Competing firms from New York, Beijing, Berkeley and Boston showed ideas for redeveloping along the Mississippi River from the Stone Arch Bridge north to the Minneapolis city limits.
Four competing firms presented their best design ideas Thursday night for enhancing 5.5 miles of shoreline on each side of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
More than 400 people at the Walker Art Center watched and applauded as successive proposals came to life on the big screen. What they saw included state-of-the art illustrations, maps and computer animations showing what the river corridor could become with new boardwalks, public beaches, pedestrian bridges, amphitheaters, art spaces, restored wetlands, greenhouses and urban farms.
The study area, from the downtown Stone Arch Bridge to the city's northern boundary, includes acreage on each side of the river as it flows past some of the city's oldest neighborhoods and industries. It contains about 22 acres of parkland, but most of the area closest to the river is owned and used by companies.
One of the challenges was to come up with new ways to connect people to the river, project manager Mary deLaittre said.
All of the firms noted how Interstate Hwy. 94 cuts off most of north Minneapolis from the river, and some proposed covering parts of the freeway with "land bridges"-- parks and walkways that would lead from places like Farview Park to the shoreline. Other ideas included restoring or building new islands in the river for migrating birds, and creating back channel areas for canoeing, kayaking and ice skating. They also included expanded connections with existing bikeways and walking trails, and new transportation such as water taxis on the river or streetcars on abandoned railways and bridges.
Former park superintendent David Fisher was elated with the work.
"Wow," he said. "They captured what I think needed to be captured, all of them. They're very good."
The firms were also directed to present at least one project that could be developed within the next three to five years, and most zeroed in on building a new park and urban beach at the 11-acre Scherer Brothers lumberyard that the Minneapolis Park Board purchased last June.
The teams include the Ken Smith Workshop from New York City, Stoss Landscape Urbanism of Boston, Tom Leader Studio in Berkeley and Turenscape from Beijing. Their collective work includes award-winning riverfront and industrial reclamation park projects in Milwaukee, Memphis, Toronto, New York City, London and Shanghai.
DeLaittre said that while the individual projects are important, the larger reason for the design competition was to generate new ideas for the long-term future. "We're also looking at this as a roadmap for development of what's going to happen over the next 10, 20, 30, 50 years."
Cecily Hines, president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, said that she will work with individual donors and others to help raise money that can be matched with public funds for riverfront projects.
The design competition is part of a broader effort called the Next Generation of Parks that will guide development of the Minneapolis park system during the 21st century. It was funded by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board with funds from the Metropolitan Council. It was co-sponsored by the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, with the University of Minnesota College of Design and the Walker Art Center as creative partners.
A 13-member jury of design professionals and local elected officials will analyze the design team proposals and announce a winner on Feb. 10. They will also select one of the winner's projects to be built in the next few years. Sources and amounts of the funding have yet to be determined.
Each firm prepared a video and related information for its proposal, which can be viewed online at www.minneapolisriverfrontdesigncompetition.com.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388