A tour of the new Nicollet Exploring downtown Minneapolis' revitalized main street

The new Nicollet is greener, brighter and a friendlier place for pedestrians who stroll down its 12 blocks stretching through the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

The $50 million project is a public-private partnership funded by $25 million in downtown property assessments, $21.5 million in state bonding and $3.5 million from the City of Minneapolis.

Nicollet has been a retail and business hub for the city since 1880s. It was transformed into a pedestrian and transit corridor in 1968 designed by Lawrence Halprin and last renovated in 1991 before this reconstruction project. The project secured state bonding in 2014 after City and business leaders made a successful pitch to state lawmakers about the urgent need for a major overhaul of the mall, which was plagued with cracking granite pavers on the sidewalks and other infrastructure in need of repairs.

A look at the old Nicollet Mall, pre-reconstruction.

James Corner Field Operations, the New York City-based landscape architecture and urban design firm chosen to design the new Nicollet, has delivered on its vision for the project by creating a shining example of a new, modern main street. The firm, which designed New York City's famous High Line elevated park, has partnered with local landscape architecture firm Coen + Partners on the redesign.

More than 250 trees have been planted along Nicollet, along with thousands of ground cover plants -- twice the amount of greening as the old Nicollet Mall. The trees and landscaping are supported by a state-of-the art irrigation system.

Public art also plays a very prominent role on the new Nicollet. Several pieces are returning, including 92 artist-designed manhole covers and the iconic Nicollet Mall Sculpture Clock. Two new signature pieces have arrived -- Ned Kahn's Prairie Tree and Blessing Hancock's Nicollet Lanterns. A third signature piece, Tristan Al-Haddad's Nimbus, will be installed in the spring. The new Nicollet is also much brighter with more than 1,500 programmable LED lights.

Nicollet features five distinct zones: the Loring Woods and Mississippi Woods bookend the south and north ends of the mile-long mall. They are next to the South and North Groves, respectively. Nicollet Center between Sixth and Eighth streets is home to the Light Walk, a trellis of tilted mirrors with programmable lights, and the 12 illuminated Nicollet Lanterns.

Loring Woods

The Loring Woods section of Nicollet on the street's north end.

The Loring Woods section of Nicollet stretches between Grant and 12th streets. It includes the newly expanded Westminster Presbyterian Church featuring a new 40,000 wing designed by James Dayton Design.

The Loring Woods, along with the Mississippi Woods on Nicollet's north end, feature extensive greening. The project team consulted with local tree experts for guidance on tree selection and focused on plants that would thrive in urban conditions and have tolerance to salt, shade and insects, among other things. Most of the trees are Minnesota grown and include a variety of species, such as Swamp White Oak, River Birch, Gray Birch and Serviceberry, among others.

One of the Shadow of Spirits bronze shadows.

Seitu Jones and Tacoumba Aiken's Shadows of Spirits, seven bronze shadows recessed in the pavement, are located between Grant and 11th Street. They are traces of human shadows during the solstices and equinoxes featuring poems by Soyini Guyton honoring historically and culturally significant Minnesota voices.

The distinctive sidewalk pattern found on the south and north ends of Nicollet.

South Groves

Nicollet's South Groves section stretches from Eighth to 12th streets. Highlights include the Reading Room next to the YWCA, a curvilinear bench with three reading lamps between 11th and 12th streets.

The Reading Room outside the YWCA.

The restored Nicollet Scupture Clock at 11th & Nicollet is also a notable attraction. After a long hiatus, the 1968-era clock’s kinetic sculpture is working again. The sculpture is made up of hundreds of moving pieces that twist and turn in a variety of directions. The Sculpture Clock was designed by Jack Nelson, an eclectic artist known for his kinetic pieces.

The Sculpture Clock next to Peavey Plaza.

A team of experts worked on restoring the clock after it was removed from Nicollet Mall in 2015. The restoration was funded in part by a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Artist Ned Kahn's Prairie Tree sculpture is across the street from the Sculpture Clock in front of WCCO-TV at 11th & Nicollet. His sculpture is one of three signature pieces commissioned for the new Nicollet.

Kahn of California also created the Wave, a 60-foot tall by 600-foot kinetic wind sculpture covering a park ramp next to Target Field.

As noted in artist Regina Flanigan's Nicollet Mall public art blog, Kahn's recent work has been focused on large-scale projects inspired by nature. "Using materials such as water, wind, fog and light, I create contemplative oases in urban environments -- places where people can reconnect with the larger forces of nature," Kahn said.

Prairie Tree is intended to be a hybrid between a tree and a field of prairie grasses. The top of the sculpture is covered with anodized aluminum vanes that reflect the changing wind and weather conditions.

Ned Kahn's Prairie Tree sculpture at 11th & Nicollet.

You can find Kate Burke's decorative manhole covers throughout Nicollet. They have been beautifully restored and feature 11 different Minnesota state symbols, including walleye and loons.

One of the 92 artist-designed manhole covers on Nicollet.

You can also find new inviting street-furniture, pieces designed to provide a nostalgic northern Minnesota feel.

One of the movable yellow Nicollet chairs.

Nicollet Center

The center section of Nicollet between Eighth and Sixth streets features some of the redesigned street's most compelling attractions: the Light Walk and the Nicollet Lanterns.

The Light Walk is a two-block-long overhead light installation made up of a series of mirrored fins and programmable LED lights.

The Light Walk stretches between Sixth & Eighth streets on Nicollet.

Artist Blessing Hancock's Nicollet Lanterns, another new piece commissioned for Nicollet, are located across the street from the Light Walk. Twelve illuminated sculptural lanterns feature poems by local writers: Junauda Petrus, Vincent Moniz, Sagirah Shahid and Moheb Soliman.

One of Blessing Hancock's Nicollet Lanterns.

The popular Mary Tyler Moore statue, owned by Viacom, has also returned. The bronze statue pays tribute to the late actress who made Minneapolis famous with her 1970s sitcom, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

The Mary Tyler Moore statue by artist Gwendolyn Gillen.

North Groves

Much like the South Groves, The North Groves between Sixth Street and Fourth Street will feature additional greenery, a Nice Ride station and new multi-use transit shelters.

The section is also home to Stanton Sears' Stone Boats -- abstract boat forms. The granite sculptures are part of the returning art collection on Nicollet.

One of Stanton Sears' Stone Boats near Fifth & Nicollet.

Mississippi Woods

The Mississippi Woods is the northern bookend for Nicollet between Fourth Street and Washington Avenue. Like the Loring Woods on the south, it has more intensive greening.

It will soon be home to the showstopper Nimbus by Tristan Al-Haddad, a sculptural piece that will hang over the Theater in the Round in front of the Minneapolis Central Library between Third and Fourth Streets. It will be installed spring 2018. The cantilevered piece, constructed like an airplane wing, will hover over the sidewalk. Made of weathered steel, it will be lit at night.

An illustration of Nimbus at night.

Kinji Akagawa's Enjoyment of Nature has returned to Nicollet and is now located across from Cancer Survivors Park between Third Street and Washington. The installation includes wooden benches, granite boulders and a water basin. It's designed to encourage downtown workers to slow down and think about nature.

One of the Enjoyment of Nature benches on the north end of Nicollet.

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