Midtown Community Works

Over the past 20 years, Midtown Community Works has brought together a range of partners to develop and support the Midtown Greenway, and to plan for and leverage economic growth in the area, including the Lake Street corridor. A long-term management plan, currently in development, includes identifying unfinished work in the corridor, making recommendations for program assets, and reviewing commitments from program partners.
Midtown Community Works is the longest-running program of the Community Works initiative, a collaborative approach to redevelopment in key county corridors that the county launched in 1994. The program’s chief goals are to enhance how communities in the corridor work together to create good jobs, provide access to employment, and build long-term value by investing in greenspace and the natural environment as well as infrastructure and other public works.

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News and updates

October 17 planting at Cepro greenspace

Join your neighbors in advancing the next phase of landscape restoration at the Cepro greenspace between 10th and 11th avenues on the Midtown Greenway. We will be planting more than 300 small shrubs and perennials this fall. The low-growing plants will attract pollinators, maintain good visibility and discourage foot traffic on a slope that has been leading to soil erosion.


Cepro Greenspace Fall Planting

Monday, October 17, 3:30 to 6 p.m.

2828 11th Avenue South 


Please RSVP to midtowncw@hennepin.us, so we know how many volunteers we have (we're seeking 15 to 20), and remember to bring your garden gloves and wear sturdy shoes or boots. The planting is supported by funds from the Midtown Phillips neighborhood through the City of Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

Seeking funding for the Midtown Greenway connections plan

The Midtown Community Works Partnership recently passed a resolution to develop a shared funding strategy for the Making the Connection: Midtown Greenway to Lake Street plan. The partnership, which includes members of the county board and city council, as well as private and non-profit partners, agreed to work together to identify funding opportunities to implement elements of the plan, and to bring their recommendations back to the next partnership meeting later this year.

Program updates

September 2016 program update

May 2016 program update

March 2016 program update

Subscribe to receive email updates about the Midtown Community Works program.

Midtown Greenway

Midtown Greenway inducted into national Rail-to-Trail Hall of Fame

In September 2015, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy announced that the Midtown Greenway had joined a select group of trails on the national Rail-to-Trail Hall of Fame. Trails are honored on merits such as scenic value, high use, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, community connections and geographic distribution. Read more about the award and the greenway in the October 16 TrailBlog.

Background and history

The greenway runs for 5.7 miles in a historic railroad trench beneath bridged streets in south Minneapolis, which makes biking or walking along it a distinctive experience. The Sensible Land Use Coalition named the Midtown Greenway a Great Place in 2014, and USA Today called it a Top Urban Bike Path in 2013. It is also key part of the regional transportation and bikeway network, linking Uptown, the Midtown Global Market and an array of other retail and cultural destinations between the Mississippi River and the Chain of Lakes. Annually, more than 1.5 million people take advantage of this flat, easy, mostly car-free east-west route across the city.

The Midtown Corridor was constructed in the 1910s as a freight rail corridor. With the decline of rail service, however, by the mid-1990s the corridor had become a neglected place that was attracting crime and contributing to lower land values, disinvestment, and blight in nearby neighborhoods. In 1995, Hennepin County identified the Midtown corridor as a priority area for its new community works initiative. After an extensive planning effort, the greenway was constructed in three phases between 1999 and 2006. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, and in 2007, the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge opened, linking the greenway over Hiawatha Avenue.

Visit the Midtown Greenway Coalition website for more information.

Program activities for 2016

Planning for better connections

Midtown Community Works is collaborating with partners to create more and better connections among the Midtown Greenway, nearby neighborhoods and Lake Street commercial areas, to make accessing and using these places easy, convenient and appealing, supporting the businesses and organizations in the area. 

In August 2015, we tested temporary design experiments (PDF) along area streets, the greenway and in other public areas. These “test drive” experiments helped us hear from greenway users and nearby residents about preferred strategies for building connections and reducing barriers to destinations along Lake Street.

In 2016, we published a long-term implementation plan, Making the Connection: Midtown Greenway to Lake Street (PDF 4MB), which includes design recommendations, priority locations, cost estimates, potential funding sources, partnership opportunities and maintenance strategies. Participation from all of the Community Works partners—including neighborhood and community
organizations along the Greenway—is essential as we seek to implement the improvements outlined in this plan. Together we will follow up on existing opportunities and identify new ones, build new partnerships, and seek funding from organizations that may support many solutions in the plan. 

Activating a neighborhood greenspace

This 1.65 acres greenspace is located between 10th and 11th avenues on the north side of the Midtown Greenway in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis. Sometimes called the Cepro site, after the grain elevators that stood there until 2004, the greenspace is just a stone’s throw from the Midtown Global Market and features the only fully American with Disabilities Act-compliant access for bicyclists, pedestrians and wheel chair users to the Midtown Greenway. 

The county-owned site was poised to become a community asset beginning in 2005 when the nearby neighborhood led a visioning process that identified conservation, universal design and public art as priorities. Landscaping work and furnishing upgrades followed in 2011, but a planted perennial garden did not take and the space has not attracted the routine use that keeps public spaces vibrant and safe. But if the Cepro greenspace has yet to realize its full potential — even its name is unofficial — it has a solid foundation suitable for an array of activities, uses, and other opportunities.

Midtown Community Works is working with the Midtown Phillips community and other partners on a sustainable future for the greenspace, including a landscape restoration plan. Phase one was implemented in the fall of 2015 with phase two to come in the spring of 2016. The site is also identified as a priority location in the Midtown Connections plan for implementing small scale infrastructure improvements that will support placemaking on the site. If you are interested in the permitting the site for a community event, contact lisa.middag@hennepin.us.

Program outcomes

Outcomes from the Midtown community works program were featured in a 2014 report, Hennepin County Community Works: 20 years of transforming places for people, but here are some highlights:

Enhance the tax base

  • $1 billion increase in aggregate property value and $30 million increase in annual collectible property tax within ¼-mile of greenway 2002 to 2016
  • 1.5 million square feet of new commercial space in the Midtown corridor since 2000
  • 4,390 new multifamily housing units in the Midtown corridor since 2003
  • Building permit values are substantially higher in the Midtown corridor
  • More than $750 million in public and private investment within ¼-mile through mid-2014

Strengthen and connect places and people

  • The greenway is the backbone of the Twin Cities bicycle transportation network
  • Faster bike transportation with fewer stops decreases travel times by as much as 24%
  • Safety from vehicle traffic is top reason people choose the greenway

Stimulate economic development and job growth

  • 10,000 new jobs in the corridor since 2002
  • 60,000 more jobs are reachable by bicycle commute (43% of trail users are commuting)
  • Hundreds of at-risk youth have participated in summer jobs programs on the greenway
  • The greenway has contributed to our regional competitiveness—being a bike friendly community helps attract and keep millennials

Innovate and advance sustainability

  • Greenway use has grown 200% since 2003—more than 1 million trips each year
  • Growth in cycling across Minneapolis is led by people living nearby (highest increases)
  • 43% of greenway users are commuting (reducing vehicle miles traveled in the area)
  • Nearly 5,000 new trees and shrubs have grown the urban tree canopy

Lead collaborative planning and implementation

  • Cross-jurisdictional efforts have been led by the Midtown Community Works Partnership and guided by the Midtown Greenway Framework Plan
  • The greenway has contributed to the area’s national recognition, including its induction into the National Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame and its designation by USA Today as the best urban bike trail in the country; the greenway was also key to the county's designation as a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community
  • The greenway has helped emphasize the importance of integrating public health into planning discussions—the greenway encourages people to get exercise as part of their daily routine. A 2013 Midtown Greenway Coalition survey showed 60% of respondents use the greenway for exercise and a 2008 survey showed 82% of respondents get more physical activity because of the trail system

Previous evaluation efforts

A snapshot of employment, property tax, crime, and use statistics in the Midtown corridor area is presented in the 2011 Midtown Greenway project report card. The report card shows how corridor area conditions have changed as the Midtown Greenway developed.

Program partners

Program partners

Hennepin County is leading this work, but the ultimate decisions on investments will be made by the program partners:

  • City of Minneapolis
  • Midtown Greenway Coalition
  • Lake Street Council
  • Midtown Community Works Partnership
  • Neighborhood and community organizations in the Midtown area
  • People who live, work, play, visit and worship in the area

Program team

The project team is led by Midtown Community Works Program Manager Lisa Middag and includes staff from Hennepin County Public Works and the City of Minneapolis.

Hennepin County
Lisa Middag
Program Manager

City of Minneapolis
Paul Mogush
City Planner

Crystal Myslajek

Lacy Shelby
Principal Urban Designer

Midtown Greenway Coalition Lake Street Council 
Soren Jensen
Executive Director

Allison Sharkey
Executive Director

Midtown Community Works Partnership  
Louis Smith
Partnership Manager


About the Midtown Community Works Partnership
Formed in 1998, this public-private partnership brings together elected, business and community leaders who are committed to unifying public policy around a common vision for the Midtown Greenway/Lake Street Corridor and to mobilizing the public and private investments necessary to implement this vision. Learn more about the partnership.

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