Monthly Archives: December 2011

M P R B Meetings


The first MPRB meeting of the year is the the Annual Park Board meeting, which will be held at Park Board Headquarters on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. This meeting will be for the purpose of electing MPRB officers for the year. The first regular MPRB meeting of 2012 will be on Wednesday, January 4. As always, meetings are open to the public.

Because of the holidays, the second regular MPRB meeting in December has been canceled.

Arlene Fried

Co-founder of Park Watch

A Park Where Fuji-Ya Once Stood?

The following article by Nicole Norfleet was published in the December 14, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:


For more than two decades, failed developments and legal squabbles have left a key tract overlooking St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis in limbo.

But now, after the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board beat back a developer’s lawsuit earlier this year, park enthusiasts have focused on turning the site of the former Fuji-Ya restaurant into a public space.

On Thursday, December 14, the public is invited to a community meeting that will be the first step of a project to identify program ideas, produce design concepts and study the feasibility of a park in the area between Portland Avenue S. and the 3rd Avenue Bridge, and between 1st Street S. and the Mississippi River.

Despite its downtown riverfront location, prominent views and historical significance, the Water Works property — named for one of its historic uses — hasn’t been used for much more than parking in the past few years.

The Park Board bought the land in 1990 to make way for the construction of West River Parkway. The restaurant closed. The building remains, empty and boarded.

Brian Rice, the attorney for the park board, said he began calling the delay “the curse of Reiko Weston,” referring to the Fuji-Ya owner.

In 2002, the board obtained legislative approval to try to develop a new restaurant, but no proposals came forward, Rice said. In 2007, the park board accepted a proposal from a developer to build low-rise luxury townhouses, but those plans changed three times in the ensuing years.

The last development bid, called the Wave, would have created a luxury condo tower, but some City Council members and residents said it would obstruct views of the river and historic structures.

When the developer, Columbia Development LP, didn’t get required permits, the park board terminated the deal. In 2009, the developer sued the park board for breach of contract. A judge ruled in favor of the park board and the litigation finally ended earlier this year when the Supreme Court declined to hear the developer’s appeal, Rice said.

“Now that it is settled, it provides a great opportunity for the Park Board to settle on its future,” said Bruce Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for planning at the Park Board. The property could still include a restaurant or some other revenue generator, Chamberlain said.

With so many riverfront destinations nearby, such as the Mill City Museum, the Stone Arch Bridge and the lock and dam, the property could become an integral part of the network, said Mary deLaittre, president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, which is leading the study project in partnership with the park board.

“It’s just begging to have all the pieces tied in, in this very unique way,” DeLaittre said.

Mill ruins, some exposed and some buried, still exist on the property. “There’s certainly a lot of historical archaeological resources above and below ground,” said Laura Salveson, director of the Mill City Museum.

Scott Vreeland, one of the park board commissioners for downtown Minneapolis, said he’s excited to start the feasibility study. “As incredible as the transformation has been there, there is so much more that can be done,” Vreeland said.

The study is expected to be completed at the end of February.

Heads-Up for the December 14, 2011 Special Meeting at City Hall


This meeting will begin with the City Council’s Public Hearing on the City Budget at 6:05 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, Room 317, 350 South 5th Street. The Public Hearing will be televised.

After the Public Hearing, the MPRB Commissioners will convene in Room 333 at City Hall to approve the 2012 Tax Levy and Budget.

The meeting is open to the public.

The complete agenda for the MPRB Special Meeting on Wednesday, December 14 can be viewed at:

The Park Board’s website is The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried

Co-Founder of Park Watch

Park Board Approves Site for Dog Park in 6th District

The MPRB has issued the following item:


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) approved the location and design for a dog park in the Sixth Park District at its December 7 meeting. The new dog park will be located along King’s Highway in Lyndale Farmstead Park in what is now the lower section of the MPRB’s Southside Operations Center parking lot.

The MPRB intends to construct and open the new dog park in 2012.

For further information please see the news release: and the project page posted on the MPRB website:

South Minneapolis Dog Park Site Approved After Lengthy Debate

The following article by Nicole Norfleet has been published in the December 8, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:


More than a year after controversy erupted over a proposal to create an off-leash dog park in Martin Luther King Park, a south Minneapolis spot for a new dog park has finally been approved.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted Wednesday to accept the recommendation made by a citizen committee to convert part of the board’s South Side operations center parking lot in the west corner of Lyndale Farmstead Park into the off-leash dog park. The vote was seven in favor, with one member abstaining and another absent.

It would be the first off-leash park in the park system’s sixth district; every other district already has one. The board’s planning committee had already approved the plan last month.

Along with creating the dog park, the approval also directed staff to begin development of a system-wide off-leash recreation area master plan.

When the dog park was proposed for Martin Luther King Park, a large number of black residents voiced concern that it would dishonor King’s memory.

Annie Young & Park Board Transparency


The following comment by Park Board Commissioner Annie Young was posted on the Issues List on December 5, 2011:

From: “Annie Young”

Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 4:19 PM

Subject: Re: [Mpls] Park Board Transparency

Well, it does start at the top – with Jayne Miller, our new Supt. Yes, it pays to have Liz W. and Anita Tabb who came to us via Park Watch and with the help of the “energizer bunny” John Erwin to ask lots and lots of questions.

But it really, really helps to have a Superintendent who is willing to communicate, give answers and be transparent themselves.

Problems in the past weren’t all based on non-action by Commissioners – they stemmed from management issues including the proverbial inability and lack of wanting to communicate.

Thank goodness we have solved that problem and it so much better for everyone concerned including you, the taxpayers – the owners of the fabulous Minneapolis Park system.

Annie Young

East Phillips

Who has the best job in town – being a steward of the Minneapolis Park system.

Sculpture Garden Needs $8.5 Million in Improvements

The following article by Nicole Norfleet was published in the December 7, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:


So many visitors have trampled through the popular Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that it needs an $8.5 million renovation, Walker Art Center and park officials say.

After 23 years of people visiting the free space, its turf is highly compressed. Some of its trees are dying. And its walkways are worn.

At its meeting on Nov. 22, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved an amendment to its 2012 capital improvement request for the Sculpture Garden seeking $8.5 million.

“The Sculpture Garden is a Minneapolis icon and a Minnesota icon,” said Phillip Bahar, chief of operations and administration at the Walker Art Center. It’s a public asset that needs to be protected, he added.

The Sculpture Garden has had more than 8 million visitors since 1988. That’s about 350,000 a year. The Sculpture Garden is the most tagged site in all of Minnesota on Flickr, according to a 2009 Cornell University study.

Walker and park board officials say crews need to resurface compressed and rain-resistant walkways, reset walls and improve plant drainage systems, install energy-efficient lighting, repair and reset granite steps and structures.

Moreover, workers will have to re-line the pond to prevent storm water pollution and minimize invasive plants, install emergency call boxes, enhance access for the disabled, reduce water use with new plumbing and facilities, replace spalling concrete and make other improvements.

“I think this is as important as thinking about a football stadium that’s used for eight games a year,” said Annie Young, board vice president, at the meeting.

This won’t be the first time the park board has requested money for the Sculpture Garden. It previously sought about $8 million in bonding support for the garden’s restoration. The Legislature approved $2 million, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty line-item-vetoed it last year:

The park board commits $250,000 annually to grounds and facility maintenance. The Walker commits $250,000 to $300,000 yearly for arts programming and maintenance.

Other items on the park board’s state bonding request wish list: a welcome and training center in Wirth Park ($2.1 million), renovation of the indoor pool of the Phillips Community Center ($2.1 million), design and initial greening of a parkway along 26th Avenue N. ($1.5 million) and improvements at Father Hennepin Bluffs ($1 million).

For more information about the Sculpture Garden, click here:

Community Meeting for Waterworks / Fuji-Ya Site


The following notice has been distributed by the MPRB:


The ideas will flow Thursday, December 15, when the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board invite the public to participate in a “designer-ask” community meeting about a potential new park along the city’s Central Riverfront. Dubbed “Waterworks” (former Fuji-Ya Restaurant site) because the city’s first water supply and fire fighting pumping station were located there in the 19th Century, the site encompasses Minneapolis Park Board-owned land between Portland Avenue South and the Third Avenue Bridge, and between First Street South and the Mississippi River.

The community meeting, which takes place 6-8:00 PM at the Mill City Museum, 704 South Second Street, is the first step in a preliminary feasibility study that will explore options for what could be a significant new park destination in downtown Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is leading the project in partnership with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, for which it is also a forerunner to the Central Riverfront Regional Park Update master planning process.

To read more from the news release, click here:

Heads-Up for the December 7, 2011 Park Board Meeting


5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers need to sign up before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.

Some agenda items of interest are the following:

–Accepting the recommendations of the Sixth District Dog Park CAC for the Southside Operations Center Parking Lot site.

–Approving the 2012 MPRB Budget.

–Approving the MPRB’s Permit Application Procedures.

–Approving the MPRB’s Financial Management Policies.

–Agreement with First Avenue to Produce A Two Day Music Festival at Parade Baseball Field in 2012 with a Five Year Term.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects.

The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. Look for the links to these reports under Petitions and Communications in the agenda for the first Regular Meeting of the month.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 is at

MPRB meetings are telecast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are retelecast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried

Co-founder of Park Watch

Park Board Transparency


The following item is excerpted from a recent letter written by 4th District Park Commissioner Anita Tabb that outlines improvements in Park Board transparency during Superintendent Miller’s first year as MPRB Superintendent:

“I wanted to mention a really major item that we’ve managed to ‘daylight’ – the ‘projects’ that come out of Planning. Since Jayne joined MPRB last year and I chaired the Planning Committee, we’ve developed a detailed list of all projects whether they be in process, pending or proposed. It is difficult to believe that this list never existed before but, sadly, it is true! That list is updated monthly and included in the commissioner packets. It is also available at all times on the MPRB website.

So along with the new Community Engagement procedure, we place project information in the public domain trying to eliminate ‘surprises’ that used to occur with alarming regularity. And when a project actually starts, it is included as an individual project on the website along with all documentation (agendas, CAC members, agendas, meeting dates and times, presentations, drawings, surveys, and whatever else might have been generated) so it can be reviewed by any interested party.

This is another HUGE improvement in transparency. And I haven’t even begun to mention the professional standard that we use to develop time, cost and contingency estimates that we use to determine workload and personnel requirements.”