Park Board staff presented a draft of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan to the board earlier this month. The plan, once approved, will guide decades of improvements and development to parkland between downtown and Northeast Minneapolis.
Perhaps the simplest task in the plan, a name change to St. Anthony Falls Regional Park, is also a symbolic gesture. The draft calls on planning agencies to improve residents’ and travelers’ physical and historical connections to the river and, by extension, the falls.
“We have a really magnificent park, but it needs additional investments, like improving connections to the river, completing trails along the river, providing places to warm up, adding bathrooms and further enhancing the visitors’ experience,” said Ted Tucker, chairman of the project’s 19-member Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), at the board’s Dec. 17 meeting.
Park staff will accept comments on the plan until Jan. 18, 2015 and host a public hearing with the Park Board’s planning committee Feb. 4. The Park Board is expected to vote on the plan Feb. 18. Staff plan to get Metropolitan Council approval by May 2015.
The 142-page master plan draft is a result of more than two years of planning, meetings and discussions between community members, local leaders and park staff. It will update the 1982 master plan in guiding the Park Board and other agencies to invest and improve for the area’s parkland for years.
The plan includes a few major goals, including establishing a continuous bicycle and pedestrian trail system on both side of the river, incorporating “green” infrastructure and restoring natural landscapes into new projects and furthering connections to riverfront parkland to downtown and Northeast Minneapolis.
The CAC produced a video that features interviews with members on each of the plan’s study areas that help sum up issues and opportunities. A few of the draft’s projects include:
Gateway District: The plan calls on the Downtown Council to convert some of the area’s many surface parking areas into green space in order to better establish a gateway between the city and the riverfront parkland. Another opportunity exists with connecting US Postal Service’s Post Office Loggia and Mezzanine and Hennepin Avenue by expanding the area’s parkland in order to improve access to the river. CAC member Michael Rainville said in the video that many visitors don’t know how to find their way to the river.
Gorge Entry: The plan calls on partnering agencies to build an $8 million “marsupial bridge” for pedestrians under the I-35W bridge. It also includes plans to acquire CenterPoint property to establish a continuous park and trail system.
Basset Creek: The plan recommends the Park Board to acquire a large riverfront space in the North Loop neighborhood currently owned by the Star Tribune. CAC member Jo Vos said some visitors trespass over this space and acquiring it would be a gateway for the neighborhood.
Mill Ruins Park: Mill Ruins Park would see a huge number of park improvements under the plan.
The plan identifies the need for a visitor center near this tourist-heavy area. Tucker said a possible location could be near the west end of the Stone Arch Bridge where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ closed lock and a related facility currently sit.
He also said the Mill City Museum could be connected to the river and parkland.
Another major project could be developing a park building that would serve as a central point between downtown and the parkland. The structure would facilitate park guests and the plan anticipates it would host food concessions, restrooms, indoor and outdoor patios and an outfitting shop.
The plan also recommends the removal of the Fuji-ya building to expose the ruins.
Nicollet Island: The plan recommends a general goal of returning Nicollet Island Pavilion and Park, a major private event space, back to the public, which would also improve the number of public restrooms in the area. The current building is under lease through 2026.
The plan also calls for a “Green Street Loop” with a shared bicycle and roadway circulation along Island Avenue and Merriam Street, and to convert Power Street into a decorative woonerf, or a shared, multi-modal facility.
Father Hennepin Bluffs Park and Hennepin Island: The plan recommends re-establishing the historic East Falls. It also calls for more naturalized habitat on parkland.
Main Street: The CAC wants to see connections between Main Street and Marshall Avenue corridor, in addition to a roadway between East Hennepin Avnue and 1st Avenue NE. The plan also recommends a parkway that could include bike and pedestrian trails separated by a median from the road. It also calls for a performance and event space under the Third Avenue Bridge.
Parks within the plan include Boom Island, BF Nelson, Nicollet Island, Main Street, Father Hennepin Bluffs, Lucy Wilder Morris, Stone Arch Bridge, Mill Ruins, West River Parkway and First Bridge Park.
The current draft of the master plan is available online. Hard copies are available at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (2117 West River Rd. N), Mill City Museum (704 South 2nd St.) or Logan Park Recreation Center (690 13th Ave. NE).
Readers can make comments online.
Images from Park Board, Minneapolis Park Foundation and the SAFRP CAC.