City leaders have landed on a preliminary design for the proposed improvements at Third Street in 2019 — and yes, it includes bump-outs.
The Northfield City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday to approve design concepts for a street project on Third Street from Hwy. 3 to Orchard Street. Councilor Brad Ness voted no; Councilor Jessica Peterson White was absent.
The proposed design includes bump-outs at four intersections along the stretch, in addition to decorative pavement, pedestrian level lighting, a sculpture plaza, limestone seat walls, a plaza space in front of the Northfield Arts Guild, landscape planting and trees.
“I’m excited about this project and impressed by the quick articulation in taking it from a vision to a design,” said Councilor Suzie Nakasian.
The project cost is estimated at $3.45 million. The majority of the cost is for road and sidewalk improvements; about $500,000 goes toward the added design features. State aid will pay for much of the work.
City staff put out a request for feedback on the project and that feedback was certainly received ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. A slew of anonymous comments were presented by staff, and the opinions were decidedly mixed, with bump-outs being a major point of debate.
Some were strongly against the bump-outs and other similar measures that are intended to enhance the aesthetics of the area and slow traffic.
“I strongly believe that these bump-outs for pedestrians do more harm than they do good,” said one commenter.
Another added, “As a 38-year long resident of Northfield I’m frustrated and disappointed in the outcome of the revision on Division Street from Sixth to Eighth (creating) a tight if not nearly impossible turning radius onto Division.”
But other community members were strongly in favor of the added design features.
“I firmly believe … that the time and the extra expense for the added features will benefit this area of town and provide an appropriate gateway to the downtown area,” said one member of the public. “A gateway that is safer by slowing the fast traffic on Third Street; friendly to pedestrians (those in neighborhood and those going to the public theater, church and school) and provides an attractive street leading to the nearby downtown.”
Within the city’s comprehensive plan, Third Street is considered a gateway area in the community, meaning it’s intended to serve as a welcoming point for residents and visitors. It’s also considered an arts corridor, meaning its aesthetics are intended to be enhanced with art and design.
Leaders of some of the major organizations located on Third Street, St. John’s Lutheran Church and the Northfield Arts Guild Theater expressed approval for the design features. In a letter to city staff, the St. John’s Council complimented staff on the proposed design.
“We are excited about ideas for Third Street as an arts corridor connecting the east and west sides (of town),” the letter stated. “… we see a lot of cars speeding up and down Third. The (current) wide street and downhill view in particular seem to encourage this.”
Northfield Arts Guild leadership had some small recommended changes, but overall supported the design concept that the council approved.
Councilor Ness, who voted against the design concepts, questioned the four bump-outs, preferring an option that had the bump-outs at only two intersections. Another of his gripes was with spending public funds to pay for a proposed drop-off spot/plaza/waiting area in front of the Guild Theater, which he and Councilor David DeLong saw as a benefit to the organization. The Guild did not specifically request the plaza, but also did not oppose it. City staff said it was a benefit to the public, and the majority of the council agreed.
From here, city staff will continue to meet with residents around the improvement area, with hopes to approve a final design by the end of March, and let bids in April. If all goes to plan, construction would take place from May to October.