Monthly Archives: February 2011


The following article by Tom Meersman was published in the February 11, 2011 edition of the StarTribune:

TLS/KVA illustration, Dml –
One of the winning team’s ideas to spruce up the riverfront.


A team from the East and West coasts is the winner of the design competition to guide development on the north Minneapolis frontage of the Mississippi River.

A 13-person jury of elected officials and design professionals announced on Thursday that it had selected the team of Tom Leader Studio of Berkeley, Calif., and Kennedy & Violich Architecture of Boston from four finalists.

The team’s proposals will guide future development along 5 1/2 miles of river corridor from the Stone Arch Bridge north to the city limits. The area contains about 22 acres of parkland, but much of the corridor is owned and used by businesses and industries.

Interstate 94 also parallels the river, forming a barrier between it and north Minneapolis neighborhoods.

The team will receive a financial commission that’s yet to be determined.

One of the competition’s goals was to bring forth new ideas for connecting north and northeast Minneapolis with the river and to identify strategic sites for possible parks, green corridors and open spaces.

Jury chairman Thomas Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, said the winning team presented a pragmatic set of plans.

“They had quite a bit about strategy about how to mix private development with a park, how we might mix open space and employment, and how we might reuse some facilities on the river for green jobs and new employment,” Fisher said.

The winning team is made up of 14 additional firms, including nine Minnesota partners.
The next step is to form a steering committee to identify and begin discussing a major river-related project that could be built within five years, Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller said.

More information about the TLS/KVA proposal, and what the other three competing firms suggested, is online at

Winning design for Minneapolis riverfront brings people to water's edge

The following article by Steve Berg was published on on February 11, 2011:

Winning design for Minneapolis riverfront brings people to water’s edge

Courtesy of TLS/KVAImage from the winning riverfront design.

Of the thousands of miles of waterfront in Minnesota none are more oddly obscure than the banks of the Mississippi River in North and Northeast Minneapolis. It’s safe to say that most residents are barely aware that one of the world’s great rivers flows nearby, largely because its shoreline is obscured by a barricade of factories, scrap yards and industrial loading docks, forming a kind of “keep out” zone.

But all that will change over the next 30 years if the city follows the winning plan in a design competition that drew a surprising crush of attention. Tom Leader Studio of Berkeley, Calif., and Kennedy & Violich Architecture of Boston were announced on Thursday as the winning design team, beating out other finalists from Beijing, Boston and New York. Initially, 55 teams from 14 countries had entered the competition to imagine a better future for the 11 miles of upper river shoreline.

In the end the right team was selected. While Turenscape of Beijing dazzled the overflow crowd of 600 two weeks ago at the Walker Art Center, it was the Leader/KVA presentation that showed the greatest insight into the river’s potential — as a generator of new development, as a connector and convener of existing neighborhoods, and as a teacher of sorts that might inspire future generations to respect the river’s beauty, history and environmental value.

Going with the flow
The team’s greatest wish is to bring people to the water’s edge, Leader said. “The river now is a lonely place; a place that’s largely unknown,” he said. “At first we were looking for a big feature to put along the river. Then we realized that the river was the big feature. If we put the river first, everything else would follow.”

“Our idea works with the land and water, not against it,” said Sheila Kennedy, a principal of KVA.

More than the other finalists, the Leader/KVA team seemed to understand the importance of not just design but local relationships. Kennedy, especially, was a tireless researcher in the political and social eccentricities of Minneapolis, while Leader immersed himself into the local culture and Juan Frano Violich help to recruit 120 local advisers. Team members walked the entire shoreline — and said they were nearly arrested for trespassing as they hopped over fences to catch a closer view of the river.

Their ideas are best captured in their presentation and video. But here’s a brief summary of how the river might look by mid-century if their recommendations fall into place:

• In North Minneapolis, Farview Park, on Lyndale Avenue and 26th Street, would be extended eastward over the Interstate 94 freeway to the river’s edge. The park would include extensive urban agriculture, including fields, orchards and a farmers’ market.

• Just to the south, River City, a new medical and smart-tech center would develop along the east side of 94, along the river’s edge.

• Two miles upriver, the current Port of Minneapolis would be transformed into Green Port, specializing in eco-friendly products such as sustainable fertilizers and road salts.

• Tree-lined bike trails and walking paths would run along the river’s edge, softening the landscape between industrial, recreational, office and other uses. “Clip-on bridges” and stairways would be attached to car bridges to allow pedestrians to move upward from the river’s edge to river crossings. These connections would become part of the city’s Grand Rounds park system.

• Wetlands and inlets would be restored as filters for storm-water runoff and habitat for wildlife. “Biohavens” would be constructed on the river itself to provide habitat for migrating birds. Floating islands would absorb pollution and help to clean the river. Kayaking, canoeing and fishing would be encouraged, as would winter activities like skating and cross-country skiing.

• Commercial and mixed-use clusters would develop at bridgeheads, Some industrial buildings would be converted to live-work quarters.

• A public beach and housing would be developed on the site of the old Scherer Bros. lumberyard near the foot of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge in Northeast. The beach would also include a heated pool and offer stunning skyline views.

• A major downtown park, Library Square, at the Hennepin-Washington intersection would extend the riverfront into the heart of the central business district.

If the plan has a shortcoming it’s a lack of housing. Adding population as well as jobs is one of the city’s major goals. It hopes that a cleaner, more attractive upper river will be a catalyst for housing and commercial development in parts of the city that have been long neglected.

If built, the plan would take decades to complete and require immense cooperation from riverside industries. No price tag was placed on the project and no funding plan was identified, although the Leader/KVA plan expects that federal, state, local and private money will be involved, and that revenue from many riverside activities could be used to maintain the parks.

Vision is important
“How we get this done is a tough question,” Mayor R.T. Rybak acknowledged at Thursday’s announcement. “But for generations we’ve had big visions in Minneapolis. And just because these are difficult times doesn’t mean we should stop, because when you no longer have great visions that’s the moment you’re no longer a great city.”

Patrick Seeb, director of the St. Paul Riverfront Corp., said he was impressed with the proposal but cautioned that redeveloping away from downtown near struggling residential neighborhoods would be difficult. “Downtown was the low-hanging fruit,” he said, referring to riverfront revival in both cities.

Minneapolis Parks Superintendent Jayne Miller said the next step will be to form a steering committee to, among other things, select a first project within the plan, one that could be started within the next five years. That decision is expected in June.


The following MPRB news release was issued on February 4, 2011


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is now in the process of establishing a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) to identify a site for a dog off-leash recreation area in the Sixth Park District of the Minneapolis park system. The new CAC will study three sites on the eastern side of the Sixth Park District, the section of the city located south of Lake Street and west of I-35W. The formation of the CAC was approved by the Board at its February 2 board meeting.

The three sites identified for study include two sites in Lyndale Park adjacent to Lake Harriet and an area east of King’s Highway within the perimeter wall of the MPRB’s Southside Operations Center. Dr. Martin Luther King Park will not be in consideration as a site for the dog park.

The CAC will study these sites and recommend a location and design to the Board. The Board has asked that the CAC report back within six weeks after its first meeting.

The committee will consist of nineteen appointed members and be guided by an independent facilitator with the assistance of MPRB staff. Commissioners John Erwin, Bob Fine and Annie Young, the three at-large park commissioners, along with the Commissioner Brad Bourn, who represents the Sixth Park District, will each appoint a representative to the committee.

Other CAC members will be appointed by area neighborhood associations and groups with an interest in the location of the new dog park. These include the Kingfield Dogpark Taskforce (1 representative), Citizens in Action for Martin Luther King (1 representative), Kingfield Neighborhood Association (2 representatives), East Harriet Neighborhood Association (2 representatives), Tangletown Neighborhood Association (2 representatives), Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association (2 representatives), Lakewood Cemetery (1 representative), a Latino organization to be identified (1 representative), and the 2000 Sixth District Off-leash Study Group (1 representative). In addition, the CAC will include one representative for the Robert’s Bird Sanctuary and another for the Peace / Perennial Garden.

The CAC will be empowered and encouraged to identify and incorporate stakeholders in the public participation process. The committee will be encouraged to look for underrepresented neighborhoods and cultural and socioeconomic groups who should be engaged in the process.

The committee is expected to begin meeting in late February or early March. Construction of the new dog park is expected to be completed in July or August of this year.

Further information about the Sixth District Dog Off-Leash Area CAC will be available beginning March 11 at

Related File: Maps of Three Study Sites

February 9, 2011 M P R B Committee Of The Whole Meeting


The meeting, which will not be televised, is open to the public. It will be held at Park Board headquarters in the Minnehaha Room next to the Board Room and will begin at 5:00 pm.

Study/Report topics will be:

1. Park Conservancy model–Tupper Thomas

2. Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition update–Mary deLaittre

3. Volunteer and Community Partnership–Michelle Kellogg

The complete agenda can be viewed at



The meeting, which will not be televised, is open to the public. It will be held at Park Board headquarters in the Minnehaha Room next to the Board Room and will begin at 5:00 pm.

Study/Report topics will be:

1. Park Conservancy model–Tupper Thomas

2. Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition update–Mary deLaittre

3. Volunteer and Community Partnership–Michelle Kellogg

The complete agenda can be viewed at


The following article by Nick Halter was published on February 3, 2011 at


After months of passionate debate that culminated in angry outbursts in January, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board last night eliminated the possibility of an off-leash dog park at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

The nine-member board voted unanimously to find a new spot for a dog park in the Sixth Park District before this summer. The board voted to create a 19-member Citizens Advisory Committee that will choose one of three possible sites.

— In Lyndale Park on 1.13 acres of land just north of the Peace Garden.

— In Lyndale Park on .91 acres of land where there is currently a parking lot near Lake Harriet.

— On 0.42 acres of land in Lyndale Farmstead Park where there is currently a parking lot.

The Park Board, in its resolution, asked that the CAC “identify and incorporate other stakeholders in the public participation process.”

“The CAC is encouraged to look for underrepresented neighborhoods, cultural, and socioeconomic groups who may not feel engaged in the process,” the resolution stated.

A group of mostly black and mostly elderly citizens have protested the idea of putting an off-leash dog area in a park dedicated to King’s legacy. Many of them attended last night’s meeting.

Absent were Kingfield Dog Park Task Force members who have worked for two years to find a site for an off-leash dog area in their district. They believed that putting a dog park at King Park would have brought the community together and used space that was a common place for drug deals and prostitution and turned it into a gathering place.

Brad Bourn, the Sixth District Commissioner, wrote the resolution. The resolution asked that the park be opened in 2011. The Park Board has already set aside $32,500 for an off-leash dog area in the district. The Sixth has a high density of permitted dogs but is the only district without a dog park.

The Resolution requires that the CAC meet with the Park Board 45 days after its first meeting.


The following article by Randy Furst was published in the February 3, 2011 edition of the Star Tribune following the February 2 Park Board meeting:


Bowing to intense opposition from the black community, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Martin Luther King Park from consideration as a site for an off-leash dog park.

The vote culminated six months of controversy that pitted mostly white dog owners who wanted a fenced area where their dogs could run free against older black residents who said a dog park would be disrespectful to the memory of the slain civil rights leader.

The board’s vote also authorized the creation of a 19-member citizens advisory committee to examine three other sites in the city’s sixth park district in south Minneapolis for consideration as alternatives. They include two locations in Lyndale Park along Roseway Road that leads to Lake Harriet and a site in an enclosed parking area that has been part of the park board’s south side operations center.

Board President John Erwin, who said last month that he would oppose the dog park at King Park, said he would like the city to break ground this summer on a dog park in the sixth district.

“There are moments that challenge how we think about race,” Erwin said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I did not expect a debate over a dog park would be one of those moments.”

Brad Bourn, the board’s sixth district commissioner, made the motion to create the advisory committee to examine the three other options and remove King Park as an option.

The committee was encouraged to identify other “stakeholders” in the issue and “look for under-represented neighborhoods, cultural and socioeconomic groups who may not feel engaged in this process.”

Bourn said he had seen the rift the issue had created in the community, and he said both sides had made valid arguments. However, he said he was disappointed by remarks that referred to violence.

His proposal authorizes the committee to report back to the board in 45 days.
The committee includes a member of the Kingfield Dog Park Task Force, which advocated a dog park at King, and a member of the Citizens Action for Martin Luther King, which opposed the dog park there.

The dispute over the proposal for a dog park at King erupted last summer to the surprise of dog owners in the neighborhood, who had worked for a year on the project.The opposition was led by older blacks who lived through or had been active in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and cherish the park as a memorial to King, who was assassinated in 1968. Some of the opponents of the dog park attended the 1970 ceremony when the park was dedicated.

Opponents felt a dog park at the site would demean the memory of King because of the waste dogs would leave. They also have vivid recollections of the use of dogs by police departments in the South to try to control black protesters.

Advocates for a dog park at the site said they believed it would encourage intermingling among people of different races, in keeping with King’s dream of racial harmony.

About two dozen mostly black opponents of a dog park at King attended Wednesday’s meeting. It did not appear that any of those who originally advocated for a dog park there were in attendance.

After the meeting, Charles Mays, who worked full time for the NAACP in the 1960s and 1970s, said: “We’re very pleased” with the board’s action. He said he was glad a member of the committee that fought the dog park at King Park was included on the new advisory committee.

Also at the meeting was Virginia Richardson, the widow of Sam Richardson, who as president of the Minneapolis NAACP proposed in 1968 that the park be renamed for King. Also there was Sandra Richardson, their daughter, who said she was happy with the decision.

The board last year approved money to upgrade the park, and Richardson said she was excited by the opportunity to make the park “a living memorial to King, reflecting Dr. King’s legacy in civil rights, organizing and social practice.”

Our Community Can Rise to the Challenge: Rebuilding Relationships Across Race and Generational Divide

The following statement by Eighth Ward Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden was posted January 26, 2011 on the Kingfield Neighborhood Association’s website:

Our Community Can Rise to the Challenge: Rebuilding Relationships Across Race and Generational Divide

As we know, a proposed dog park at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park has been a catalyst for painful discussions of race and neighborhood history. For neighbors of the 8th Ward, which includes areas in south Minneapolis bordering I-35W, issues of race, class, and geography often underlie public and private dialogue. The nature and passion of the discussion, and inability of many on both sides to understand each other’s point of view, let alone agree on solutions, has heightened the racial divide exposed in our community.

Throughout the difficult public conversation, many core members of the organized groups supporting or opposing a dog park at King Park have taken care to reflect their passionate views in a civil and respectful way, each advocating their positive vision for the park. Unfortunately, some individuals from the broader community have made comments that are offensive, hurtful and sometimes even violent, while community blogs and on-line message boards have included some harsh and inappropriate comments that have heightened the ugly rhetoric and done nothing to heal this wound in our community. I do not condone these irresponsible and incendiary remarks.
Just this weekend, the Park Board President announced that Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Park will no longer be considered as a potential dog park site. It is my hope that the community I love can now focus on how we move forward together. I believe we must do so on several fronts.

First, we must address, not ignore, the community divide highlighted by our discussion of a dog park at Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. While the dog park has been a focus of discussion, it did not cause these feelings of racial difference and divide – rather, it provided an opportunity to talk about issues of race in sometimes unpleasant ways.

Neighbors can, and have, already begun healing and relationship-building on their own blocks and in their neighborhoods. The Park Board has hosted one public meeting and will host two more on how to better honor Dr King at Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. One resident wrote of her common sense step of “tuning out” the media and politicians and talking to her neighbors. And, a group of residents in neighboring communities — including dog park proponents and opponents — have been meeting since November to discuss the need for ongoing community dialogue on race and neighborhood history. I want to thank the many neighbors who have had courageous conversations about race, at their own initiative and at meetings convened by others. And, I join with a group of neighbors who will soon invite the broader community to join us in a community dialogue on race and neighborhood history.

As a resident within one block of the park, with years-long relationships with dog park supporters and opponents, this racially-charged dialogue has been particularly painful. My conversations with neighbors about this topic have universally been long and packed with historical learning. And yet, so many neighbors have expressed a desire to explore their own feelings about race, to confront and better understand our history and the life experiences of our neighbors of different ages, cultures, and race.

Second, I believe it is important that the challenge of finding a location for a dog park in the 6th Park District remain a focus for the Park Board in cooperation with the community. I want thank the Kingfield Dog Park Task Force for championing the need for a dog park within the 6th Park District and highlighting the many community benefits a dog park can bring. The “process” has not been kind to core members of this group. This group of volunteers was asked to identify a site for a potential dog park, then engaged in over a year of work that has resulted in no dog park yet.

Today, the 6th Park District is the only remaining area without a dog park. While I am encouraged that the Park Board will examine a number of potential sites where a dog park could be located, this is a step that should have taken place much earlier. I urge the Park Board to approve a 6th district dog park site this year.

Finally, I think it is important to note that one goal of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association, and many of the task force members who live blocks from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, has been to work with the Park Board to better engage nearby residents in using the park’s public space. This positive goal for the entire surrounding area, to draw immediate neighbors into the life of the park, should not be lost as the Park Board now turns to alternate sites for a dog park.

Each one of us has a responsibility to make the community we live in better, stronger and more connected. Is it serendipity that one activist involved in the dog park discussion is Aunt to NPR’s Michele Norris, author of The Grace of Silence? In her book, Ms. Norris describes her childhood in the Field neighborhood as the first black family on their block and her discovery of painful past race-based events her parents had kept secret. Ms. Norris, who herself led conversations on race regarding the 2008 Presidential election, advocates small group settings with food as important elements for discussions focusing on race. As Ms. Norris’ Aunt said to me, bringing issues of race into the open is an opportunity for something good for our community. For this, I thank the African American community elders who organized in opposition to the dog park, many of whom were active in the Civil Rights movement and worked to change the name of the former Nicollet Field to honor Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have faith that our community is resilient, that it is full of active engaged residents willing to take on the challenge of talking neighbor-to-neighbor about issues of race. Some neighbors are doing this now, and more of us are willing to engage in rebuilding relationships and learning about each other even when the conversation is uncomfortable. Together, we can seize this opportunity.


The following article by Steve Berg was published at on January 31, 2011:


Courtesy of Ken Smith Landscape Architect

A boardwalk and piers project proposal from one of the Minneapolis Riverfront Design finalists.

By Steve Berg | Monday, Jan. 31, 2011

An overflow crowd at the Walker Art Center last Thursday saw four dazzling proposals for redesigning Minneapolis’ Upper Riverfront. The winning design will be announced on Feb. 10.

I’ll offer a few brief observations:

• Turenscape of Beijing offered the most tantalizing concept in the flashiest form. The presentation was a techno-marvel, and the actual content wasn’t bad either. The river, cleansed by storm water filtering systems, would be clean enough for swimming and fishing. A beach, a farmers’ market, a series of new islands and marshes, a streetcar circuit, lots of urban gardens and a considerable amount of new development were all part of the picture.

• Tom Leader Studio of Berkeley, Calif., had the most politically savvy approach. Leader has gone the extra mile to connect with local citizens, and the presentation touched a lot of buttons that will resonate with Mayor R.T. Rybak and other city leaders. More than the other plans, it stressed the importance of fitting the city into the ecosystem of the river. It’s most memorable proposal: extending Folwell Park over Interstate 94 all the way to the river’s edge.

• Ken Smith Landscape of New York delivered the most classic ideas: A boulevard running near the river’s edge, bordered by the kinds of parkways that Minneapolis is noted for. That connection to the Grand Rounds was probably the presentation’s central feature.

• Stoss Landscape Urbanism of Boston made the most surreal presentation, including even a series of searchlights “to show people where the river is.” More than the others, the Stoss proposal tried to be intellectual, but I didn’t quite get it.

Having a vision is, of course, a good thing. Whether the city and private interests can finance an Upper River redo over the next several decades, that’s the big question. See what you think. Here are the proposals.


The following article by Gregory J. Scott was published in the January 24, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:


//Four teams exalt the river’s possibilities, both practical and grandiose//

How about a Mississippi flanked with robotic searchlights, beams crisscrossing in the night? Or floating barges transformed into community swimming pools and hot tubs? Maybe a new suite of islands, laced with visitor-friendly wetlands and marshes?

These were some of the pie-in-the-sky ideas presented last night at Walker Art Center, to a packed and eager audience, in one of the final stages of the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition. Four design teams — finalists in the international competition, chosen from an initial pool of 55 applicants — had each been given $30,000 and about three months to develop their dream revamps of a 5.5-mile stretch of the Minneapolis riverfront, from the Stone Arch Bridge to the northern limits of the city.

On Jan. 27, each team revealed its vision, in stunning multi-media presentations. The event was so well attended that two overflow rooms, each equipped with a live feed of the lecture hall, had to be opened.

A jury of 13 design professionals, Park Board staff and city officials will announce a winner on Feb. 10. The winning team will receive a “commission” for a yet-to-be-determined riverfront park project, which the Park Board hopes will be the “crown jewel” of the Minneapolis park system.

The contest is organized by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, University of Minnesota College of Design and Walker Art Center.

Teams focused most of their energies on the grit and neglect of the northern riverfront — and the impoverished North neighborhoods nearby, which have been severed from the Mississippi by crumbling industrial sites and highway I-94.

“The current situation is disheartening,” said Chris Reed, who presented for Stoss Landscape Urbanism, a Boston-based firm.

Reed’s team, a three-city coalition of professionals from Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles, proposed covering the highway with a retail distribution center and parking structure. The structure’s green roof would serve as a bridge connecting North’s urban areas to the riverfront, where refashioned barges would provide a community swimming pool and a floating amphitheater for performances.

TLS/KVA, a team based in Berkeley, Calif., wanted to cover I-94 with a land bridge, connecting Farview Park, at 26th and Lyndale Avenues North, to the river. The bridge would consist of “a great plane of green” stepping down from the city’s historic highest point: farmers markets and greenhouses, urban farms, a waterfront plaza and an amphitheater.

Principal Tom Leader proposed wetlands and an aquatic garden just south of the Lowry Avenue Bridge and a great urban beach near the Plymouth Avenue Bridge.

His team also seemed to be the most realistic about the river’s current industrial topography.

“You can’t just move industry somewhere else,” said Sheila Kennedy, a principal of the TLS/KVA team.

The TLS/KVA vision also included molding degraded sediment into earthen beams for bike and pedestrian trails that would stretch over existing barge terminals.

Turenscape, a Beijing-based firm, solved the Northside problem with a covered pedestrian walkway connecting area schools to the Mississippi. The walkway would create an “education corridor,” where a new community college could be established to provide training for emerging green sector jobs. Turenscape also proposed restoring the Scherer Brothers site, between 8th and 10th Avenues Northeast, converting it into a accessible park with a diverse ecosystem.

Ken Smith Workshop, a New York-based team, proposed repurposing the old salt domes, concrete silos and other industrial structures near the end of Dowling Avenue North, converting them into museum satellites, a camera obscura theater, an eco lab — even an “extreme sports” facility, where neighbors could practice rock climbing and skateboarding.

Each firm prepared a video and related information for its proposal, which can be viewed online at