many folks will cross at street level and how many will take the walkway and then the steps. But this will be a very pedestrian-friendly amenity.
Along this stretch, Seventh Street will actually lose a lane, coming down from three lanes to two to accommodate the short-term parking bays. This will help in traffic calming to be sure.
But look at this view of Seventh/Tenth Streets from the east:
A mini-freeway! (Police action in progress...)
That cop had to cross six speeding lanes of traffic to get to the bum sleeping next to the HERC plant.
On game days, people who park to the west will face a few unappetizing choices of where to safely cross this freeway.
My understanding is that there are discussions ongoing about another stoplight and pedestrian crossing in this area. Traffic calming will be aided on game days by charter bus parking, which will be against the HERC property (right about where that cop car is parked), in what is now a lane of traffic.
Short Rant (Don't Be Afraid)
There is a bigger question of what the city should be doing here to return even more pedestrian-friendliness. When this streetscape was originally designed, no one had any idea that thousands of people might ever try to cross traffic here. It was designed to facilitate rapid movement of traffic in and out of downtown.
An alternate route into downtown. (Click to get an interactive map.)
Now it looks like there might be some long-term sense in de-freeway-izing this even more. One way would be to get rid of the inbound lanes to Tenth Street (and the corresponding bridge, seen in the above image on the right and on the diagram in blue), routing this traffic onto Royalston, a beautiful, underused boulevard (an aid to calming) lined with largely municipal buildings (unaffected by increased traffic), which connects to Glenwood. This would have the dual purpose of opening up development options over the Target Field parking area which now is bisected by that bridge.
There is also an opportunity there to remove a couple of those municipal buildings and restore Fourth Avenue North, allowing another opportunity for a residential neighborhood (yes, I know, Mary's Place would have to be tamed somehow for that to work).
There is a distinct difference between walking the park on this side (Seventh Street) and the opposite side (Fifth Street). Over there, to facilitate LRT, the street was reduced to -- dig this -- two lanes: one in each direction! What a novel and pedestrian-friendly idea! Walking that side of the park is a much different, and much saner, activity.
With the removal of the three lanes feeding Tenth, and the outbound lane of Seventh closest to the ballpark (already in progress), the same thing could happen on Seventh. Sanity could be restored.
Looking back at the era of one-way freeways into and out of downtown, it's easy to see the thinking: Make it easy for workers to come and go and businesses will be less tempted to relocate to the suburbs somewhere.
Unfortunately, that had the unintended consequence of ghost-towning the downtowns after dark, lengthening commutes, and siphoning off all of the street life, ceding it to cars.
So, hoping that we can agree now that we live in the post-one-way-freeway-downtown era (Minneapolis seems to be coming around to this), it's more important to make life comfortable for the growing number of people who live close by, discouraging longer commutes, and encouraging the return of street life.
Put more plainly, six-lanes of traffic will never be pedestrian-friendly, no matter how beefed-up the crosswalks.
With the Yankees in town, it was a little eerie to discover today that the Bronx Hotel used to stand just about where Twins Town (the new pro shop) is now. Here's another view of the portion of the same building known as the St. Francis Hotel.
Here are a couple more images from today:
A walkway begins to form (this is as close as you can get right now)
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Walkway sneak peek
The rough outlines of our urban trench. (North is up.)
This is a great spot for casually watching the game.
Playing surface dirt out there? Maybe. (click to enlarge)
This is what will count as a knothole (actually, it's a gated entrance)
Just think: It could look like this!
The Hennepin Grille appears to feature chicken, brats, and fries.
That group was working on something very carefully, but I couldn't tell just what it was.
Another B ramp glimpse (don't loiter here!)
Here you can see the real beauty of the Seventh Street side, and get a solid sense of why the overall design really works. The building's purpose is clearly visible, there are numerous connections from inside to outside, scale is nicely mitigated, the stone is attractively used, materials are pleasantly mixed and truly complementary. It's just a winner in so many ways.
Those little oval additions are positively laughable!
I was surprised at how close those upper deck seats seem. From the plaza, you feel like you can reach out and touch them. It really adds to the impression of overall compactness.
A view straight on of the Pro Shop area and ticket windows (just barely visible). The piers you see beneath the plaza are already almost completed (see final photo).
The glass area seen here is one of the warm-up areas.
This is the Metropolitan Club as viewed from the future Ballpark Authority office space.
Ticket window at Gate 29/Carew
The limestone now wraps around onto the HERC side.
Louver samples on display.
A Killebrew tribute covers part of the wall where the entry doors are located near the escalators.
7:42 PM It moves to the left in the image and begins to blossom.
Lots of pix waiting to be seen from Bert's memorable night.