Exploring options for ‘Water Works’ park along Minneapolis’ riverfront

Minneapolis park planners are seeking public input for a potential new park along the city’s central riverfront that would be both an amenity for area residents and an attraction for visitors.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board will hold a public meeting to seek community input from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Mill City Museum, 704 S. Second St.

It’s the first step in a feasibility study exploring options for a potential park, dubbed “Water Works,” because the city’s first water supply and firefighting pumping stations were located there in the 19thcentury. More recently, it was the site of the former Fuji-Ya Restaurant.

The five- to seven-acre study area encompasses park board-owned land between Portland Avenue South and the Third Avenue Bridge, and between First Street South and the Mississippi River.

“We very much want community participation — to learn how people connect with the river, how they want to connect with the river, what kind of functionalities will draw them there,” says Janette Law, a spokesperson for the foundation.

Law says that while planning is in its very early stages, “we are looking to create a multi-functional park, not just turf and trees.”

Lead designer
The Minneapolis architectural firm of Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle is the lead designer on the project. Together with financing consultants HR&A Advisors, they will produce design and program options and financial analysis by February.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is taking a leading role in the planning effort because one of its members is funding the study.

The donor “feels this is a unique opportunity both for the Fuji-Ya site and the larger area we are looking at, which is at the convergence of St. Anthony Falls, the lock and dam, the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mill City Museum all coming together at this unique location,” says Mary deLaittre, president of the foundation.

“Because of the site’s historic and national significance, it’s important that we complete an interdisciplinary study of the site and area within the current social, economic and environmental context, and its compelling geography and history, including ruins of long-razed flour mills,” deLaittre says.

Planners say there likely will be some need to remediate soil contamination, though that is not part of the preliminary study.

The public will be invited to a second community meeting in late February to critique options and review the team’s findings. The parks foundation will announce details for that meeting in January.

No timeline or funding
At this point, deLaittre says, the foundation and park board have no timeline or funding for development of the new park.

“That is an issue we have to tackle,” she says. “And that’s why our team includes HR&A, who are financial advisors who are going to be working with us from the very beginning to help us understand what are the possibilities, what it is going to cost and what are potential funding opportunities.”

Parks have long been one of the great strengths of Minneapolis. The city’s park system consists of 182 park properties, including local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, picnic areas, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries and the 55-mile Grand Rounds scenic byway. Together, they total more than 6,700 acres of land and water.

“People in Minneapolis are passionate about their parks,” deLaittre says. “The identity of our city is inextricably linked to our parks. So there is always support for our parks.”

A public meeting to seek community input for a new Minneapolis riverfront park will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Mill City Museum, 704 S. Second St. The original date listed was incorrect.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by David Greene on 12/08/2011 - 01:38 pm.

    I love this idea. It sounds as if they’d like to expose some more mill ruins and other lost stuff. I find that fascinating and it’s a great way to honor our city’s history.

    I visited Water Power Park a few months after it opened and loved it. There’s lots of fascinating displays and information there.

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