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Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza to get major makeover

When Peavey Plaza was opened nearly 36 years ago, we loved its fountains and waterfalls. Plans to revamp the dated space are being released Wednesday.

Plans to revamp the dated downtown space are being released Wednesday.
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
Plans to revamp the dated downtown space are being released Wednesday.

When Peavey Plaza was all shiny and new, we loved its fountains and waterfalls. We loved sitting outside on a sunny day between Nicollet Mall and Orchestra Hall.

But that was nearly 36 years ago. Our plaza has grown old. Its fountains and waterfalls no longer work. And we have come to demand more from open space than just a bit of sunshine.

“Minneapolis is a great place for design,” say architect Thomas Oslund, “because we are not afraid to take risks.”  He points to the new Guthrie Theater, the Weisman Art Museum and Philip Johnson’s IDS Tower as examples of our risk-taking. He also says we need to start over on Peavey Plaza.

Oslund and landscape architect Tadd Kreun, who have created plans for the new Peavey Plaza, will be unveiling their new design at 11 Wednesday morning.

The fountains are currently dry, the pipes disassembled.
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
The fountains are currently dry, the pipes disassembled.

Earlier this week, they talked about the problems there, starting with the pumps that made all of that water move through all of those fountains and falls. Two of the three large water pumps are broken and cannot be repaired.

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And that’s just the beginning of the list of things that need fixing.

Handling water is one big concern. What we have now is a system more than 10 feet below street level and two feet below access to the sewer line. This is fine, according to the architects, until you have to pump water out of the place.

And there’s a lot more water to pump out than just what is needed to run the fountains and falls.   Most of the storm water that falls on the plaza now goes into the sanitary sewer because there is no access to the storm sewer.

The plaza now has several out-of-the-way corners that are perfect for private conversations. As a result, though, they have attracted “inappropriate” activities and are difficult to police.

Security is a problem, too, according to the architects, because you can now enter — and exit — the plaza on three sides, making it possible, for example, for someone to grab a purse and quickly disappear.

When the new design is unveiled, look for a more controlled entrance and exit plan in an effort to make the area safer for plaza patrons. Also look for more access ramps.

The only ramp on the plaza is in need of repair. It also is the only way to move in equipment for an event. And every time, everything has to be moved in, because there is no built-in infrastructure for sound systems or electrical service on the plaza.

This makes events expensive to produce, even though they could produce income that would help maintain the plaza. The city currently spends $250,000 a year to maintain the plaza and gets very little in return.

Check back at Two Cities later today to learn more about the design and see images of the plaza redesign.