Few design changes and even fewer words about park funding were offered at the last scheduled public meeting on the future Downtown East Commons Wednesday night.
Minneapolis city officials and its team explained the slight modifications to the design, but said they are now in the phase of working out logistics, budget and governance of the 4.2-acre park.
“What you are going to see tonight … it’s not going to be huge sea changes,” Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said to a smaller-than-usual community audience. “We are being responsive to what we heard from folks.”
Some of those tweaks, presented by the lead landscape architecture firm, San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates, include:
• Smaller water features that no longer extend to the east side of Portland Avenue.
• Increased slope and number of terrace steps lining parts of the Great Lawn.
• A more defined children’s play area with removable rubber mats and foam blocks.
• A winnowing list of the plant species and hard materials that will be used.
• Placement of lighting and the nature of various lighting schemes throughout the park.
• A longer, curvaceous support building along Park Avenue, meant to better block sight of the parking garage entrance across the street.
There was no fundraising update, but organizers said that will the next major milestone to reach — and it needs to happen soon.
The fundraisers “are moving very fast,” said Mary Margaret Jones, Hargreaves senior principal. “They have to have the money soon for Ryan Companies to keep working.”
A work timeline shows the park moving into full construction mode at the start of 2016. So far, Wells Fargo & Co., the city of Minneapolis and Ryan Cos. have collectively pledged $7 million of the $22 million needed to build and operate the park. Most of the $7 million has gone toward the environmental remediation, excavation, soil work and site preparations. The Minnesota Vikings also contributed $1 million toward the demolition of the Star Tribune building that formerly stood on the park site.
Another fundraising announcement is expected before Thanksgiving, said Win Rockwell, the first executive director of Green Minneapolis, a nonprofit recently formed by the Minneapolis Downtown Council to oversee fundraising (and possibly operations) of the park. He said the stakeholders are currently working through what entity will manage the park once it’s complete.
Hargreaves said that due to public feedback, the large ginkgo and maple tree at the corner of Portland Avenue and 5th Street would be incorporated into the landscaping. Jones said Ryan Cos. has also preserved the cornerstone of the former Star Tribune headquarters, marked “1947,” to be featured in the park to commemorate the newspaper’s history on the site.