Oslund firm picked for Peavey Plaza work

  • Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 19, 2010 - 9:29 PM

The Minneapolis firm that designed Target Field plaza will renovate the public space on south Nicollet Mall.

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On a recent October day, downtowners enjoyed the steps of Peavey Plaza.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved Oslund and Associates to renovate Peavey Plaza, the modernist public space around Orchestra Hall on the south end of Nicollet Mall.

The Minneapolis landscape architecture firm has designed several of the city's most noteworthy public spaces, including the entrance plaza at Target Field, Gold Medal Park adjacent to the Guthrie Theater and a memorial site commemorating the I-35W bridge collapse.

Oslund's team was picked over three competitors, all Minneapolis-based, who sought to put their stamp on a site that defined Minneapolis as a national design leader when it was opened in 1975. M. Paul Friedberg, the New York-based designer of the original plaza with its sunken pool and terraces, will collaborate with Oslund on the renovation.

"We're absolutely thrilled," said Tom Oslund, the firm's principal. "We know it's a challenge because there are multiple players and it's an iconic space, but the more challenge, the more creative the solution needs to be."

Though preservationists fret about possible alterations to the plaza's distinctive design, Friedberg said that he's open to changes, especially if they welcome the city's multicultural mix. "You have to respect the city and its people," he said.

The city authorized $250,000 for the first phase of design, which is expected to generate at least three alternative plans by July 2011. Representatives of the orchestra, the city and the community will review designs as they evolve. Completion of phase two, the actual renovation, is contingent upon receipt of $2 million in state bonding money already promised and raising private money for the rest of the work. The city estimates total project costs at $5 million to $6 million, but landscape professionals expect it could be substantially more.

Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson declared himself "obviously delighted" by the choice. With Oslund's firm on board, the orchestra "will get an extraordinary project that complements the KPMB design," he said, referring to Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, the Toronto-based architecture firm that is designing a $45 million expansion of Orchestra Hall.

The orchestra and the city are expected to collaborate on fundraising. Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak chaired a daylong session Tuesday during which the competing landscape firms were publicly interviewed.

City Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose Seventh Ward includes Orchestra Hall, praised the selection process as a "really positive example of how a public-private partnership should work."

Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy, 12th Ward, cautioned the architects to address winter housekeeping issues. "A great design won't stay that way unless it takes into consideration the four seasons of Minneapolis and maintenance that must be sustainable," she said.

Oslund's firm has not yet sketched any designs, but Oslund said he has been thinking about Peavey Plaza for the past four years. Two years ago he assigned its renovation as a project at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where he teaches landscape design. "I'll assign it again this spring," he said. "So there's a lot of thinking and research" going into this project.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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