It took a whole lot of imagination a decade ago to look east and west from the foot of the Northstar Bridge and think “parkway.”
To the west was a concrete plant that sprawled from beneath the Highway 169 bridge to a city water-treatment lime pit in the distance — dozens of acres of crumbling industrial buildings, a 110-foot-high ready-mix building, gravel lots, concrete pads, scattered tile and other unsold inventory from the century-old manufacturer.
To the east was a maze of sheds, garages, warehouses and more gravel lots. There was virtually nothing green in a nearly mile-long stretch of city that was to become — in the promises of private developers and city officials — a greenway.
Five years after the road called “Sibley Parkway” was completed, the broader greenway is far from finished but picking up some momentum. A four-story 60-unit apartment building that opened in January of 2012 was the first development to take the plunge. Several of what are expected to be 24 townhomes will be constructed on another parcel this summer. And an even larger apartment building, which is clearly designed to appeal to tenants interested in scenery, is tentatively planned for what was once perhaps the least scenic place in Mankato.
“I, probably along with many others, think the Minnesota River is just a great feature and asset here in Mankato and that we just under-utilize it,” said Justin Jackson, the developer of the new apartment building.
Jackson said he’s still determining the financial feasibility of the project, looking in particular at the cost of dealing with questionable soil conditions on the proposed location at the corner of Sibley Parkway and Rogers Street — the closest parcel to Sibley Park. If the project goes forward, its design is all about focusing on the river, the parkway and the large city park that will border it.