Minneapolis city staff are recommending the City Council approve a $1.8-million contract with Hargreaves Associates to design the Downtown East park adjacent to the new Vikings stadium. The San Francisco-based landscape architect was selected from three finalists, whittled down from 13 proposals, that competed on the project. City Council must approve the award for the 4.2-acre park, now called The Downtown East Commons. But first the item must move through the city's Community Development and Regulatory Services committee on Jan. 14. Some of company's more notable projects include Discovery Green, a 12-acre park in Houston; Cumberland Park, a 6.5-acre park in Nashville; the recently-completed Denver Union Station, public plaza space totaling 8 acres; and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a massive 270-acre park built for the London Olympics in 2012. The proposed park has faced several funding hurdles and will likely face more. But both city and downtown leadership have made it clear that they want to see a vibrant, dynamic park — not just a two-black stretch of grass. But Hargreaves' roughly $2-million contract won't come close to covering the costs to of doing so. Past estimates suggest a more robust vision for the park costing between $6.3 and $10.5 million. But Hargreaves' budget, according to city documents, puts the grand total at $18.7 million. Ryan Companies, the developer responsible for the entire five-block Downtown East project, kicked off a donation drive by pledging $200,000 in September to Greening Downtown Minneapolis — a 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed by the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Greening Downtown Minneapolis (GDM) will spearhead the effort with a fundraising campaign. "There couldn't be a better choice of lead designer," said David Wilson, head of GDM, in a statement. "Their experience with signature projects around the world is impressive, and their attention to stakeholder needs and commitment to genuine engagement through the design process is exactly in keeping with our expectation of how to best create an extraordinary place for our city." The design contract with Hargreaves will outline a timeline with benchmarks to keep development of the park on track for a summer 2016 opening. Stakeholders are proposing a two-phase process, the first being complete by the Vikings 2016 season and the second before Super Bowl 2018, hosted by Minneapolis. Here's a timeline of the park's history:

  • Dec. 13, 2013 - City Council approves terms with Ryan and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) for entire Downtown East project
  • Feb. 14, 2014 - the City, Ryan and MSFA execute the development agreement for the five-block project, which provides the construction, financing and conveyance to the city of a cleared site with some basic improvements by July 1, 2016
  • February 2014 - the stakehoulders execute an Urban Park Use Agreement defining the rights of the MSFA and Minnesota Vikings use of Downtown East Commons
  • Aug. 29, 2014 - City Council accepts pre-development grant from the Met Council for design work on the Commons
  • September 2014 - a City Council-established park commitee develops parameters and vision for the park's design and programs
  • Dec. 11, 2014 - City Council approves a Memorandum of Understanding with Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board providing for conveyance and lease-back of the Commons

(Slideshow compiled by staff writer Eric Roper)