Frustrated with the costs of maintaining and owning a vehicle, Heather Erickson sold her car and moved to downtown Minneapolis three years ago. She’s been relying on transit ever since.
This June, she will be among those who can use the METRO Green Line to get to and from work. From Minneapolis, she’ll be able to board at the Nicollet Mall Station and ride to the Green Line’s Fairview Avenue Station, a short walk from her office at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s new headquarters on University Avenue.
Erickson, who oversees Habitat’s AmeriCorps program, also expects to ride the train to visit shops, restaurants and other destinations along University Avenue and downtown St. Paul, exploring parts of the city she might otherwise not visit.
“I always stay in Minneapolis so it will be nice to visit some new places in St. Paul,” Erickson said from her third-floor office overlooking the Green Line. “There is so much wonderful stuff here that I always forget about.”
Erickson will be joined at Fairview Avenue Station by a mix of seniors, workers and residents when the Green Line opens on June 14. The station, at University and Fairview avenues, is surrounded by a mix of small businesses, offices and single-family homes. The surrounding Union Park and Hamline-Midway neighborhoods are also home to a mix of parks and schools, including Macalester College, the University of St. Thomas and Concordia University.
Immediately south of Fairview Avenue Station is Episcopal Homes’ Midway Village senior living complex. Around 280 seniors live in existing housing and another 200 will move into three under-construction buildings by early next year.
“We feel like the luckiest people in the world to be located right at this stop,” said Marvin Plakut, Episcopal Homes’ President/CEO. “For seniors, being able to get somewhere without having to bother anyone else is compelling because it provides a real sense of freedom.”
Besides using the train for shopping, entertainment or appointments, residents at Midway Village will be able to visit Episcopal Homes’ other locations near stations at Lexington Parkway and Dale Street, Plakut said.
North of Fairview Avenue Station is the headquarters for Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota. Around 300 people work at the site and its retail store generates more than 160,000 shopping visits and 75,000 donation visits annually.
Michael Garberich is among those who work at Goodwill and will be able to take the Green Line to work. A technical writer for the non-profit, Garberich has lived car-free for the last two years and is looking forward to adding light rail to his roster of travel options.
“It will be easier to visit friends who live in St. Paul any time of the week or weekend,” he said. “The bus can get crowded so I’m hoping there will be a better place to sit and read.”
Like Habitat for Humanity, Episcopal Homes and Goodwill, officials at College Possible Twin Cities are also eager to see their employees and the students they work with use the Green Line.
College Possible moved into a larger space at 540 Fairview Ave. last August, in part to be near Fairview Avenue Station. AmeriCorps members at the organization assist thousands of students pursuing college education each year.
“The light rail line was an important consideration as we weighed our options when planning our expansion to a new space,” said Bethany Krueger, the associate director for College Possible Twin Cities. “We need to be accessible to our AmeriCorps members and the students they serve.”
The same desires for access led Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative to the Fairview Avenue Station area. Beacon has begun site work on land at University and Prior avenues, just west of the station, where they plan to build 44 studio apartments for homeless youth. The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation will provide on-site services at the new building, Prior Crossing.
“It (light-rail) will offer excellent access to both St. Paul College as well as U of M and to many jobs up and down the corridor and in both downtowns,” said Kris Berggren, Beacon’s communications specialist.
John Kachel, the owner of Major Tire Co. at University and Fairview, is getting an extra treat out of watching test trains travel the corridor in anticipation of the Green Line’s opening.
Seven years ago, Kachel allowed artists to paint a mural on the side of his building. The mural includes both a light-rail vehicle and streetcar (occupied by Bob Dylan, Captain Kangaroo, Paul Wellstone, Prince and Kachel's two children).
“At the time, I just thought it would be neat to have an old picture since we’ve been here quite some time,” he said. “But it really is all coming together now isn’t it?”
Fairview Avenue Station At a Glance
Connecting bus routes: Route 16, with service every 20 minutes between downtown St. Paul and the University of Minnesota; Route 67 will run between downtown St. Paul and the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station after the Green Line opens; Route 87 with service between Ford Parkway and the Rosedale Transit Center, has stops nearby at University and Prior Avenues.
Public art: Nancy Blum created glass mosaics featuring elements of the old oak trees that can be found in the surrounding neighborhoods. Learn more.
Area landmarks: Episcopal Homes Midway Village, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Dickerman Park, Iris Park, Merriam Park Recreation Center, Merriam Terrace Park, Four Seasons Elementary School, Aldine Park, HealthEast Midway Clinic, Griggs Midway Building
Bike-ped connections: North Prior Avenue is striped with bike lanes between West Pierce Butler Road and Marshall Avenue. Going east-west, there are bike lanes on Minnehaha Avenue, a half-mile north of University Avenue, and a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue east of North Aldine Street. The Friendly Streets Initiative will be looking at ways of making Fairview Avenue more bike and pedestrian friendly this year.
Neighborhood groups: Hamline-Midway Coalition, Union Park District Council