Business leaders, City officials celebrate opening of new Nicollet

Business leaders, Minneapolis officials and the public celebrated the opening of the new Nicollet today—a greener, brighter and more user-friendly main street for downtown Minneapolis.

The Nicollet renovation features twice the amount of greenery with nearly 250 new trees, including some already 40-feet tall along with the latest LED lighting. The renovation included stamped and leveled concrete walkways that now are straighter and wider along with curb-free intersections so pedestrians will never have to step up or off a curb.

Nicollet is now home to the city’s largest display of public artwork outside of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Notable features include: the Light Walk, a two-block long overhead light installation made up of a series of mirrored fins and programmable LED lights; Nicollet Lanterns, 12 illuminated sculptural lanterns featuring poems by local writers; Prairie Tree, a sculpture featuring wind-animated elements that reflect the sky; and the restored Nicollet Sculpture Clock.

“I’m proud to have helped usher in this new era on Nicollet,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges. “This redesign has created a place that reflects the values of our city. It’s greener, brighter, more people-friendly, and will be a four-season, welcoming destination for Minneapolis residents and visitors alike.”

“Six years ago the mpls downtown council’s Intersection: Downtown 2025 Plan called for a new Nicollet as a ‘must see destination’ in the heart of downtown,” said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the mpls downtown council and Mpls Downtown Improvement District. “As the project now comes to a close, that goal has been realized and it truly is amazing that an undertaking this size has come to fruition in the timeframe it took. The pedestrian orientation, greatly enhanced greening, public art and lighting add up to a high impact, public—private investment that will serve our community for decades to come. Already we are seeing additional private development spurred by the new Nicollet, a trend that will surely continue.”

The reconstructed street designed by world-renowned architectural firm James Corner Field Operations addressed four main areas of Nicollet in need of improvement: creating an identity for Nicollet, updating materials overall, decreasing clutter and making spaces more inviting.

Nicollet celebration
James Corner of James Corner Field Operations, the lead designer on the new Nicollet, speaks at the Nov. 16 celebration.

The Nicollet renovation addressed the lack of identity by implementing a new brand campaign that involved dropping “mall” from all Nicollet signage and banners and developing a new tagline “On Nicollet.” The new tagline encourages visitors to share their experiences using the hashtag #OnNicollet. Focused on uniformity, the campaign also incorporates colorful banners, branded furniture and wayfinding kiosks to direct pedestrians through Nicollet.

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the City of Minneapolis to realize this amazing transformation of the landmark Nicollet. From a design perspective we wanted to bring simplicity, clarity, light and space to the street, opening up space for seating, dining, art and events,” said James Corner, founder and director of James Corner Field Operations. “Ample greenery in the form of tree groves and majestic street trees provide seasonal experiences as well as invoking a sense of the Minnesota landscape. Generous furnishing, lighting and signage help to bring a unique sense of identity and sociability. It is gratifying to see so many people strolling the street, enjoying the new scene and beginning to re-establish the buzz of pedestrian street-life in the heart of Minneapolis.”

Nicollet has been a retail and business hub for the city since 1880s. It was last renovated in 1991 before this reconstruction project. The project secured state bonding in 2014 after City and business leaders made a successful pitch to state lawmakers about the urgent need for a major overhaul of the mall, which was plagued with cracking granite pavers on the sidewalks and other infrastructure in need of repairs.

The funding for the public/private partnership includes $25 million in downtown property assessments, $21.5 million in state bonding and $3.5 million from the City of Minneapolis. The new Nicollet has already attracted more than $300 million in private investment. For more information about Nicollet, visit OnNicollet.com

Learn more about Nicollet’s new features here.