Friendly Streets Initiative
Since 2010, the Friendly Streets Initiative, a joint project of HMC and FNA, has engaged area residents in a discussion about the transformation of Charles Avenue. Almost 900 people have participated in Friendly Streets events and presentations, including five block parties along Charles during the summer of 2011, and have expressed over 2400 opinions about potential street design features.
Several themes emerged from these discussions. First, residents think that there are too many cars, often driving too fast, on Charles, and therefore the street is unsafe, especially for children. Further, residents worry that traffic levels may increase when construction on the LRT is completed. To solve these problems, residents express overwhelming support for making Charles calmer, quieter, and safer, and easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to use. Among the most popular street design concepts are traffic circles, median refuges for pedestrians and bicyclists at difficult crossings (such as Snelling, Lexington, Dale and Marion), and speed bumps. Residents also feel strongly that Charles would benefit from beautifying and place-making elements such as landscaping, permeable pavement, sidewalk mosaics and neighborhood book exchange kiosks.
These thoughts reflect residents’ genuine concern and care for the place they live. According to Friendly Streets Initiative leader and local resident Lars Christiansen, “What we have learned from residents of Frogtown and Hamline Midway is that people are tremendously proud of their neighborhood and their streets. They care about preserving what they like about their streets, and they want to see their streets and their own blocks improved even more. I’ve been overwhelmed by the pride-in-place that I’ve heard from people all along Charles in both Frogtown and Hamline-Midway.”
Recognizing this local sentiment, the Friendly Streets Initiative has drawn support from Councilmember Melvin Carter (Ward 1) and Councilmember Russ Stark (Ward 4). At the upcoming public meetings, the City of St. Paul will present plans to improve crossings at major intersections (Snelling, Lexington, Dale, Marion, Rice, Western and Hamline) and to calm traffic along Charles through traffic circles, raised intersections, and other design elements. These changes reflect the opinions of residents who have engaged in the Friendly Streets Initiative and will make Charles a more friendly street for residents and all users. Come to the meetings and show your support!