Work has begun on a new stretch of Van White Memorial Boulevard that will complete an important connection to the Minneapolis North Side.
Image: Javanese White (center), widow of Van White. Left to right front row: U.S. Representative Keith Ellison
(D-MN), Marya Parker, Brianna McKinney, Javanese White, Sandra Davis and Javoni White. Back row:
Councilman Don Samuels, Randy McKinney, Brenda McKinney, Myra Ewing, Arthur Day and Danya Day The boulevard is named in honor of the city’s first African-American council member (referred to as alderman at the time). Van White represented the 5th Ward from 1980 to 1990. He passed away in 1993 at the age of 68.
The first section of Van White Memorial Boulevard was completed in 2002. It serves as the main artery for the Heritage Park neighborhood, which is now home to around 620 families. When the extension of Van White Memorial Boulevard is complete at the end of 2013, the street will stretch from Interstate 394 and Dunwoody Boulevard in the south, north to Plymouth Avenue.
The mile of roadway being built will also connect the Harrison and Bryn Mawr neighborhoods to Interstate 394 and neighborhoods south of the freeway. It includes a 600-foot bridge that will span the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines and the Cedar Lake Trail. A smaller bridge will cross Bassett Creek.
Thomas Streitz, Housing Director for the City of Minneapolis, said the addition to the roadway is a figurative and literal bridge between north and south Minneapolis.
“Before the freeway, we had more of an integrated city in forms of structure,” said Streitz. “We are one city and this is one step closer to integrating north and south (Minneapolis).”
Streitz feels this investment is the one of efforts to correct sins of the past. “The freeways cut scars through our city in so many places,” said Streitz. “This is going to reconnect the north and the south, which is important in how the city and county will function. I think this is a fitting testimony to Van White’s work. He was a bridge builder.”
Rep. Keith Ellison said once the addition is complete it will give Minneapolis residents a better sense of community.
“It is all of our duty and responsibility to build a better community for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren,” said Ellison. “This bridge will be traveled on by that generation. Even though it’s not built now, it will last. They will remember a bridge that united north and south Minneapolis, people of different backgrounds, cultures, income levels and to help make us one city.”
City planners said the project was born out of the city’s efforts to de-concentrate family public housing in the city. The Heritage Park mixed income neighborhood has replaced old public housing buildings on the near North Side as part of those efforts.
The $22.3 million roadway project is funded in part from federal, county and city funds with $8 million of that in county funding.