Establishing a vision for the Richfield/Bloomington Portland Gateway
The area around Portland Avenue and I-494 is a challenge for city planners in both Bloomington and Richfield, but they are plotting a course that will lead to a solution that will benefit both communities.
“The Portland Gateway area is characterized by aging commercial buildings and can be difficult to navigate whether on foot or bicycle,” explained Melissa Poehlman, Richfield’s Assistant Community Development Director. “There’s a significant amount of housing in the immediate area, but it’s almost impossible to get around without a car.”
The city of Bloomington agrees.
“From a redevelopment standpoint, one of the biggest issues is of coordination,” added Julie Farnham, Senior Planner with the City of Bloomington. “It’s a large area, with many property owners and users, and not everyone has the same priorities.”
Additionally, over the past two years, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been conducting its own visioning process for the future of I-494 corridor. This vision includes the reconfiguration of access to and from I-494 between 24th Avenue and I-35W. These future changes could offer added opportunities for area redeveloped.
Both the area’s challenges and opportunities will be brought to life with the arrival of the annual meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism and its Legacy Project initiative. The Congress for the New Urbanism, or CNU, is a multidisciplinary group of citizens and professionals, dedicated to building more beautiful and sustainable places.
Each year as part of their annual meeting, CNU facilitates Legacy Projects where it offers on-the-ground, pro-bono design assistance to projects within the host community.
Last year, Richfield and Bloomington took advantage of this opportunity by applying for a Legacy Grant project for the area at the intersection of Portland Avenue and Interstate 494, known as the Portland Gateway.
“We saw this as great opportunity for the two cities to collaborate on a shared area,” said Farnham. “We wanted to approach this project together in order to bring both sides of I-494 into one shared vision for this neighborhood.”
“City borders are artificial in so many ways,” added Poehlman. “The residents and business owners in and around this interchange don’t care whether the grocery store is located in Bloomington or Richfield. They care about whether or not they can easily get to that grocery store, or restaurant, or service station. These are the issues we want to address through the Legacy Project.”
Starting in March, the project begins in earnest.
The initiative brings a nationally-recognized design firm to the area to engage with the physical space, local communities and their priorities. The process is based on a four-day community design workshop with heavy emphasis on stakeholder engagement.
“The goal of these meetings is to generate ideas, make people aware of this project and get them excited,” said Farnham. “It’s a way to educate people about other developments too, like Metro Transit’s D-Line and the I-494 reconfiguration.”
The project team will be in Richfield and Bloomington March 23-26. Two public meetings will be held where residents and business owners are invited to participate. .
The first meeting will focus on defining a vision and priorities for the area. It will be held on March 23, from 6–8 p.m. at Richfield City Hall, 6700 Portland Avenue.
After three days of work, the team will present their concepts and ideas, as well as solicit input from the communities on March 26. This meeting will be held from 6–8 p.m. at the Portland Avenue United Methodist Church, 8000 Portland Avenue.
In addition, a joint work session, or ‘pin up’, will take place with policymakers from Richfield and Bloomington on March 24 from 5:30-6:30 at Richfield City Hall, 6700 Portland Avenue. Additional invitation-only meetings will be held with other governing agencies and developers.
Following the three days of intensive, on-the-ground work, the experts will return to their respective cities and begin to generate a formal plan and presentation for the community.
For more information about the project, visit: www.bloomingtonmn.gov/plan/portland-legacy