New paved path connects Cedar-Riverside to downtown Mpls.

Minneapolis CIty Council member Abdi Warsame cuts the ribbon.
Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame cuts the ribbon as city leaders and residents celebrated the opening of the Samatar Crossing Thursday, a new pedestrian and biking trail connecting the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood with downtown Minneapolis.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

A new bike and pedestrian path that opened in Minneapolis Thursday is designed to connect communities — and it's named for a civic leader who did the same.

Samatar Crossing, in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, is named after the late Hussein Samatar, the first Somali-American elected official in Minneapolis. City leaders gathered to celebrate the completion of a project that mirrors his work in the community.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, right, hugs Ubah Jama.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, right, hugs Ubah Jama, the widow of Hussein Samatar.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

"This is a beautiful day," said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, "and you know it's been over four years in the making."

Frey said the project, a paved pedestrian and bike path straight into downtown, honors bridge building, which Samatar did figuratively. "Now this is doing it literally," Frey said.

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"This is connecting the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to downtown. This is saying to our Somali population, to our new Americans, 'Yes, you are part of this city. You matter and we want you here.'"

Samatar was a civil war refugee who came to Minnesota as part of the first wave of Somali immigrants. He served on the Minneapolis School Board until he died in 2013. He was a business leader and a Somali-American political pioneer.

Pedestrians and bikers try out the new Samatar Crossing trail.
Pedestrians and bikers try out the new Samatar Crossing trail into downtown Minneapolis following it's dedication.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame said Samatar was an inspiration to many East African immigrants, including himself. The crossing that bears his name will benefit residents of the neighborhood.

"The community here did not want more cars or more vehicles that would directly impact the only green space that they have in Currie Park," Warsame said. "They wanted to connect to downtown, but to connect to downtown on their own terms."

The path, which replaces the old Fifth Street ramp, connects neighborhoods that had been divided by the highway. Landscaping and lighting make the two neighborhoods seem much closer than before.

Hussein Samatar's widow, Ubah Jama, and her son Harun Samatar
Hussein Samatar's widow, Ubah Jama, and her son Harun Samatar, 19, walk along the new bike and pedestrain path dedicated to Jama's late husband.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Samatar's widow, Ubah Jama, said she continues to grieve the loss of her husband. But it was an honor to see a city landmark named after him.

"His positive energy, dedication and sense of helping others were remarkable," she said. "Hussein loved this community. He was passionate about uplifting people and connecting communities."

Council Member Steve Fletcher lives just a few blocks away in a different ward. Instead of an unfriendly, difficult walk between the two neighborhoods, he said, people now have better access to places like Gold Medal Park, U.S. Bank Stadium and the amenities of Cedar-Riverside.

"And it's for all of us," Fletcher said. "We're going to use it together, and I'm thrilled that we're coming together and the border between our wards just got a lot narrower."

Hussein Samatar's widow Uma Jama, right, receives a hug from Suad Omar.
Hussein Samatar's widow Ubah Jama, right, receives a hug from Suad Omar, her friend of 21 years. Omar came to Minneapolis to offer support when Jama's husband was ill, and moved to the city from California to be near her friend soon after.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

The city is planning to add more landscaping and art along the path. It has issued a call for artists and is looking for three to collaborate on the design.