Loring Park's dandelion-shaped fountain has been the backdrop for countless engagement proposals and wedding photos in downtown Minneapolis throughout the decades.
Now, it's getting a much-needed restoration.
During the summer, water leaks from the fountain's basin. The bricks below are cracked and broken. Sometimes, if a mechanical component malfunctions, it can't even be turned on.
While parks officials acknowledge the Berger Fountain is in need of major repair, it's low on their list of priorities. So neighborhood organizations are stepping in to help raise money for its restoration, replacing the original components and redesigning the surrounding plaza.
The overhaul would also include the creation of an artistic enclosure to protect the fountain during the winter, replacing a drab plywood box that currently covers it from the snow.
On Wednesday night, a Park Board committee and Loring Park community groups agreed to collaborate on the project, which was estimated to cost more than a $1 million.
Mary Bujold, a Loring Park resident and the chair of a committee leading the restoration effort, said that while the design of the fountain will remain the same, the work will turn it into a "totally new fountain."
"It would look like what it looks like now, because nobody wants to change the dandelion fountain," she said. "We all love it."
Parks officials are wary of saying when the renovations will start, but neighborhood residents involved in the project are eager to get started. Bujold said she hopes the fountain is fully restored in 2021.
Berger Fountain is named after Ben Berger, the former parks commissioner who donated the fountain to the city in 1975. It was a copy of the El Alamein Memorial Fountain Berger saw on a trip to Sydney, Australia. Berger funded the Minneapolis fountain with profits made from screening "The Exorcist" at his chain of movie theaters, according to parks historian David Smith.
The fountain is located on the northeast section of the park and stands above a raised basin. It has several stems shooting out of the center, giving it its distinct dandelion shape.
Mechanical parts of the fountain have had to be periodically repaired, said Colleen O'Dell, the project manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
"The components are pretty old," she said. "We've been carrying on with repairs and it's gotten to a point where we really need to make a more major investment."
A 2017 master plan for downtown parks estimated the costs of the restoration and plaza redesign at $1.5 million. Loring Park, however, currently ranks low on the Park Board's funding priorities.
Citizens for a Loring Park Community and Friends of Loring Park, two neighborhood nonprofits, offered to take the lead and fund-raise for the renovations. Bujold said she hoped to receive grant or state funding, as well.
"Raising a million dollars is a difficult and daunting task," she said. "I really want us, as a neighborhood, to accomplish this and have the Berger Fountain be here for years and years to come."
The plaza redesign would more clearly identify the park's entrance, improve bike and pedestrian safety and connect the park to the Loring Greenway, O'Dell said.
During the winter, the fountain is covered with an unattractive plywood box that is subject to vandalism.
Third-year architecture students at the Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis were asked to come up with a new, artistic cover for the fountain last semester. They designed intricate covers shaped like leaves, snowflakes and geodesic spheres.
The restoration committee will present four of 11 designs at a public meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Loring Community Arts Center.
Two of the designs will be selected to move forward, according to Paul Bierman-Lytle, an adjunct professor at the school.
"They did a really good job," Bierman-Lytle said of his students. "We're very excited to see which two they'll select and see which student's design gets built."