Category Archives: River Marina

About plans to develop a marina on the river in front of the Park Board HQ building.


The following article by Gregory J. Scott was published in the Southwest Journal on February 10, 2011:


Park Board Superintendent Emeritus David Fisher congratulates Sheila Kennedy, of Kennedy & Violich Architecture

TLS/KVA, a design coalition led by California-based Tom Leader Studio and Massachusetts-based Kennedy & Violich Architecture, has beat out 54 teams from around the globe to win the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition. Their prize? A commission for an ambitious park project, covering 5.5 miles of Minneapolis riverfront, expected to be the crown jewel of the Minneapolis park system and an economic driver for neighborhoods bordering the Mississippi, especially in North and Northeast Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board made the announcement this morning at Nicollet Island Pavilion.

TVS/KVA, along with three other design team finalists, presented its vision for the Minneapolis riverfront two weeks ago to a capacity crowd at Walker Ar t Center. Principal Tom Leader described plans for wetlands and an aquatic garden just south of the Lowry Avenue Bridge and a great urban beach near the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. The team also proposed covering Interstate 94 with a land bridge, part of a “great plane of green” that would link North Minneapolis’ Farview Park to the Riverfront.

But organizers stressed that the actual project has yet to be defined.

“No particular location, project or feature has been selected,” said Cecily Hines, president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, a co-sponsor of the competition.

Hines described a four-month “transition phase,” starting tomorrow, during which the Park Board and the Parks Foundation will meet with the design team to determine an implementation strategy. A steering committee, yet to be created, will help guide the process. In mid-June, Hines said, the Parks Foundation “will present a rec ommendation on how we’ll move forward.”

But the biggest question is how to pay for such a project. TVS/KLA’s grandiose visions for the Mississippi Riverfront will have to be tempered by fiscal realism. The Park Board, still reeling from the first layoffs in its history, faces a limited budget in coming years.

Asked if he had any specific funding ideas for a riverfront park project, Mayor R. T. Ryback said, “No, not yet. The first priority is to lay out the vision.”

But he added that the project’s big ideas must include financing, not just design.

“How we’re going to get this done is going to be tough,” he said.

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.



5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings 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.

This meeting is the last meeting that David Fisher will be attending as Superintendent. His four month stint as interim superintendent ends on October 31. We are grateful that he accepted the invitation to come to Minneapolis to fill this position.

This meeting is a meeting with many significant agenda items. The most important item on the agenda is the vote to approve the employment agreement with Jayne Miller, who–at the last meeting–was selected by a unanimous vote to be the new MPRB Superintendent.

Some highlights of the meetings that will be voted on :

The I-35 Bridge Memorial.
The concession agreement with Bread & Pickle at Lake Harriet.
The reconvening of the CAC for the Wirth Beach Project III.
The non-appointed CACs for two playgrounds at Lake Harriet.

There will be a presentation of the Superintendent’s 2011 Recommended Budget. This is a report item and will not be voted on at this time.

The following is the link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Wednesday, October 20:

MPRB meetings are broadcast 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 rebroadcast 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

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

Star Tribune Commentary: Charles Birnbaum: Park Board isn't staying true to Wirth's vision

In an October 28 Star Tribune Commentary, Charles A. Birnbaum, founder and president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C., writes about how the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is considering privatizing, selling off and even giving away precious Minneapolis public park property:

» From Atlanta to Seattle, our nation’s legacy of urban parks are under siege from a variety of threats — expansions by neighboring institutions, new parking lots and new “destination features.” Minneapolis is no exception.

In the age of video games and attention deficit disorder, “open space” has become a dirty word. Parks are seen as a void that must be filled, “programmed” to amuse all comers.

Who decided that strolling under a canopy of trees is not a sufficient experience in its own right? Have we stopped valuing the humanizing scale and tactile marvels of nature? Do we still appreciate our history and public gardens?

This national trend to clutter park grounds with activity-oriented “focal points” is lamentable and perplexing because park users themselves are not demanding change. According to surveys conducted over the past two decades, the majority of Americans visit parks specifically for passive, reflective experiences.

Within an emotional and politically charged atmosphere, small but vocal groups are taking control of the public debate to advance their own narrow agendas — resulting in ill-conceived park redesigns. Democratic spaces are being privatized with partial closing of parks for special events, construction of additions, long-term leases to special interests and private concessions — changing the character of the landscape irrevocably.

These formulaic alterations to our parks have their own needs for long-term maintenance with more parking and more pavement. Strip away the historic. Make way for special interests (this is often the real objective). Today “green” too seldom means a generous sweep of trees and lawn with the songs of birds, and too often means dollars and the ching-ching-ching of cash registers.

Minneapolis is a city blessed with one of the nation’s premier systems of parks and boulevards, yet based on current proposals that I saw on my trip to the Twin Cities last week, it appears that elected park commissioners and their appointed superintendents are today considering privatizing, selling off and even giving away precious public park property. «

Read the rest of the commentary on the Star Tribune web site.

The Marina that won't die

Why is it that despite Irwin Jacobs pulling out of the Park Board’s silly idea for building a marina, JADT Development Group’s Riverview Homes development just north of the headquarters building continues to advertise that their buyers will have “access to planned marina?”

The planned marina is to be located on the river directly in front of their headquarters building (on city property, not park property — and at a really bad location river-navigation-wise).

And the marina is still on the Park Board’s legislative agenda — that is, their paid lobbyists continue to twist arms at the state to get bonding for this development. What’s the likelihood the state will come up with bonding for such a project, given the financial mess they’re in, unless some interesting strings get pulled?