The Land of 10,000 Lakes – a term most often used to describe the state of Minnesota. It was, however, the almighty Mississippi River that encouraged the formation and development of Minnesota’s more prominent cities – Minneapolis being one of them. The River put Minneapolis on the map by becoming the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.” By 1890, most of the riverfront upstream from St. Anthony Falls, around the Mills, (currently downtown center) was completely industrialized.
In recent years, the once industrial and manufacturing landscape has become a major epicenter and effective setting for urban revitalization and community-based, contemporary and ecological projects. Private entities have already taken notice of the riverfront’s potential on property values and the industrial landscape is being eradicated via new condominiums. However, it is the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB), in conjunction with public/private partnerships, that have spearheaded ecological, historical, and cultural projects for public use:
● Water Works: The envisioned four-season park will provide connection and access for visitors to the river via historical, recreational, and cultural activities. The park will include: buildings, which will act as a park pavilion with sweeping views of the river; access to the mill tunnels situated 25 feet below the ground; a new plan for West River Parkway that might include a shared street system; a skating area in the winter; and access to underground mill ruins, which would serve as historical rooms;
● Above the Falls Master Plan (ATF): The plan calls for the rejuvenation of the once predominantly industrial land via a mix of land uses consisting of recreational trails, stormwater management, improved access to the river, and gateways;
● RiverFIRST Initiative: In partnership with the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Parks Foundation, this multi-modal initiative consists of 5.5 miles of riverfront. RiverFIRST builds upon the ATF plan and will entail walking and biking trails, three new multifunctional parks, and multiple local and regional connections to the river;
● In addition, the MPRB just recently acquired valuable riverfront property. The once manufacturing facility is within the limits of the Above the Falls Regional Park and RiverFIRST initiative, which will help with the long-term vision of utilizing the land for public use through the creation of trail and park spaces in the heart of the once industrial Northeast Minneapolis.
Through urban planning, the MPRB has a vision to transform this industrial landscape into a culturally and historically dynamic platform for public use, but the long-term journey has only begun. The initiatives will require private/public partnerships and investments in order to turn this vision into a reality.
That being said, how can future riverfront redevelopment projects maintain their historical and cultural heritage; encouraging a distinctive sense of place from what remains? Keeping that in mind, what are some key features to creating a more accessible and connected riverfront?
Credits: Data linked to sources. Water Works Images Courtesy MS & R Architects. River First Images Courtesy TLS/KVA.