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Xcel Underground powerline Substations Planning-Public Hearing in June

By Shirley Heyer, MPNIA rep to the Hiawatha Project Substation Design Advisory Committee

Xcel held 3 design workshops with an Advisory Committee of 20 folks, including neighborhood reps, for proposed Hiawatha and Midtown South Substations (SS) as directed by Minnesota Pubic Utilities Commission.  Final schematic designs to be presented June Public Hearing– watch for time and place.

At 3rd mtg.April 9, Architecture Alliance, artistic design architects of the SS walls, requested 5 ideas from each rep. describing their concept (not details) of “artistic” design.

The design is for 20’-22’ high walls surrounding each SS.  2 main concepts emerged; that there be different artistic wall designs because of disparate surroundings.

Arch. Alliance will merge the ideas for the Adv. Subcomm. in early May to be sure they are on the right track.

The SSs are extremely large using all space at each location. The Hiawatha SS is modeled after the Elliot SS (11th Ave. S. east of M-dome). Also see the Elliot SS from the I-35 freeway into downtown off Hiawatha Ave. It goes around the north side of the Metrodome and the Elliott SS can be seen up above to the right. The Hiawatha SS will be similar in size and design except the Hiawatha SS’s distribution structure will be 50’ taller.

The Midtown South SS between Park and Portland residential areas overlooks the MGW. It is located on property owned by Xcel (a former SS which Xcel demolished and 2 residential properties to the north; recently bought).

Hiawatha Substation/Sabo Bridge Parkway to the Midtown Greenway (MGW)

Adv. Comm. members said the Hiawatha SS is a “gateway” into Mpls. and into the neighborhoods around Lake St. Light Rail Station. Views toward downtown  are quite dramatic, especially at night and near sunset time as the light rail passes over Hiawatha Ave. near the Sabo Bridge.

These neighborhoods have been the traditional gateway bringing immigrants to this part of Mpls.. The light rail line brings people from the entire world through this area from the airport to downtown Mpls.. Traveling south from downtown to the airport, the view near the Hiawatha SS covers the entire range of neighborhoods along East Lake St. from I-35W to the river along E. Lake St.

A futuristic design with lighting for the Hiawatha SS, something “evocative”, was the major artistic element requested.

Concerns for the existing MGW bikeway/Sabo Bridge pkwy near this SS also had comments. One question: could Xcel move the Hiawatha SS’s north wall 10-20 feet further south (means moving the entire structure inside the walls, too) or curving the north wall to provide more space between it and the bikeway.

The bikeway comes from the Sabo Bridge (E. 28th St.) and goes east to Minnehaha Ave. and then to the Mississippi River. The SS’s proposed north wall would add an additional block or two to the tunnel-like effect currently seen where the bikeway travels between two industrial buildings.

Going south, a bikeway spur is being proposed from the Sabo Bridge to E. Lake St. parallel to Hiawatha Ave. It would be west of the current railroad tracks. Xcel plans to move the current railroad tracks closer to Hiawatha Ave. in order to accommodate its space requirements for the Hiawatha SS.

The railroad tracks will stay because they are used to bring in new light rail cars to the MTC’s maintenance buildings (hub for all the entire light rail system) just north of E. 26th St. and also north of the Franklin Light Rail Station. New cars will be unloaded in this area for all future light rail lines, such as the Mpls/StP line currently under construction and the cars for the proposed SW line from downtown Mpls. to the SW suburbs.

The current plantings in the parkway south of the Sabo Bridge will be lost, because they were planted in soil containing arsenic. Xcel did the tests and must environmentally dispose of the plants and soil. They cannot be reused. The MGW is asking for remediation from Xcel to replace the cost of these plantings and the corresponding volunteer hours so that these funds could be used on other planting sites along the MGW.

The Midtown South Substation

The SS located in Phillips West is surrounded by residential housing on the west and north sides and a business building to the east. Two existing residences to the north will be within one-driveway width from the north wall of the SS site.

On the south side Xcel owns the property to the base of the slope into the MGW.  Xcel was asked if it would sell the slope to the Hn Cty RR Authority instead of building a part of the SS over the slope and/or even if they didn’t build over the slope, would they set the SS wall 3 to 4 feet back from the rim of the MGW. This would allow room for a proposed walkway plaza on the rim of the MGW, already in the City of Mpls. Plan, and help maintain the historical designation of the MGW.

Since this substation is within a primarily residential area, there was not a desire for a flashy design such as on the Hiawatha SS site, but rather something that fit more into the residential character of the neighborhood.

The MGW Coalition also solicited comments from its members which it forwarded to Xcel. One idea offered was that the SS fit into their backgrounds and fade away; so the walls do not draw attention.

Info: MGW Coalition’s rep (Tim Springer) through the Coalition office, MPNIA rep Shirley Heyer at shirleymidtownphillips@msn.com or Phillips West’s rep, ED Crystal W., at www.PWNO.org

 

 

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