Though construction isn’t likely to start for several more years, the city of Faribault is moving ahead with plans to install a roundabout on the north end of the city.
The roundabout was recommended as the best option for the intersection of 30th Street NW and Hwy. 3 by a traffic study completed last year by Burnsville-based engineering and design firm Stonebrooke. Conducted in partnership with the city and Minnesota Department of Transportation, the traffic study was intended to find the best possible long term design for the intersection, balancing safety and traffic flow concerns.
Hwy. 3 plays an outsize role in connecting industrial park workers with residential areas in Faribault as well as Northfield. However, despite its importance and the relatively limited visibility, the report found crashes at the site to be below state average.
Still, the intersection is expected to grow in traffic volume as Faribault’s northern industrial park continues to grow. According to the report, traffic volume averaged 8,900 cars per day on the south leg, 7,500 on the north leg and 2,300 on the west leg.
In addition to the status quo, which allows for continuous flow of traffic on Hwy. 3 while forcing drivers on 30th Street to stop, three alternatives were examined: a four-way way stop, a stoplight or a roundabout.
The traffic study suggested that strictly in regard to safety concerns, the current design fares the best. Even in 2038, when traffic will be dramatically increased, it leads to just 1.2 projected crashes per year, compared to 1.5 for the next safest alternative examined, the roundabout.
However, the roundabout performed the best in nearly all other aspects. By reducing the number of conflict points from 32 to 8, slowing down traffic and virtually eliminating the risk of right-angle crashes, the roundabout would significantly decrease crash severity. In addition, the roundabout would provide much needed improvement to traffic flow for motorists attempting to get onto or off of 30th Street. Under the current arrangement, such motorists could find themselves facing increasingly frustrating delays.
Roundabouts may be underappreciated by many U.S. drivers, but they’ve long been popular with traffic engineers looking at the most efficient and safe way to move people. The Minnesota Department of Transportation reports that where it’s installed roundabouts, it’s seen an 86 percent decrease in fatal crashes, 83 percent decrease in life-altering injury crashes and a 42 percent fall in the injury crash rate.
Roundabouts are particularly well suited for handling large amounts of traffic while minimizing stoppages and delays. They offer the opportunity for aesthetic appeal and even significant environmental benefits, reducing idling and associated fuel consumption by 30% or more.
Flow of traffic
At its May 26 meeting, the City Council approved another contract with Stonebrooke for further evaluation, conceptual layout and official roadway mapping. The cost, which comes in at just under $7,000, will be funded by the city’s street improvement fund.
In total, the city has secured more than $1.3 million in federal and state grant funds to cover project costs. The city’s Director of Engineering, Mark DuChene, said he expects the total cost of the project to come in at just over $2 million.
A kickoff meeting will take place July 16, with the processes covered under the current contract taking nearly two years. Bids are scheduled to be advertised in summer of 2022, with construction scheduled for 2023 under the city’s current Capital Improvement Plan.
Improving traffic flow is expected to become more important because the city has plans for the immediate area. City Planner Dave Wanberg said that First Avenue NW, which currently ends in a dead end, is likely to be extended and hooked up to the roundabout.
The extension of First Avenue will hook into the first block of the city’s long discussed East View Drive. The Council green lighted that plan in March, though the timeline is still unclear. Once complete, the ring road will connect the intersection with Highway 60.
Crossing the Faribault Foods Spray former fields, Cannon River and railroad bed, the route approved by the Council sits mostly within city limits, though a small portion is currently located in Cannon City Township. After crossing the spray fields and river, the road would maneuver around several nature conservancy districts before reaching a platted development. Given the current city zoning map, the route wouldn’t likely cover business or industrial areas.
The city hasn’t yet purchased the land for East View Drive, though it controls enough land to install the roundabout. However, councilors officially designated the future road on the city map, preventing the city from approving development along the route.
The former spray fields were also discussed favorably by the council as a potential site for a mobile home development in January. Thanks to improved technology at its new plant, Faribault Foods no longer needs the site and is looking to sell.
The site is about 35 acres, though a significant portion of it sits in the floodplain. At the time, Wanberg told the council land sitting in the floodplain would need to be designated green space, there would still be ample room for development.
The exterior of Faribault’s historic Woolen Mill building is about to get a bit livelier, with a classic, old-fashioned business sign to be painted on the factory’s north side.
Already backed by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, the plan secured approval from the Planning Commission at its biweekly meeting. The largely noncontroversial plan now heads to the City Council for final approval.
With a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the mill has long been one of the city’s most historic and iconic structures. As one of just the last vertically integrated woolen mills in America, it’s a relic of a bygone era. For decades, the building had painted signs on its north side, which sits adjacent to the Cannon River Reservoir and across from North Alexander Park. Yet without repainting, those signs have long since faded from public view.
Faribault Woolen Mill Vice Chairman and Partner Paul Mooty said that a new exterior sign has been in his sights since his ownership group took over the company in 2011, but the company hadn’t gotten around to it until now.
Pictures shown to the Planning Commission highlighted a large, retro sign from the 1970s, with flashy red, white and black colors. The design approved by the Planning Commission is smaller and more low-key, in keeping with the Woolen Mill’s current logo.
To complete the mural, the Woolen Mill is turning to Forrest Wozniak, sign painter and artisan with nearly 25 years of experience. Wozniak is a well-known artist throughout the Twin Cities, having completed works for dozens of businesses. The Minneapolis native said that for many viewers, his most familiar work may be his rendering of F. Scott Fitzgerald on the exterior of the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Wozniak said it was painted in honor of the novelist’s 100th birthday.
Wozniak and Mooty were introduced through a mutual friend, Peter Remes. Over the last decade, the Minneapolis artist, architect and developer has specialized in turning historic, but crumbling sites into inviting spaces, with creative and whimsical design.
Interestingly, Wozniak said he’s long had his eye on the Woolen Mill. Years back, he emailed Woolen Mill staff after noticing the faded signage on the north end of the building. Wozniak suggested that new signage might be appropriate, but he never heard back.
Once the council signs off on the project, Wozniak can pull out his brushes. He hopes to be able to start painting by July. Though hardly as detailed as a Fitzgerald mural, he said it’s a surprisingly large and intricate project that could take several weeks to complete.
With interest in the history and character of the building on the rise, Mooty said that the new mural will make an appropriate and pleasant modification. It will be lit at nighttime by LED lights — but ones designed to look old-fashioned.
“We think this will be a great, historic add to the building,” he said. “We look forward to getting it up soon.”
Sam Temple, who sits on both the Planning Commission and Heritage Preservation Commission, echoed the sentiments of both in voicing strong support for the plans. He said he’s excited to see the Mill continuing to take its iconic role in Faribault history seriously.
“This is a unique building, with a unique story,” he said. “If this is how they want to tell their story, we are strongly in favor of it.”
Suzanne Schwichtenberg wants to jazz up the city’s historic district with murals on her stucco building. To that end, local artist Jeff Jarvis has a few ideas up his sleeve.
Schwichtenberg, during Monday’s virtual Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission meeting, said she wanted to “add something positive with some energy” to her building at 213 Central, particularly in the back alleyway. Formerly the W.H. Stevens Drug Store, the building now houses Upper East Side as well as two Airbnbs upstairs. Guests have traveled from China and Europe to stay in the Airbnbs, and Schwichtenberg said they love downtown Faribault.
Before beginning the project, Jarvis and Schwichtenberg must obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC and a public art permit from the City Council. After reviewing the proposed designs, the HPC agreed to table the item to allow Jarvis more time to tweak the murals’ three-sided design.
Murals are allowed in the Historic District if they follow guidelines that were amended in 2018. Any mural proposed for the Historic District cannot face Central Avenue. Instead, artists may paint murals on the side or back of the buildings. If the material of the building is stucco, plaster or concrete block, artists may paint directly on the building surface.
But if the building is constructed from brick, artists must instead paint on panels or other removable surfaces. And no mural can interfere with the building’s architecture or damage the property.
Jarvis said he and Schwichtenberg developed a few different designs and settled upon one that includes a painting of a giant zipper which appears to expose a hidden layer of the building. Proposed for the back of the building, the zipped back “layer” would reveal a purple skyline on the top left hand side. Jarvis explained he would include the building’s existing features in the design, such as the two upper windows in full view and the half windows on the main level. He would pictorially bring the lower windows “back to life” like full windows.
This mural, said Jarvis, would allude to the building’s layers of history and bring spirit to the back alleyway. Plus, it would bring good news to the downtown during a time when a number of businesses have closed.
“This particular project I think would really add a bit to what’s happening downtown, and it would be something people would definitely want to watch and follow,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis shared other design concepts with the HPC during the meeting. Unlike the zipper design, the other concepts included the north- and south-facing walls in addition to the back side of the building.
One design contains depictions of giraffes with a skyline bordering the top of the building on three sides. The other features trees, a path and fence on the wall facing the back alleyway and part of the north-facing wall while the mural on the south side depicts artist tools and flowers with the quote “Art is long/Life is short.”
Commissioner Karl Vohs said he’d like to approve all three sides at one time and isn’t sure which design he prefers. One aspect of the design he appreciated is the way the murals are visible from various angles.
“I like where you’re at conceptually,” said Vohs to Jarvis. “I think it’s exciting and different.”