We want to ‘super-size’ Mn/DOT’s landscape plan for Lilac Way.

Mn/DOT has planted 9,142 lilac bushes and 250 Japanese tree lilacs along Lilac Way, as part of a major landscape project that included more than 2,700 trees and 18,100 shrubs.

That sounds like a lot of lilacs. But we need more.

This Campaign wants to help restore Lilac Way to its original glory by planting 3000 additional lilacs.

We all know that State funding is very tight now, especially for landscaping projects. That’s why we will be asking the community to help fund this worthy Campaign.

Did you know that Mn/DOT has already:

  1. Designed an historically-sensitive landscape plan as part of the reconstruction of Highway 100 into a six-lane freeway.

  2. Listened as many citizens voiced their interest in preserving the original lilacs at public meetings.

  3. Protected hundreds of lilacs planted in the late 1930s in their original locations, and worked with the Mosaic Youth Center in north Minneapolis to transplant more than 500 of the original ‘vintage’ lilacs to new Highway 100 locations in Brooklyn Center and Robbinsdale.

  4. Produced a documentary film recalling the creation of Highway 100 and its famous ‘Lilac Way.’ Created in partnership with Twin Cities Public Television, it premiered at the Minnesota History Center and later aired on TPT. The film described how Lilac Way was the largest WPA (Works Progress Administration) project created in Minnesota by the Roosevelt Administration.

  5. Preserved the materials and history of the original Lilac Way during reconstruction whenever possible.

Keeping watch over Lilac Way

Since 2000, Patti Strohmayer, Mn/DOT Landscape Design Specialist, has been working with the Golden Valley Construction Office in the design and installation of landscaping for Lilac Way.

Patti grew up nearby and is proud of what Mn/DOT was able to accomplish partnering with local city governments and citizen groups. “I’m glad that restoration efforts will continue and that I can be a part of it”.

Preserving living history

According to Mn/DOT’s Paul Walvatne, moving (transplanting) existing shrubs is rarely done by Mn/DOT since it is typically more cost-effective to plant 2-3' tall bare-root shrubs and let them continue to grow. In the case of Lilac Way, moving those 60+ year old lilacs saved part of the area’s history. By partnering with the adjacent Cities, the costs for moving and maintaining the vintage plants compared favorably to starting with new plants.

Paul credits the 1930s vision of A.R. Nichols, Mn/DOT’s (then Minnesota Highway Department) landscape architect, for the first ‘lilac way’ in the country. Nichols wanted to create an attraction that would draw visitors to Minneapolis, much like the cherry blossoms attract visitors to Washington, D.C. each spring.

Walvatne described Nichols as ahead of his time. “He would have fit right into the way we work today, incorporating landscape design elements into projects, “ he said.

Mn/DOT’s Lilac Way Restoration Receives Recognition

In 2003, Mn/DOT was rewarded when their Lilac Way project was recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

According to AASHTO, “The partnerships that developed with communities, citizens and local organizations resulted in unique solutions, strengthened working relationships and paved the way to more pleasing, mutually acceptable facilities that will leave a lasting legacy.”

Lilac Way was selected as an AASHTO Legacy Project for its place-sensitive design, strong historic and cultural preservation effort, and extensive community involvement.