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

Funding the connections plan: Partners adopt shared strategy

At their meeting in January 2017, the Midtown Community Works Partnership took an important step toward implementing the Making the Connection: Midtown Greenway to Lake Street plan.

The partnership, which includes members of the county board and Minneapolis city council, as well as private and non-profit partners, adopted a shared funding strategy. The strategy identifies potential sources to fund plan recommendations that advance revitalization of the corridor and continue wrapping up the work of the partnership.

Partners will review and pursue funding opportunities that best achieve needs of the corridor and fit their shared goals. This strategic funding approach is designed to maximize critical investments that realize the corridor vision and benefit residents, communities and businesses

$530k approved for safer greenway crossings

Existing crossing of the Midtown Greenway at East 28th Street

The Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) recently approved a grant submitted by Hennepin County to improve seven crossings on the Midtown Greenway.

The grant includes major improvements to the crossing at Hiawatha Avenue, which is one of the most dangerous crossings on the greenway. The Hiawatha improvements were identified in the Minnehaha-Hiawatha Community Works strategic framework. The other crossing improvements were Midtown connections recommendations, and include:

  • James Avenue
  • Irving Avenue
  • Humboldt Avenue
  • 5th Avenue
  • 28th Street East
  • Minnehaha Avenue

Proposed improvements range from installing new durable high-visibility crosswalk markings and enhanced traffic signal technology, to connecting sidewalk gaps and installing raised medians and curb extensions. These improvements will be implemented over the next several years.

The grant was submitted by Hennepin County in partnership with the Midtown Greenway Coalition, the City of Minneapolis and the Lake Street Council.

New pollinator garden, murals coming to the greenway

The future site of a new pollinator garden along the greenway

Two additional exciting community and partner-led projects were also recently funded for the Midtown Greenway.

Pollinator Garden at CEPRO Greenspace

Pollinate Minnesota received an $8,000 Hennepin County Green Partners grant to partner with 180 youth from Andersen United Community School to plant a pollinator garden at the CEPRO site on the Midtown Greenway. The garden will be a beautiful new natural resource along the greenway. It will also be a cornerstone to building new classroom curriculum on the life cycle of honey bees at Andersen school.

Two new murals coming to the greenway

The Midtown Greenway Coalition (MGC) announced that two new murals will be installed in the greenway this year. The coalition recently closed a call for artists of color for the first one, which is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

For the second mural, MGC is partnering with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and Little Earth United Tribes. With support from the Carolyn Foundation, the mural will be created by youth from Little Earth, working with students and staff from MCAD.

Program updates

January 2017 program update

September 2016 program update

May 2016 program update

March 2016 program update

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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 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 (PDF), 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 (PDF). 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
Crystal Myslajek
Program Manager
City of Minneapolis
Paul Mogush
City Planner
Lacy Shelby
Principal Urban Designer
Midtown Greenway Coalition
Soren Jensen
Executive Director
Lake Street Council
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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