Minneapolis leaders are seeking public input ahead of the next big step in a project designed to breathe new life into the city's former port alongside the Mississippi River.
The city released a detailed plan for public comment Tuesday to remake an industrial swath of north Minneapolis into a bustling center of activity. Affordable housing, parkland, commercial space, a music venue and a community "hub" building would spring up along the river under the plan, which will go to the City Council for approval in February.
Spanning 48 acres, the so-called Upper Harbor Terminal is now an isolated corner of the city notable for its large storage domes. The construction of Interstate 94 through north Minneapolis — completed in the 1980s — cut the area off from the rest of the North Side.
"This is an opportunity that we can create some actual change within north Minneapolis and create some really good opportunities," said Markella Smith, co-chair of the city-appointed committee that helped develop the plan.
The development team includes United Properties and First Avenue Productions, which would operate the music venue. Another developer, nonprofit Building Blocks, is expected to join the development team next year.
"At the end of the day, we are just trying to make sure that the North Side benefits and … Black folks benefit from this," Smith said.
Community benefits are baked into several elements of the plan. The city would retain ownership of the land beneath most of the development, for example, and use lease payments to support programs focused on "gentrification, displacement and wealth building" in north Minneapolis.
A $3 charge on tickets to First Avenue events at the music venue would be used by a to-be-determined organization to support community businesses, events and other initiatives.
The project garnered $12.5 million in bonding dollars from the state this fall to help build the concert venue. An earlier $15 million state grant will support the park and public infrastructure.
The total cost of the development is expected to be about $300 million, excluding city and Park Board costs for public infrastructure. Construction of the initial phase is slated to begin in late 2022.
In addition to the 7,000- to 10,000-seat concert venue, the development is expected to feature more than 500 units of housing, a health and wellness hub, commercial space for manufacturing and food production, and nearly 20 acres of parkland and parkways.
The project has been the subject of more than 100 community meetings since planning began in 2015.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing. A number of residents involved in the planning process raised objections last year that the project wasn't being designed to serve residents in the surrounding community. That was before the release of the new plan, which includes more community benefits.
"This project has been a people-centered project," said DeVon Nolen, who helped lead community engagement on the project. "These are North Side people who are showing up … volunteering their time to make sure not only that what the community is asking for is embedded in the plan but also making sure that the mechanisms are in place to help it become a reality."
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