• Work begins on project that will link St. Thomas to Minneapolis skyway system

    Work is underway on a multidirectional skyway complex that will connect the downtown campus of the University of St. Thomas to the Minneapolis skyway system.

    The complex, called the Minneapolis School Block Skyway, has two parts: a longer one that runs north-south and a shorter one that runs east-west.

    The north-south link starts on the second floor of St. Thomas’ Opus Hall, located at 10th Street and LaSalle Avenue, and ends at LaSalle Plaza, between Eighth and Ninth streets.

    This link starts near the top of the escalators that are between Opus Hall and the Interdistrict Downtown School. The doors leading to the escalator are near the intersection of 10th Street and Harmon Place.

    From the top of the Opus Hall escalators, this skyway heads north. On its way to LaSalle Plaza, it will have connecting spurs to Downtown AutoPark to the east, and the Art Institutes International Minnesota to the west. As it enters LaSalle Plaza, it will link with the YMCA, entertainment and office venues, parking facilities and other skyways to downtown Minneapolis.

    The shorter east-west portion of the skyway project crosses LaSalle Avenue and will connect the northern end of Opus Hall with the Skyway Senior Center on the second floor of Retek Plaza. From there, skyway users can walk to the new downtown Target store.

    The Minneapolis School Block Skyway is expected to open early this fall. Although the east-west segment already has been built, this smaller skyway couldn’t be opened until connected to the larger, north-south segment.

    The total length of the Minneapolis School Block Skyway, when all its components are included, is about a block and a half.

    Dr. Michael Sulllivan, now the university’s chief investment officer and a member of the College of Business faculty, was the vice president for business affairs five years ago when he started work on the School Block Skyway. He agreed to continue to work on the complex project.

    The legal agreement to build the skyway is about 80 pages long and required signatures from nine separate parties. “The two skyways involve six properties on four different city blocks,” he said. “It took four years and nine months to finally complete the agreement.

    “But it really was worth the effort,” he added. “It extends the entire Minneapolis skyway system to the southwest and connects St. Thomas to financial, shopping and entertainment centers.”

    A skyway to the south also connects Opus Hall to St. Thomas’ original downtown campus building, now called Terrence Murphy Hall. Eventually, skyways will link Murphy Hall to the university’s new law school, which is under construction to the southwest.

    Murphy and Opus Halls, Sullivan noted, were designed from the beginning for second-level skyway traffic. That is why the escalators were installed between Opus Hall and the Interdistrict Downtown School. “We expect some additional visitors to campus because of the new skyways,” he said. “But initially, the numbers will not be large because we are on the end of the system. Years from now, though, the skyways could extend farther to the south.”

    The School Block Skyway, which will be owned by the city, will cost about $4 million to build. The money was held in reserve from a bond sale a number of years ago to underwrite land acquisition for the Interdistrict Downtown School and Opus Hall, and construction of a city-owned parking ramp under the Interdistrict and Opus buildings. The cost to St. Thomas for the skyway is about $30,000.

    The Opus Northwest Construction Corp. is building the skyway.

    Sharon Fischer, director of St. Thomas’ Minneapolis campus, is coordinating the university’s role in the project. Overseeing the project for Minneapolis is Greg Finstad, the city’s director of transportation and parking services.

    Although it does not show the new Minneapolis School Block Skyway project, a map of downtown Minneapolis and its skyway network can be found on the Web at: http://www.downtownmpls.com/img/50_maps/hirez_map.pdf

     

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