Category Archives: Above the Falls

45-day comment period on above the falls plan

The Park Board has issued the following item:


As of June 2013, the draft Regional Park plan is available for public review and comment. A formal 45-day comment period started on June 19. Following the comment period, a public hearing will be held.

For more information, please visit the project page:

Andrew Caddock, Project Manager

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board


[email protected]

RiverFirst Design Presentations May 1 and May 2

The following notice has been distributed by the Park Board:

RiverFirst Schematic Design Presentations May 1 and May 2

As part of RiverFirst, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is completing schematic design and feasibility for six Mississippi riverfront parks and parks access projects. On Wednesday, May 1, the RiverFirst design team will present its work as part of the Park Board’s regular meeting, which begins at 5:00 PM. On Thursday, May 2, community members have an opportunity to learn more about these RiverFirst Priority Projects at an Open House from 11 AM – 12:00 PM or a Community Meeting from 6-8:00 PM. All three meetings will be in the Board Room at Minneapolis Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis.

For more information see


Date: Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Time: meeting begins at 5:00 PM

Type: Park Board meeting

Location: MPRB Board Room, 2117 West River Road North, Minneapolis


Date: Thursday, May 2, 2013

Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Type: informal open house

Location: MPRB Board Room, 2117 West River Road North, Minneapolis


Date: Thursday, May 2, 2013

Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Type: open house with presentation and Q&A

Location: MPRB Board Room, 2117 West River Road North, Minneapolis


CONTACT:Andrew Caddock, Project Manager

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board


[email protected]

Park Board Acquires Key Riverfront Property

The following item was distributed by the Park Board on November 2, 2012:


On October 30, 2012, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) purchased 1720 Marshall Street NE, 1.74 acres and over 350 feet of Mississippi riverfront in northeast Minneapolis. The purchase furthers the vision of creating a continuous linear park along both sides of the Mississippi River through Minneapolis.

The property lies within the Above the Falls Regional Park and is part of the visionary park proposal for Minneapolis’ upper riverfront called RiverFirst, adopted by the Park Board and City of Minneapolis in 2012. “This acquisition will help us serve Northeast Minneapolis and the region, and is an opportunity to help ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the river,” said Liz Wielinski, Park District 1 Commissioner.

RiverFirst–A Design Proposal and Implementation Framework for the Minneapolis Upper Riverfront, was adopted by the Park Board in March, 2012, following almost two years of input, collaboration and support from the public, business community and local, regional and state agencies. RiverFirst encompasses the 5.5 miles of Mississippi River from the Stone Arch Bridge to the northern City limits, and builds upon the Above the Falls Master Plan to develop the land along the Mississippi River.

“Revitalizing the Mississippi Riverfront is a top priority for our Board, and this acquisition is an important part of linking together the parks, trails and green spaces,” said John Erwin, president of the MPRB Board of Commissioners. “In addition, this building gives us needed near-term shelter for our equipment, and allows us to close an antiquated facility to save resources.”

This leadership in preserving land along the city’s lakes, rivers and streams has earned the MPRB national recognition for its exceptional parks and trails. By the early 1900s visionary Park Board leaders had acquired most of the east and west riverfront of the river stretching from St. Paul to St. Anthony Falls for public parkland. Since 1993 the MPRB has led the charge to expand parkland to provide a connection from the downtown area north of the Falls.

“The Park Board wishes to extend its deep appreciation and thanks to two key funders who helped make this acquisition possible,” said Liz Wielinski. “The support of the Metropolitan Council and Mississippi Watershed Management Organization has been invaluable for critical riverfront purchases.”

The Metropolitan Council, through its Park Acquisition Opportunity Fund provided nearly $609,000. A complementary grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization of more than $202,000 was combined with the Metropolitan Council grant to cover the cost of acquiring the land portion of the site. Together, these grants were vital in matching MPRB capital funds earmarked for this acquisition.

The industrial building on the property will be used for MPRB operations and equipment storage in the short term, and eventually a park will be developed on the property as part of a larger green corridor within Above the Falls Regional Park.

Above the Falls Plan Revision Coming Together

The following article by Irene Jones appeared in the on-line newsletter for Friends of the Mississippi on October 15, 2012:


The planning process for Above the Falls in Minneapolis may seem like it’s been going on for a long time, and has ventured off (and returned from) on a few tangents, but the culmination of all this creative thinking, visioning and planning is finally starting to come together into what will eventually be an updated plan and implementation timetable. This week, planners from the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) will present their first draft of key elements of the plan revision, which include proposed changes to park character, expansion of the regional park boundary, and recommended land-use changes for areas adjacent to parks. Scroll down for a quick summary of proposed changes, and links to more information.


The City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board formally adopted the current Above the Falls Plan (ATFP) in 2000. The plan put forth a bold vision for continuous parks and trails along both sides of the river spanning from Plymouth Avenue North to the northern city limits. It also called for land-use transitions from heavy industrial to new residential neighborhoods, mixed-use areas dominated by new commercial development and a few light industrial areas.

Although heralded by local residents, neighborhood organizations and the professional urban planning community, the award-winning plan proved especially difficult to implement. Progress was slowed by economic downturns and tax policy changes that made it more challenging for cities to use public funding and financing to accomplish the plan’s laudable goals. With only a handful of new parks and redevelopment projects being realized in the 12 years since the plan’s adoption, momentum significantly slowed.

In 2010, the City of Minneapolis began a policy review and implementation study to take another look at the feasibility of major land-use changes within the ATFP. Concurrent to that process, the MPRB held a design competition to reinvigorate the river park vision from the Stone Arch Bridge to the northern city limits. The renewed attention to the riverfront helped refresh the energy and enthusiasm for moving the ATFP forward, but it also created some confusion and many questions from the community. Initially, the two processes were worlds apart — one trying to ground-truth the ATFP’s proposed land uses in today’s realities, while the other conjured an alternative, and rather grand, new vision for riverfront parks.

Fast forward to 2012 (past too many public meetings to count) and the Above the Falls Plan revision process is “officially” in play. At the end of this nine-month revision process, the Minneapolis City Council and MPRB Commissioners will make a formal decision about proposed changes to the 2000 plan. The newly revised plan will be the policy document that guides new parks and development for the next 20 years.

Short version: This is where the rubber hits the road people (really, it is).

What’s being proposed and how you can weigh in

This information is hot off the press (as of early October) and planners need time to hear from community members before the staff proposal is finalized, but a brief summary of proposed changes is below. Many changes incorporate the vision of RiverFirst, the proposal that won the MPRB design competition.

Proposed changes to the Above the Falls Plan include:

•Expanding park boundaries at:

•the city-owned Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT),

•on the west side of the river south of the Lowry Bridge,

•and at the newly acquired Scherer site at 8th Avenue and Marshall Street Northeast

•Changing park character to:

•incorporate RiverFirst’s vision for Northside Wetlands at the Upper Harbor Terminal,

•replace the ATFP “promenade” with an integrated vision of riverfront trails, connections to northside neighborhoods and renovated industrial uses that support jobs,

•incorporate RiverFirst’s vision for Scherer beach and restored Hall’s Island,

•incorporate RiverFirst’s vision for passive recreational programming, more trails and connections, and more natural elements and ecological functions within the park.

•Changing land-use guidelines (and eventually city zoning)

Proposed land-use changes are less bold than those in the original ATFP and take into account city staff’s feasibility research. In general, many areas originally slated for residential development will instead become “Business Parks”, with the goal being to attract corporate campuses to locate adjacent to the riverfront park. In a few places, the current industrial land use is proposed to continue.

•West side between the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge and Lowry: retain industrial land use along the river, instead of changing to mixed uses,

•Upper Harbor Terminal (Lowry to north of Dowling): change southern portion to business park and northern portion to mixed-use, instead of changing to residential uses,

•East side along St. Anthony Parkway (north of Xcel): retain industrial land use, instead of changing to residential uses,

•East side adjacent to Scherer Park (Plymouth to Broadway): change from light industrial to business park.

The best way to get up to speed on these issues is to pore through the information gathered in the past three years, much of which is available online. MPRB will hold one more public meeting in early December to present the draft plan update, and then there will be a 90-day comment period followed by public hearings and formal adoption in spring 2013.

You can also stay in touch with FMR as we will be sharing our comments and perspectives online. If you have additional questions, please contact Irene Jones or Bob Spaulding at 651-222-2193 or via the FMR contact form.

Helpful Links:

•Above the Falls Master Plan for the Upper River in Minneapolis (adopted 2000):

•Above the Falls Master Plan Revision; Policy Review & Implementation Study (2010-present), from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and the City of Minneapolis:

•RiverFirst and the Design Competition (2010-2011):


ofrom the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board:

oMinneapolis Riverfront Design Competition:

oMinnneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative:

Minneapolis Riverfront Forum: What is Next For Above the Falls

Minneapolis Riverfront Forum: What is Next for Above the Falls

The Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership and the Above the Falls Citizen Advisory Committee will host the second of three meetings regarding the update of the Above the Falls Master Plan.

Tuesday, October 16, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

2117 West River Road, Minneapolis 55411

Staff from City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will present recommended changes to the plan. They will also preview strategies to achieve the plan’s goals, roles of public and private partnerships, and priority projects. For further information, visit the Above the Falls Master Plan project page on the MPRB website:

$1 Million Grant to Build Bike Trail on the Mississippi River's East Bank

The following article by Masako Hirsch was published in the August 6, 2012 issue of the Star Tribune:


A $1 million federal grant will fund a new off-road bike path that will follow the Mississippi River in Northeast.

The Federal Highway Administration granted the money to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board last week to build the East Bank Trail. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will use the money toward the design and construction of a 0.75-mile off-road bicycle and pedestrian trail from 16th Avenue NE in Above The Falls Regional Park to 8th Avenue NE in Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park. The Park Board also committed to match $500,000 for the project.

The trail will be an extension of existing trails from Nicollet Island to Boom Island, according to project manager Andrew Caddock. It will link Boom Island Park through the former Scherer Bros. site and Sheridan Memorial Park to the BNSF railroad bridge.

The East Bank Trail would fall into plans for RiverFirst, the Park Board’s 20-year project to build neighborhoods and businesses along the northern part of the Mississippi River, as well as the Above The Falls master plan from 2000. Both call for continuous trails along the river.
“It was a great fit for our goals,” Caddock said.

The Park Board plans to have the trail completed by 2015.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced more than $363 million in grants last Thursday to fund highway improvements such as interstate rehabilitation and technology reconstruction across the country. The Federal Highway Administration received over 1,500 requests for the grants from all 50 states. Minnesota was granted over $6.5 million for 11 projects.

The Park Board prepared the grant application last December with Cordelia Pierson, executive director of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. They collected 13 letters of support from neighborhood groups, the city, county and several non-profit organizations.

Minneapolis Park Board proposed trail:

Park Board Set to Buy Land Along N E Riverfront for $1.37 Million

The following article by Nick Halter was published in the May 14, 2012 edition of the Southwest Journal:


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board plans to purchase a 1.75-acre parcel of land along the upper riverfront in Northeast Minneapolis that would help with the expansion of bicycle and pedestrian trails along the river.

The land is a couple parcels north of the Scherer Bros. lumber site, which is just north of the Broadway Bridge. Some may know the space as the valet parking lot for Psycho Suzi’s.

The Park Board on May 2 approved a purchase agreement for the land — at 1720 Marshall St. NE — for $1.37 million.

The land is currently owned by Marshall Street Properties. It includes 354 feet of riverfront.

The land has a market value of $1.3 million, according to a Park Board memo. It was purchased in 1988 for $700,000.

Funding for the project is expected to come from the Park Board’s Riverfront Development fund, which has a $1.25 million balance, and from the Metropolitan Council. Additional funding could also come from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

There is currently a 37,780-square-foot building on the property, which is used for storage. Previously, it was a manufacturing facility. Park Board Superintendent of Planning Bruce Chamberlain said the Park Board would use the facility for storage and operations for the short-term, but the land would be primarily open when parks are developed.

The Park Board in March passed a design plan and framework for the upper riverfront called RiverFirst. This property, according to the resolution, would be a “critical acquisition” for that plan.

The thinking at the Park Board has been that trails along the east side of the river would be the first step in implementing the RiverFirst plan, which also includes developing a park at the Scherer Bros. site, connecting North Minneapolis to the river via a greenway, and adding bike bridges to existing bridges.

The Park Board is in line for a federal transportation grant that is administered by the Met Council. Staff, as of last month, still hadn’t found out if funding was made available. That grant would fund trails along the east side of the river.

Worthy Attention to North River Corridor

The following editorial was published in the March 19, 2012 issue of the Star Tribune:


From the late 1800s into the early 20th century, a group of visionaries laid the foundation for one of Minneapolis’ greatest assets — an extraordinary system of parks and lakes. Horace Cleveland, Charles Loring, William Folwell and Theodore Wirth understood the importance of acquiring land for public spaces.

Their work evolved into a park system that now covers more than 6,700 acres in parkland and water, or about 16 percent of the city. It includes 17 lakes and ponds; many of the Mississippi River banks; recreation centers, and gardens and pools. It’s now connected by 51 miles of “Grand Rounds” walking paths and biking paths.

Now the Minneapolis Park Board, the city and its partners have a similar long-term vision for bringing the neglected five-mile northern section of the river into that system. Last week, the board gave the green light to a plan that promises a more visually pleasing, interactive and prosperous future for the city’s northern riverfront.

Called RiverFirst, the first phase would develop five new green and public spaces by 2016. Among them are: trails connecting north and northeast neighborhoods to the Grand Rounds and the river, including green walkways and bikeways across Interstate 94; biohaven river islands to improve water quality and provide habitat for plants and birds, and a North Side wetlands park.

The development plan wisely envisions mixed uses for land along the river — some would remain natural and untouched; some could be used for housing and commercial or industrial purposes. But much of it would be dedicated to publicly accessible spaces with the potential to become a magnet for commercial, recreational and residential activity.

The new design would give residents in north and northeast neighborhoods more recreational amenities in their own back yards. And it would attract people from all over the region, similar to the south and southeast Minneapolis lakes. The Park Board has adopted an ambitious vision that could improve the city’s livability and economy.

In cities around the country and in Minneapolis, riverfront development has proven its worth. Right here in the city, a $300 million public investment in the central riverfront area leveraged $1.75 billion in private investment and created 1,200 housing units and 2,000 permanent jobs over three decades. Market values of the properties involved rose from $25 million in 1994 to $440 million in 2009, according to city figures.

Phase one of RiverFirst would cost an estimated $174 million over five years; those dollars would come from a mix of public and private sources, including park, city, county, state and federal funds, as well as business and other private contributions.

About $1 million in Minnesota Legacy funds, for example, is slated to clean up the Scherer Brothers site near Boom Island. One of the priority projects, that area will be developed into a park with some business, retail and perhaps light industrial uses.

The “City of Lakes” also has a river running through it, and the mighty Mississippi gave birth to the Twin Cities. Just as the city’s early fathers and mothers of the city treasured public, natural, waterside spaces, today’s Park Board is rightly working to expand and continue that legacy.

Park Board Eyeing More Land Along Upper Riverfront

The following article by Nick Halter was published in the January 23, 2012 issue of the Southwest Journal:


Minneapolis Park Board members are giving staff more tools to acquire land along the river north of downtown, including money and bargaining directives.

On Jan. 4, the Park Board approved a measure that allows staff to enter into non-binding letters of intent with property owners. Attorney Brian Rice told commissioners that there have been properties on the market but staff needs a strategy for acquiring them.

“In your last two budgets, you’ve appropriated funds to do land acquisitions, particularly in the Above the Falls master plan,” he said. “There have been some properties that are on the market or could become on the market.”

Rice was alluding to $1 million the Park Board has budgeted for riverfront development in 2012. The board also plans to continue setting aside $1 million annually through 2015.

Jennifer Ringold, who is in charge of citywide planning for the Park Board, said in mid-January that no real estate deal was in place.

The Park Board has ambitious plans for the upper riverfront north of Plymouth Avenue that includes adding more parks and trails to the area.

Staff has applied for a $1 million grant from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program to build bike and pedestrian trails on the east side of the river. In February, the Met Council will release its rankings for which metro projects will get priority when funding becomes available.

Plans for that potential trail between Plymouth Avenue and the Burlington Northern Railroad bridge would require the Park Board to acquire some land, though much of it is already owned by the Park Board or has been made available through private owners granting easements, Ringold said.

If Park Board staff draws up a preliminary purchase agreement, it would need six of nine Park Board commissioners to approve of a land purchase.