According to today’s plans, the Blue Line extension would take riders from downtown Minneapolis to the middle of nowhere.
That’s at least what it looks like today. The Blue Line extension as currently planned would extend the Blue Line light rail from Target Field Station in downtown Minneapolis through North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park, primarily on West Broadway Avenue and Bottineau Boulevard. The plans now call for the project to end at West Broadway Avenue and Oak Grove Parkway in Brooklyn Park, an intersection that has an office park at one corner and farmland everywhere else.
But the city of Brooklyn Park hopes the farmland will be partially developed by the time the light rail project is finished. At a minimum, the city, the county, and the Met Council plan to realign and build new roads to allow the light rail project to come through. The city is also hoping to work with Target to build a new, walkable, mixed-use development with housing, retail and open space.
The 400-acre site surrounding the proposed Oak Grove Parkway station, owned mostly by Target, is mostly farmland, with about 88 acres developed into an office park. Both Target and the city want the rest of the land to be developed into housing, retail and office space. However, the city does not have specifics on how much retail and office space will be built, along with what type of housing will be built, let alone how many housing units.
The pandemic may have upended any plans Target has to develop the area surrounding the future Oak Grove Station anyway. Target has reportedly converted some of their space in their Brooklyn Park campus to allow their workforce to come in and collaborate with their colleagues at will. Target did not respond to multiple requests for comment on their development plans.
The city acknowledges the pandemic has decimated demand for office space as people embrace working from home in addition to working at the office. “There’s not a lot of optimism that we’ll see any type of office development moving forward in the next many, many years,” says Brooklyn Park Community Development Director Kimberly Berggren. “The plan is going to have to evolve based on the market.”
The city also plans to build a park on land they mostly own that serves as a front yard for a new light rail maintenance facility Metro Transit plans to build to house the vehicles needed to run on the Blue Line extension. They plan for the park to have a shallow wading pool that becomes an ice rink in the winter, as well as an outdoor amphitheater. Berggren says getting funding to build the park “is going to be the challenge for the city.”
The proposed development is not yet a done deal, as the city and possibly Target are waiting to see if the Blue Line extension will actually be built. “You can’t really start developing it right here because the roads have to go in first,” said Berggren, adding the roads will be rebuilt when the Blue Line extension breaks ground.