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A rendering of the proposed redesign for Peavey Plaza, looking south from next to Orchestra Hall.

, Oslund and Assoc.

Peavey Plaza, as it was and will be

  • Article by: R.T. RYBAK and LISA GOODMAN
  • October 27, 2011 - 6:56 PM

Whether they visit, live or work in Minneapolis, people have loved Peavey Plaza for decades. For many, it's been a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the street -- a place where they can reconnect with the sights and sounds of flowing water. Others retain fond memories of concerts. We have loved it for the same reasons.

Last week, we helped unveil the new design for the Peavey Plaza of the 21st century. The revitalized plaza retains the most beloved aspects of the current one -- the feeling of stepping down from the street, terraced seating, a central gathering and performance space, water -- and dramatically improves upon it.

Above all, the new design makes Peavey Plaza safe again, and finally makes it accessible to everyone. In addition, it builds in sustainability, both environmental and economic. It creates a vibrant new interaction with Nicollet Mall. And it adds many other great features, including a performance wall, a sound garden, and bathrooms -- not to mention some features that most of us wouldn't notice, like the power and data that are required for putting on high-quality public events.

The revitalization is necessary because the Peavey Plaza that we have loved has fallen well short of our needs for some time now.

•It has been far less safe than it should be; its current design has allowed for antisocial and illegal behaviors that no one should have to tolerate.

•It has not been physically accessible to everyone.

•It does not meet contemporary standards for managing storm water; draining the fountain for events sends 120,000 gallons of water directly into the sanitary-sewer system each time.

•Its concrete and pipes are severely eroded -- and concrete, widespread in public plazas at the time Peavey was built, is no longer commonly used for that purpose, for good reason.

•It was initially designed as only passive recreation space and lacks too many of the features that are now essential to performances, making it far too expensive to host them there.

In short, Minneapolis could not -- and would not -- build Peavey Plaza today the way it is now.

Simply fixing the many broken features of the plaza would still leave us with a space that is not safe nor accessible nor functional for everyone. And it would actually cost several million dollars more than revitalizing it with the plan that we've unveiled.

Revitalizing the plaza fixes the problems that preserving it in its current state can't fix -- and gives us a gathering place that is safe and accessible for everyone, that builds in sustainability and conservation, and that meets all the needs of it that we anticipate for the next several decades.

This will take time and cost money, but it won't cost Minneapolis property taxpayers: We will pay for it with $2 million in state bonds and $6 million to $8 million more in private donations that we have begun to raise.

Many people deserve our thanks for helping to move Peavey Plaza firmly into the 21st century. Tom Oslund, whose firm Oslund and Associates was chosen through a competitive public process to design the revitalized plaza, is one of the most progressive and visionary landscape architects anywhere in the world -- and he's based in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Orchestra, which is revitalizing and adding onto its own signature building next door, has been a great partner. And we're grateful to the state of Minnesota for its support.

But above all, you -- the public -- deserve our thanks. Over the last six months, we have asked you for your input, criticism and ideas, and you have responded in droves. More than 500 of you attended one of two town-hall meetings, answered an online survey or came to a lunchtime event.

Great cities are dynamic, not static: They change, and one of the reasons that Minneapolis is great is that we haven't feared change; we've embraced it. In the 40 years since Peavey first opened, we've learned a lot as a society about how to build great, safe and accessible public spaces, lessons that we hadn't yet learned when the plaza first opened. Now we're applying those lessons to re-create and revitalize one of Minneapolis' signature public spaces for the 21st century.

R.T. Rybak is mayor of Minneapolis. Lisa Goodman is a Minneapolis City Council member representing downtown.

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