A $1 million pledge from Bank of America has moved the Minneapolis Parks Foundation closer to its $18 million fundraising goal for riverfront parks and trails in Minneapolis.
The grant will support the foundation’s RiverFirst campaign, which has so far raised $15.9 million that will fund park improvements in downtown, known as the Water Works, and a project near 26th Avenue N. that will increase North Side access to the river.
“With Bank of America’s catalytic contribution to RiverFirst, breaking ground on two of the most important new Minneapolis parks projects in recent decades is within reach,” Tom Evers, executive director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, said Wednesday.
Bank of America’s donation will help revitalize the former industrial corridor for new investment, said Katie Simpson, Bank of America’s Minneapolis market president.
“When complete, RiverFirst will transform the city’s relationship with the iconic Mississippi River, engage historically disenfranchised communities and ... reconnect the riverfront with trails, natural areas and parks,” she said.
The RiverFirst campaign will transform the upper Mississippi River waterfront into a cultural and recreation destination and a source of economic growth, said Tom Paul, chair of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.
Paul said he hoped that the RiverFirst campaign money will benefit “communities often left disconnected to the river.”
While Minneapolis has one of the best parks in the nation, city residents don’t have the same amenities and access to parks and riverfront, said Brad Bourn, president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
“All you have to do is look in my part of town in southwest Minneapolis to the Chain of Lakes to Minnehaha Creek and compare that with some of our amenities in north and northeast Minneapolis,” he said. “It becomes crystal clear that we have a tale of two cities.”
The majority of the foundation’s money raised will go toward the Water Works project, while $1.5 million will be used for first phase of the project in the North Side.
The Water Works project will create a park pavilion, hillside performance space, public art and a trail extension from the Stone Arch Bridge. The 26th Avenue project will create a river overlook and a trail connection from 26th to W. River Parkway.
“Those people will have access to the river in ways that they never had it,” said Park Board interim Superintendent Mary Merrill. “We’re really going to make this riverfront access a reality for everyone.”
The General Mills Foundation gave the park foundation $3 million to kick off the campaign in 2015. Construction on both projects is expected to start in the spring of 2019.