The following item was written by John Chaffee, resident of Nicollet Island and member of the charrette:
The Park Board held a charrette yesterday focused on updating plans for Nicollet Island. There will be another one on the same subject today, December 11, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. The public is invited.
These charrettes are part of the ongoing public engagement process for updating the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan.
Much of the discussion at yesterday’s charrette dealt with how park land should be shared between the general public and MPRB lessees or concessionnaires, such as the Nicollet Island Inn and the vendor-controlled Nicollet Island Pavilion.
The privately-owned Nicollet Island Inn occupies land leased from the Park Board and pays an annual rent. The Park Board-owned Pavilion has been operated since 2002 by MinTahoe, an events and hospitality firm. Individuals who wish to use the Pavilion must purchase an event and catering package from MinTahoe. According to an article published several years ago on the Minnesota Bride website, a wedding reception at the Pavilion costs $7000 or more.
One attendee at the charrette said that he didn’t feel comfortable using the public walkways and decks on the south end of the Island when a private event is being held at the Pavilion. Both MPRB and MinTahoe representatives said those areas continue to be open to the public during private events. There was discussion of using signage or other methods to make the public feel welcome in these public areas.
The MinTahoe representative also mentioned that MinTahoe would like to expand the Pavilion so as to accommodate larger events. Several members of the public expressed alarm about the impact of such an expansion on the historic Pavilion building, a converted industrial structure formerly occupied by the William Bros Boiler Works. There was also concern about the effect of larger events on the limited supply of parking on the Island.
Other discussion at the charrette focused on improving pedestrian and bike trail connections to and across the Island, with the area of greatest concern being the lack of a complete trail connection between Boom Island and Main Street.