Downtown station area planning, if you ask me

Really, they did ask me what I thought about how the area around the Hopkins light rail stations should be developed. Well, not me specifically, but there was a general call for ideas at the Beyond the Rails website. I am, if nothing else, perfectly willing to throw out ideas.

My map of changes to Downtown Hopkins.

My map of changes to Downtown Hopkins.

First off, let’s start with the station area, marked by the green train logo on the map. In my vision, there is no parking at all on the south side of Excelsior, just the platform and the “kiss and ride” drop-off lane. This is because the parking ramp for this station is a shared facility for downtown shoppers, marked in red on the map. And while it will be clearly marked, it’s going to be sandwiched inside a new building that will replace the industrial-oriented Johnson building. Those familiar with the Excelsior and Grand development in St. Louis Park have an idea of what I’m proposing.

The tenants of this building are marked in yellow and blue, but the blue may as well overlap on top of the yellow. The yellow is the new location of Driskill’s Foods, brought out from their hiding spot deep in downtown and placed in the perfect location: Easily visible from those who will still drive on Excelsior Boulevard and right next to where the park-and-ride users park. It’s a prime location for a grocery store, directly between the train platform and people’s cars, perfect for people to pick up needed items before taking the last leg of their trip home. There could even be space for Center Drug to move in, and I’m sure that in this location both of these venerable local business would thrive. This is how you use transit to help business.

The blue represents the hotel/apartment/condos that would have their main entrances next to the grocery store, as well as extending to above the retail area. I say apartments or condos because that’s what seems to be going in, but a hotel could be ideal. It would be an excellent place for Cargill to house out-of-town employees in on business, plus it could be an alternative to downtown Minneapolis with the direct line going in to the big city.

And what of the current Driskill’s location, marked here in green? When Hopkins Patch ran a story on the difficulty that Driskill’s has in attracting customers due to their location, there was a suggestion that if they moved it could make way for a natural foods coop. I like that, and with the increasing density in downtown Hopkins (as well as the newer dwellings attracting more affluent and/or more health-conscious residents) we could potentially support a second store providing groceries. The weekly farmer’s market could even move to their parking lot and the two could benefit from the cross promotion.

Finally, marked in purple is a project that I think is worthwhile: A major anchor for downtown shopping. I’ve already outlined this one in a previous blog post, but the short of it is that a Herberger’s or a Hometown Shopko could be a draw for shoppers as both have the experience to pull off smaller-format stores. Hopkins has nice specialty stores, but we residents still have to head to surrounding communities to get much of what we need like men’s clothing or shoes or any number of items that we all hit up places like Target or Macy’s for. I think that the definition of successful adaptation to a transit-oriented lifestyle in downtown Hopkins would be the ability of our residents to make all their normal purchases all within the downtown area.

I’m no developer, but if there’s merit in my vision then I’m freely giving it away. I don’t have the means to build it, but if you do then I assure you that I will be there.

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