Update on new regional park at the Upper Harbor Terminal site

An illustration of part of the future park being built at the Upper Harbor Terminal site.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is making progress on building a new riverfront regional park at the former Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT) site. The new 19.5-acre park is being prepped for building demolition and site grading later this year, with the full park construction planned for 2023-24.

Concept Plan Approved

 On December 1, 2021 MPRB Commissioners approved a concept plan for the park. The new regional park will follow the edge of the Mississippi River for nearly a mile with bike and walk paths along a rehabilitated shoreline. A five-acre park entrance plaza will be accessible from Dowling Avenue and a new parkway road serving the park. See the Upper Harbor Terminal Park Concept Plan at minneapolisparks.org/park_care__improvements/park_projects/current_projects/upper-harbor-terminal-new-park/ or info minneapolisparks.org/planning.

Construction Schedule

Work began in March on preparing the industrial site for park construction. First, non-native vegetation is being cleared and erosion control measures installed. Tree species have been identified and assessed by MPRB Forestry. Native vegetation, which includes a number of cottonwood trees, will be preserved and protected.

Railroad tracks are scheduled to be removed this summer, then building demolition and mass grading is expected to occur late summer through the end of the year. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission approved the demolition plan on January 18, 2022.

Park, path and parkway construction is scheduled to take place 2023-24, after building demolition and grading is complete. The new park is expected to open in 2024.

Equipment used for this work is large and heavy and can be extremely dangerous if one is not alert around it. Stay away from it at all times. Above all, impress upon any children to stay away from material piles and equipment parked on or near the job site.

Project Background

The MPRB and City of Minneapolis have been working with community members to create a plan to redevelop the Upper Harbor Terminal site since the closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam ended barge traffic to the site in 2015.

The MPRB is moving forward with plans for a 19.5-acre park at the 48-acre site and has roughly $8 million budgeted for the first round of park improvements. The park concept was created and approved after more than 100 meetings, tours and other public events to listen to Northside community members about their aspirations and concerns about developing the site. 

The engagement process focused on reaching people where they are, through multiple ways of communication and methods of engagement, at a range of events and locations.

The City of Minneapolis is planning redevelopment of the site not occupied by the upcoming regional park. Visit upperharbormpls.com for updates and info.

Site History

The Upper Harbor Terminal site was part of the huge area that was taken from the Dakota people by the U.S. Government through the 1851 treaties at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota. A Native American Context Statement and Reconnaissance Level Survey Supplement report was completed in 2016. This study indicated that a Native American trail along the River went through or past the UHT site; no other known site connections to Native American history were highlighted in the report.

Uses prior to development of the site as a barge terminal included lumber yards and mills and, later, commercial gardens. The portion of the site between Washington Avenue and I-94 had included some homes and small commercial/industrial structures before being acquired and cleared by the Minnesota Department of Transportation for construction of I-94. The cleared parcels subsequently were conveyed to the City as excess highway right-of-way and added to the UHT site.

Between 1968 and 1987, the Upper Harbor Terminal site was developed as an inter-modal barge shipping terminal located at almost the head of commercial navigation on the Mississippi River. The barge terminal remained in operation until the end of 2014 when barging ceased due to the planned closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock in spring of 2015. The site operation then shifted to interim use to store commodities that are trucked to and from the site.

For more info on the park project visit minneapolisparks.org/planning and