I’ve had a chance to spend some time on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Campus this summer and fall. It had been a while since I’d been on the U of M campus and quickly realized a lot has changed over the last couple years. There are a number of construction projects recently completed or currently under construction. One merely has to take a walk from the Gopher football team’s new home, TCF Bank Stadium, to Coffman Memorial Union to come across at least a half-dozen such projects.
TCF Bank Stadium, the new home to the Golden Gopher football team, is located adjacent to the other sports venues on the East Bank. The HOK (now Populous) designed stadium is a 50,000 seat horseshoe design which opens toward campus and the Downtown Minneapolis skyline. I can attest the difference between watching a game there versus the Metrodome can’t even be compared (I’ll give you my thoughts on the Twins and Target Field some other time). The sight lines and views are good, but more than that I enjoyed the ability to wander around the stadium and still find plenty of spots along the concourse to take in the game from standing room areas. However, the Gophers might be a little too kind to their new home as they’ve had very few victory parties since it opened.
Directly across the street sits one of two remaining original Minneapolis Fire Department stations. This became the home of Station 19 Architects in 2001, although it is currently being converted into a Buffalo Wild Wings. I’m guessing this is one of the only wing joints housed in a building on the National Historic Registry.
Cross the street to the south and you’re in front of the McNamera Alumni Center. The building was designed by Antoine Predock in the 90’s and recently completed an addition this summer along the west side. I’ve admired Predock’s work since I toured his studio and some of his projects in New Mexico back in college. The guy had at least 3 motorcycles in the middle of his studio! Pretty cool stuff! Oh, I also happen to have hosted my wedding reception in this building.
If you head out the west side of McNamera you’ll find yourself walking along the Scholars Walk. This path stretches across the East Bank along an east-west axis. The path is beautifully landscaped and includes a series of monuments noting the academic achievements of the University Community. The honors include Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners as well as Rhodes Scholars. What struck me the first time I walked the path is how much the Scholar Walk appears to have transformed this stretch. The improvements were implemented within the last 5 years. Prior to that time the main visual in this area would have been parking lots and various loading docks.
As you stroll along the Scholar Walk you’ll notice renovations to a number of buildings along the way. The path eventually leads to Northrup Mall. On the north end of the mall is Northrup Auditorium, which is scheduled to undergo renovations in the near future. While you’re on that end you might as well take a short detour northeast over to an area to the north of Rapson Hall. Here you can take a look at the U of M’s Solar Decathlon House. It’s in the process of being reinstalled and will be open to the public soon (I assume). OK, back to our tour. On the south end of the mall across Washington Avenue is Coffman Memorial Union (currently in the middle of a tuck pointing project). Immediately west of Coffman is the Weisman Art Museum. The Weisman, Frank Gehry’s first exploration into his signature stainless steel skin forms, is in the middle of a major addition to the exhibition spaces. From the upper levels of Coffman Union you have a front row seat to the construction progress as well as one of the best views of the Downtown Minneapolis skyline.
They should have these projects about wrapped up just in time for the Central Corridor Lightrail Project to tear up Washington Avenue for a couple years. . .