5th Street Bridge Public Art

With the construction of the new 5th Street SE Pedestrian / Bike bridge—to be completed in late August 2019—the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and the entire University district has a golden opportunity to use public art, aesthetic amenities and/or narrative elements to ensure this new bridge stands as a significant cultural and community asset as well as a much-needed improvement to the aged current structure.

The 5th Street SE bridge—the most trafficked pedestrian / bike bridge in the state—connects the east and west sides of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, which was cleft by the construction of 35W in the 1960s. The bridge is not only an important literal connection between the east and west sides of our neighborhood, but also a significant gateway to the university, this historic district and to/from the Mississippi.

For the past two years, MHNA has provided feedback to MnDOT and the city during the design phase of the project, sharing the neighborhood’s list of priorities we hoped would guide discussions and decisions about its designs. Those priorities came out of robust community engagement lead internally in our Transportation and Creative Placemaking committees and from surveys we’ve conducted of bridge users.

A central theme expressed by the community has been the attention to and inclusion of aesthetic elements that would ensure the structure is more than functional, is aesthetically pleasing and serves as an iconic/recognizable amenity that helps reunite two sides of the neighborhood. Clearly, the divide in the neighborhood created by the freeway—as in many other urban neighborhoods—is still felt by residents literally and, in many cases, emotionally.

This commissioning process will ensure MHNA responds successfully to neighborhood priorities for the bridge design to bring people together.

In 2017, a group of residents served on the Visual Quality Advisory Committee, working with MnDOT and the city to reach consensus on a fundamental design (see attached pages from the design document). Throughout, the committee aimed to create a “palette” upon which public art, ornamentation and interpretative elements could be later incorporated to elevate the aesthetics of the structure. The specific activities for which we are seeking funds include:

Selection and engagement of a consultant to help MHNA design and execute the commissioning process. This process typically includes:

• community engagement to refine the shared vision, i.e., a series of meetings and events to involve and receive input from as many neighborhood stakeholders as possible
• location analysis, i.e., where the possibilities are for art
• project management and consultation to engage the City and other stakeholders
• identification of potential public art, amenities and artists’ engagement in the process
• design of a public art commissioning plan
• development of funding plan based on commissioning plan
• invitation to area artists for design and community engagement to finalize a plan