The first months of 2016 have been good ones for the RiverFirst Initiative, a plan to redevelop the east and west banks of the Mississippi River in North Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Minneapolis Parks Foundation, co-leaders of the initiative, have had successes benefiting projects.
MPRB land purchase allows key riverfront connection
A critical component of the RiverFirst Initiative is the establishment of a regional park that will provide public green space along both sides of the Mississippi from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge to the Camden Bridge. This park is set to connect North Mississippi Regional Park and Downtown’s Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park.
The problem: Much of the land is privately owned and occupied by industry.
On January 20, the MPRB took a significant step forward with the purchase of two properties near the Camden Bridge. The properties at 4022 1/2 Washington Avenue North and 4050 1/2 Washington Avenue North cover roughly 3.88 acres of land and feature more than 500 feet of Mississippi shoreline.
“This purchase is a big step forward as we work with our partners to accomplish the exciting vision laid out for the Upper Riverfront,” said Michael Schroeder, MPRB Assistant Superintendent for Planning.
The total cost of the two pieces of land: $2.7 million – an investment Schroeder states is well worth it.
“In the short-term we can use the land for our own operational needs and help pay down the acquisition cost by renting it to existing private businesses,” he said, “while working toward the long-term plan of creating dynamic park land and river connections in North Minneapolis. It’s win now, win later.”
The property at 4022 1/2 Washington Avenue North is one block north of the recently closed Upper Harbor terminal, the City-owned site being redeveloped jointly with the MPRB. When completed, this key parcel of Mississippi riverfront will feature parkland, trails and other public amenities – alongside mixed-use commercial spaces – meant to provide Northsiders with better river access.
Grants help to continue momentum for riverfront redevelopment
Costs associated with acquiring land and redeveloping the Minneapolis Riverfront are significant, one of the major reasons scheduled projects are expected to take at least two decades to be fully realized.
In late January, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation received a fundraising boon when the General Mills Foundation made a donation of $3 million.
Executive Director Tom Evers noted the impact of such community funding: “Through RiverFirst, the city will provide access for under-served neighborhoods, support ecological systems, and establish new parks and trails in iconic locations.”
A large portion of the General Mills Foundation grant – $2 million – is set to help set in motion Water Works, a park featuring a visitor center and outdoor activities that will be located in the Central Riverfront.
Roughly $1 million from the grant will make it to the Northside, including $150,000 dedicated to developing the planned park at the Scherer site. Another $850,000 will be used toward a project at 26th Avenue North, where a pier and bike trail connection to West River Parkway are planned.
For this latter project, another grant will benefit. Last month, the Minnesota Twins Community Fund donated $50,000 to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation in order to bring young voices to the project. Environmental Design Studio students at Juxtaposition Arts, a North Minneapolis youth organization, will be involved in planning for the 26th Avenue pier and trail connection.
Tom Evers voiced the importance of this type of support. “As part of implementing RiverFirst,” he said, “we believe it’s important to expand community and youth involvement in the visioning of community connections to the Mississippi River.”
Camdenites can learn more about these and other riverfront developments by visiting mplsparksfoundation.org/riverfirst.