Workers began installing 19 trees on both sides of 4th St between Division and Washington this week, part of the 4th St. reconstruction project. The trees (Autumn Maples, I think) are much taller than I expected, taller than the ones installed on 5th St. last year (right photo).
The Northfield Historical Society is recommending that the two ash trees (see photo above with red arrows) in front of the Scriver Building (its headquarters and museum) be removed.
The issue was on the agenda at last week’s Council meeting. See p. 42-52 of the July 20 packet (PDF). From the packet:
NHS is initiating a project to increase the accessibility of the Scriver Building by installing an elevator in the alley behind the stair tower that opens onto Bridge Square. The elevator will provide ADA access to all three levels of the building. Currently the accessible entrance to the building is off of Division Street. However, this enters into the Museum proper and does not allow access to other floors of the building.
To make the elevator ADA accessible they are proposing to use half of the sidewalk in front of the building to construct a ramp to allow access to the elevator from the stair well. Other options were explored but were not feasible due to physical constraints of the building. Drawings showing the proposal are attached. Currently the sidewalk in this location is about 12 feet wide. The proposed improvements would use 5-6 feet of this width leaving 6-7 feet for the pedestrian access route if additional width for pedestrians is not provided.
Here are six more photos of the area in front of the Scriver Building.
I’m trying to understand the rationale for the removal of the trees since ADA standards would still be met after the ramp was built.
Update July 29 7:05 am: photo of the access at the Holland Block at 5th and Division:
After a presentation at the Council meeting by NHS Executive Director Hayes Scriven and SMSQ architect Steve Wilmot, much of the Council discussion was about the removal of the trees. It ultimately voted 6-1 (Pokorney opposed) to approve the resolution to begin negotiations for the right-of-way (ROW). Here’s the video of the discussion:
Knecht said that there are varieties of trees that can do reasonably well in an environment where buildings block the sun and bedrock limits root growth. I distributed a printout of the above photo from 2008, showing that the current trees, although tilted and stunted in some cases, still did a reasonably good job for 30 years.
Councilor Rhonda Pownell made a motion to rescind her vote on last week’s Council decision to accept Streetscape Option 1 (“Small planters along 4th Street curb line, provision for hanging baskets on decorative light poles, no bump-outs or large-scale planters” – Page 27 of packet PDF) since it didn’t include trees. Jim Pokorney seconded.
I was impressed with the subsequent Council discussion. Some councilors were reluctant to rescind because it could delay the whole project. Others were understandably reluctant to get involved in this level of detail. They considered the pros and cons of sending the design to the Streetscape Task Force. Several times, they asked for input from City Engineer Katy Gehler and City Attorney Chris Hood. Mayor Mary Rossing did a masterful job of keeping the discussion on track, helping with the language of various motions, and making sure to get input from everyone.
In the end, they voted unanimously to accept the 4th St. plan but they then followed it by passing another motion, again unanimously, directing city staff to incorporate as many trees as possible into the sidewalk areas.