Humanizing Hi-Lake: A Look Back and A Look Ahead

How did all this begin and where is it going? Here are some of the major highlights and accomplishments in this community-driven effort.


Urban guru Gil Penalosa is invited to Hi-Lake to start a conversation with the community on making the intersection more humane. 14112538409_84260884fc_o.jpg(Ironically Penalosa waits more than 6 minutes for a walk signal to cross Lake Street.)

11914171_1619427501660224_3921382824606962093_n.jpgCommunity members brainstorm ideas for improvement and media covers the event. According to a street sign, the entire entourage of 20+ is trespassing under the bridge.




Momentum starts building when East Lake is selected as an Open Streets location.

Corcoran, Sierra Club, Longfellow and others organize around a puppet show as an engagement open_2.jpgtool to canvass public support at Open Streets. A slogan emerges: Humanize Hi-Lake, and a Facebook page solicits ideas online.

IMG_0815.JPGA hungry public shares their voice: More than 500 people offer ideas and sign postcards demanding change. The roving puppet show spreads the Hi-Lake gospel at National Night Out.

(Local media coverage continues and the slogan doubles as a Star Tribune headline: How to Humanize a Busy Intersection?

Traction! An $80,000 engineering study, sponsored by Ward 9 Council Member Alondra Cano and IMG_0825_(1).JPGHennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin gets started.

The lights under the bridge are turned on!



Screenshot_2016-11-23_01.18.35.pngStudy results reveal three major options. Option one and two eliminate free right turns, add speed tables, reduce signal time, and make several other small-scale improvements. Option three revamps the intersection completely, but this requires millions in funding.

Nurturing Nature: Year two of East Lake as an Open Streets location. A 10’ x 20’ fresh grass artIMG_0821.JPG
 installation is used to help the public envision a different Hi-Lake.

A symbol for change emerges when a neighbor’s hand-written logo becomes fully realized.

14333716_10153819767755976_1084625361984038171_n.jpg1,000 postcards formally delivered to city officials, when all stakeholders gather at the Farmer’s Market for a public meeting and discussion. Cano, McLaughlin, Jennifer Hager and Robin Hutcheson of Public Works, along with State Senator Patricia Torres Ray and staff of the Met Council are in attendance.

Success: After more than a decade of community organizing, a four-way stop sign is put in near 20161102_142353.jpgHi-Lake at the intersection of 31st street and 22nd avenue.



November, 2016

McLaughlin and Cano attend a CNO board meeting with updates: Phase 1 of the new Hennepin County building is scheduled to open on April 1. The ground floor will include retail and the Farmer’s Market will eventually have a permanent home here. Infrastructure for a Bus Rapid Transit will be installed for a future station, and the “free right turn” onto Southbound Hiawatha is being removed.

The board learns that no funding exists at in the current 5-year capital plan for repairs to the intersection, and that other locations are “ahead” of Hi-Lake, including the Franklin/Cedar tangle.


We have accomplished so much in the last two years, and we are forging ahead undaunted! Here’s our initial plan for 2017:

  • Prioritize: CNO will prioritize the Tier I and II fixes and work with a county engineer to know which fixes work in concert together and be the most bang for the buck.
  • Find arts money, along with youth project/community project funds to act as a discrete, fundable project to help transform the corner in partnership with other organizations.
  • Build a broader volunteer base to continue momentum forward.

Join us! Get involved. The land use committee meets next on Thursday, December 1, and then Thursday, January 5.  Meetings are at 6 pm at CNO!

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.