September 20 2012

Why You Should Care About New Design Guidelines in the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Zone, Minneapolis, Minnesota

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, new design guidelines are being recognized to preserve the context and character of the historic heart of the city.  Following an extensive public hearing period and intensive research, these guidelines express value systems surrounding such notions as streetscape, access to the Mississippi River, potential archaeological remains, views, and the historic integrity of the built environment.

St Anthony Falls Historic DistrictThe guidelines go into affect in late September 2012 following a review by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission. The guidelines are intended to serve stewardship goals of the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Zone, a historic industrial area key to the establishment and growth of one of the premiere cities in the greater Midwest.  As the only falls on the entire Mississippi River, this area was regarded as significant to Native Americans predating western expansion.  By the beginning of the 19th Century, the power of these falls was being harnessed for timber and a century later important for milling and hydroelectricity.

The character of this small area, adjacent to the present day commercial downtown, is a mix of cultural landscapes reflecting the industrial past, the natural ecology of the river’s edge, and modern-day residential and cultural centers. Maintaining the historic character of the neighborhood, while promoting the evolution of urban design principles, is the main driver for the reconsideration of the Design Guidelines, first adopted in the 1980′s.

The new design guidelines are built on a foundation of preserving authenticity and connectivity, maintaining functionality and durability, and acknowledging the innovation and simplicity of design characteristic to the area.Chart to determine which of the Design Guidelines apply to any particular project

Framers of the plan constructed the guidelines around the concept of “designing in context“ as they encourage new development to consider the district, the subarea, and the immediate surroundings.  To more fully articulate the complexity of such a rich landscape, the Heritage Zone is separated into ten “character areas” each reflecting different uses, histories, and contexts. The Guidelines provide instruction on vernacular landscapes and buildings, on the utilization of appropriate materials, and on preserving views and open spaces.

These new guidelines are intended to preserve the experiential quality of the historic context while reflecting changes and contemporary uses.  How important is it for cities to maintain their identification with the past?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Matthew Traucht

Matthew Traucht graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and is now pursuing his Master of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. Inspired by the work he was doing as an archaeologist in New Mexico where he studied prehistoric lifeways and preindustrial agricultural techniques; Matthew established an organic farm business. Eventually this led him to join the US Peace Corps where he served as a Natural Resources Volunteer in The Gambia from 2007-2009. For the last five years he has been blogging about some of his observations about the interactions between nature and culture, most recently on Desire Lines. Now, as a graduate student, Matthew is interested in sustainable communities, brownfield remediation, and historic cultural landscape preservation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 6:31 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, History/Preservation, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Why You Should Care About New Design Guidelines in the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Zone, Minneapolis, Minnesota”

  1. Brownfields on the River’s Edge: Minnesota and the Mississippi | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    [...] Twin Cities are built upon industry from the early mills for timber and grain refining in the St. Anthony Falls area, to the recently closed Ford Automotive Plant near downtown St. Paul. Besides these, many [...]

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