The much ballyhooed improvements at the Minnesota State Fair fairgrounds west end has one significant flaw: It’s lack of a functioning design and character.
The West End Market itself is ok. Nothing to get overly excited about, but it is new and will evolve. I am willing to give that time. The newly installed transit hub and gate, however, is inexcusable and needs to be reworked right after the last pronto pup is sold.
The new West End Transit Hub and Gate doesn’t welcome visitors, it insults them. In fact, it goes out of the way to cast its insult.
Whether you choose one of the increasingly popular park-and-ride shuttles that the transit hub serves or park your car in one of the area parking lots, you will encounter the same bleak stretch of steaming asphalt — acres of it — and see the colorless, drab ticket office far off on the horizon.
The lot and entrance is void of character, color, and interest. There is no shade, only asphalt, and given that this is a new design, there still are long lines; you might think they would have worked out the logistics of getting tickets to visitors a bit faster, especially if the fair expects them to stand under a glaring sun inhaling bus diesel while waiting their turn.
Eliminating the Dan Patch entrance shows the extra effort the fair seems to have put on making getting into the fair so miserable. Dan Patch was a comfortable walk down Commonwealth Avenue on the south side of the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota. Bicyclists, too, could get close to the fair at a much more conveniently located bike corral. Now they have to navigate the bus traffic and find the new location before facing the 300 yards of bleak asphalt.
Why can’t that broad apron of asphalt be broken with islands of trees or a pedestrian walkway? And the gate itself could use trees or shelter of some sort.
On Dan Patch, a couple of pedestrian bridges to go the flow of traffic that turns on to Randall Avenue en route to the awful new entrance, would have been thoughtful and prudent.
I know the lot has been there for years. It wasn’t much to look at in the past. But when you have a chance to make something better, don’t make it worse. Especially if it costs money to do so!