After decades of planning, Champlin will have a new place for people to live, play and gather along a stretch of the Mississippi riverfront that forms the suburb’s northwest border.

Construction is underway on the first market-rate apartments in several decades in the city, a mostly residential northwest suburb across the river from Anoka. A restaurant, event center and pavilion are up next. It’s all part of Mississippi Crossings, a sprawling $100 million riverfront redevelopment project that will also include a public dock, river walk and plaza.

“The riverfront in Champlin used to be a source of commerce in the logging and mill days,” said Bret Heitkamp, Champlin’s city administrator. “This will provide opportunities for people who don’t live on the river or have access to the river.”

The project has been on the drawing board since the late 1990s when residents and city staff started talking about how to make its woodsy riverfront more accessible to residents. This month, Minneapolis-based Greco Real Estate Development and Property Management broke ground on the Bowline, a 214-unit apartment building that will include an outdoor pool and two public pickleball courts.

In addition to the apartments, the project will include an expanded green space with nearly 20,000 square feet of new outdoor community amenities including a city park and a 600-person riverfront amphitheater. Plans call for a pavilion with restrooms and gathering space that can be rented, a public plaza and open space that will have play equipment and an outdoor performance area. To expand recreational opportunities, a public boat landing is planned along with expanded docks to improve access to a 6-mile “pool” in the river that’s popular with recreational boaters.

Heitkamp said with no official downtown area or commercial district, dining options are lacking in the city, so plans also call for a waterfront restaurant that’s expected to be completed in 2021. Called Dock 21, a nod to Champlin’s location 21 minutes from Minneapolis, it will include indoor and outdoor dining options, and there will be a grab-and-go food component that will make it easy for people visiting the public docks. Abrinas on the River, a 19,000-square-foot event center with a 6,000-square-foot rooftop space, can be reserved by residents and visitors for weddings, community groups and other gatherings.

The project was first proposed in February 1999. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s nice to see it becoming a reality,” said Heitkamp.

Over the decades, planners have been developing private partnerships and assembling additional land, including acquiring some aging apartment buildings and single-family houses. Heitkamp said eminent domain was not required to make those acquisitions.

A succession of mayors, council members and city staff have been focused on improving and adding infrastructure, including the multimillion-dollar reconstruction and cleanup of the Mill Pond Dam. In 2018, the city and MnDOT completed reconstruction of the Hwy. 169 corridor from Hayden Lake Road to the Anoka-Champlin bridge. And last year, United Properties completed construction of Applewood Pointe at Mississippi Crossings, a $30 million, 85-unit senior cooperative community near the Anoka-Champlin bridge.

Last year, Greco was named the master developer for a 12-acre portion of the site, which is part of the Mississippi Crossings Tax Increment Financing District. Greco’s president, Josh Brandsted, said the firm will tackle other aspects of the project involving the public infrastructure, such as the public parking facility. Greco recently started working with the Cohesion Group, a Twin Cities-based hospitality and entertainment consultancy that will help bring the dining and event center space to life.

Until recently, the firm has focused much of its work on urban rental projects including several North Loop warehouse conversions. But with apartment vacancy rates in many parts of the Twin Cities on the rise, the company has been pursuing more projects outside the central cities. In the 2000s, the company developed a retail center in Bloomington, and in 2018 focused its efforts on a 400-plus-unit apartment project on a redevelopment site in Shoreview.

“In the last four years we have shifted our focus to the suburbs,” said Brandsted. “Being a local owner/operator, we felt the shifts in the market as they started to transpire.”