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Regionalism : Development News

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Big Picture Project aims to focus affordable housing possibilities for Central Corridor

Last month, the Big Picture Project kicked off with a public meeting at the Profile Event Center in Minneapolis, themed around equitable transit-oriented development in Seattle.

It'll help inform future affordable housing projects along the planned 11-mile Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line that is to connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Big Picture Project is an effort to come up with a comprehensive affordable housing strategy for this key stretch.

Ryan Curren, a special projects coordinator for the city of Seattle's Office of Housing, who spoke at the meeting last month, says of the project, "It's smart to set affordable housing targets along the corridor and stations years ahead of when the line is running.".

"It gives something to aim for and a way to orient policy proposals toward those goals, with inclusionary goals or new sources of funding or existing sources of funding," he says.

To meet those goals, Seattle has found that "It takes more targeted public subsidy and a tool or policy that requires market-rate developers to create some level of affordable housing in their development," on-site or off-site.

TC LISC, a local branch of a national organization that helps leverage resources for community development, is leading the Big Picture Project in partnership with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, with the support of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, according to TC LISC program officer Kristina Homstad.  

As it is, over 30 plans envisioning future affordable housing developments near the line have been put together, but there's no "coordinated plan that brings synergy to this wide range of effort," the project's website reads.

The idea is to "move beyond projects to placemaking."

A "big picture" strategy can help attract investment to the area, stabilize existing housing stock, preserve affordable rentals, and ensure that any new developments are in the best interests of community members, the website explains.

To carry out the project, a team that includes government, finance, community, and development representatives is studying the various affordable housing plans, maps, national case studies, and more.

Based on their findings, the group will come up with some recommendations and policies, which the public will be able to weigh in on in a series of community forums and neighborhood meetings that are underway through September.

In November a final plan will go before various project partners, including the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the Metropolitan Council, and Minnesota Housing, according to Big Picture Project information.

Ultimately, the group hopes that the plan will lead to "better coordinated housing that helps create a sense of place along the Central Corridor and improves residents' lives," the website states. 

Source: Kristina Homstad, program officer, TC LISC, Ryan Curren, city of Seattle
Writer: Anna Pratt

Bikes Belong gathering in Minneapolis highlights city's bicycle integration

Earlier this month, a group of transportation and policy leaders from Pittsburgh, Penn., and Columbus, Ohio, came to Minneapolis to check out its growing bicycle network as a part of a Bikes Belong Foundation workshop.

Gary Sjoquist, government affairs director for Bikes Belong, a national organization that works to increase bicycling, says that it has led similar workshops in Boulder, Colo. and Portland, Ore., "places where there've been significant changes to increase bicycling." 

The group, which is planning another get-together in New York City in the fall, also hosts international tours in cities such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Munster, Germany, where 40 percent of all trips are taken by bicycle.

When people attend the workshops, "they get to experience it, ride it, and philosophically understand what's going on," he says.

Often a city official will think that developing bicycling infrastructure is a low priority because participation won't be high enough. By coming to Minneapolis or another city, "they can see how bicycling has been integrated and implement what they've seen," he says.  

Those who visited Minneapolis got to see that "what it's like when there are more vehicles on a bike trail than cars on a street nearby, like on certain parts of the greenway," he says.

By the Walker Art Center, where 15th Street intersects with Hennepin Avenue South near Loring Park, the bike lane goes from the street to the sidewalk. "Cyclists can do a left turn on a busy intersection to reach the bike trail," he says. "It's unique to move the bike lane to the sidewalk. I don't think there's any other treatment like it in the U.S."    

Only blocks away, near First Avenue, the bike lane is placed between the line of parked cars and the curb. "That's a lesson from Amsterdam, to move the bike lane to where there are fewer doors opening. It makes for smoother riding for the cyclist," he explains.

Additionally, Minneapolis's bicycle network will grow by 40 percent over the next couple of years, as a related $25 million federal grant continues to be spent. "That's another thing that really struck people who came," he says. "Minneapolis is pretty good in this area, but it will get a lot better once [more] is built." 

Source: Gary Sjoquist, government affairs director, Bikes Belong
Writer: Anna Pratt

St. Paul Parks Conservancy to raise $361,000 to finish Oxford Community Center ballfields

For its second project since it started just over three years ago, the St. Paul Parks Conservancy will tackle the outdoor ballfields--the last round of facility improvements at the Oxford Community Center (Jimmy Lee)

(As a part of its initial project, the conservancy was instrumental in getting various landscape-related enhancements for Lilydale Regional Park. )

Leslie Cook, the nonprofit's interim executive director, describes the center, which was a training ground for baseball greats Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Joe Mauer, as the "crown jewel of recreational centers in the city."
In 2008, the $15 million new building at the Oxford Community Center, which is centrally located in the Rondo neighborhood, opened with a new water park, meeting rooms, "teaching kitchen" for healthy eating, two multi-sports courts, sprung dance floor, and exercise room. "It's a great resource for that area," she says.

But during field construction on the facility's north side, heavy metals were found in the soil, which led to its closure in March 2010. The site's contamination was an unexpected stumbling block.

As a result, children who play on teams that would use the field have to be bused to other locations. "We're adding this energy element the longer we put it off," she says.

Despite the momentum around it, the project likely would've been postponed for some time by the city, but the board thought it was important. "It was close to be being a completed amenity and the board thought it should step up and make it happen."

The MPCA and EPA began remediation work earlier this month while the conservancy is trying to raise $361,000—the gap left in the $1 million project by the contamination—for the field lighting, multi-sport synthetic turf markings, goal posts, backstops, and drinking fountains, according to the website.

It will accommodate football, soccer, baseball, softball, and more. The synthetic turf field will have a drainage system that will make the fields usable even after it rains, she says.

Source: Leslie Cook, interim executive director, St. Paul Parks Conservancy 
Writer: Anna Pratt

St. Paul's $1 million plan for Great River Passage ties together all kinds of riverfront attractions

At a recent public event, the city of St. Paul presented its master plan for 17 miles of the Mississippi riverfront, which it's calling the Great River Passage.

The plan ties together various parks, trails, areas of restored habitat, activity centers, former industrial sites, and more, for over 3,000 acres of river parkland, according to information from the city.

Although planning for the Great River Passage took only about a year, funding for the $1 million project took a decade to get, according to Brad Meyer, a spokesperson for St. Paul parks.

The St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department, Denver, Colo.-based Wenk Associates, and the local Hoisington Koegler Group led the charge, while the Minneapolis-based Little & Company came up with the new Great River Passage branding, according to city information.  
The main idea is to make the riverfront more natural, urban, and connected, Meyer says.

Even though the Mississippi River is the city's chief environmental and economic asset, too much of the riverfront is hard to get to. "The point is to provide access for all of the city's residents," he says. 

The plan lays out a big-picture view for "how we redevelop, leverage private investment, and create nature-based recreation" along the riverfront. 

For example, one part of the plan is about making Watergate Marina at the bend of the Mississippi a hub for recreational activity and environmental education opportunities, according to city information.

Separately, the former Island Station power plant, which is vacant, could become a gathering place. Another idea is to make Shepard Road feel more like a parkway and less like a busy thoroughfare, he says. 

Although current economic circumstances make it difficult to pursue some of these initiatives, Meyer hopes the plan will prepare the city for when funding does come through.
Looking decades into the future, it will "lead us into using the river, making sure we understand its values and move forward as an entire city."

Source: Brad Meyer, St. Paul Parks
Writer: Anna Pratt

A high-tech promotion helps people learn about sustainability efforts in St. Paul

Visit Saint Paul is collaborating with the city of St. Paul on a high-tech promotion that encourages people to explore downtown landmarks where various sustainability efforts are underway.

As a part of the contest, which runs until Oct. 1 and is called "Saint Paul: Code Green," players can scan large QR codes on banners that adorn 16 sites, according to Jake Spano, a city spokesperson.

QR codes are a kind of barcode that's readable by smartphones. People can also enter the contest by using text messages and paper forms. 

After scanning the QR code, participants will be directed on their phones to a website that "will give the user a branded experience based on the location they are at," which includes links to related eco-friendly facts and initiatives, according to a prepared statement about the event. 

City Hall, Park Square Theatre, and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory are just three of the many and varied venues participating.

Spano hopes the promotion helps convey how the city has become a leader in sustainability, helping to educate people about the benefits of its green initiatives both in terms of cost and energy efficiency. 

"We want to get people to think, to create a curiosity around prominent tourist attractions and drive traffic downtown," he says.

Possible home initiatives range from retrofitting old windows to switching out fluorescent light bulbs to be more energy efficient. "These are things that people can do at home and apply to their daily life," Spano says. 

Additionally, participants have the chance to win various green prizes, including a 2011 Chevrolet Volt, an energy-efficient furnace, an Energy Star-rated washer and dryer and an electric lawn mower.

Source: Jake Spano, City of St. Paul
Writer: Anna Pratt

Five-mile RiverLake Greenway becomes city's first bicycle boulevard

In Minneapolis, the RiverLake Greenway, which has been in the works for 15 years, recently opened the city's first bicycle boulevard.

RiverLake is a five-mile east-west-running bike and pedestrian corridor that connects Lake Harriet to the Mississippi River, according to information from Bike Walk Twin Cities, an initiative of Transit for Livable Communities, which administers the project.

The bikeway, which got its start in the 1990s after a group of neighborhood activists pushed for it, was finished after a $400,000 grant came through this spring from Bike Walk Twin Cities.

Minneapolis is one of four cities across the country that received $22 million as a part of a 2005 federal nonmotorized transportation pilot program to encourage biking and walking infrastructure, according to Hilary Reeves, a spokesperson for Bike Walk Twin Cities. 

The bikeway "creates a network so people can bike and get across the city," in a way that's "friendly to cyclists with different skill sets," she says.  

It goes through residential areas along parts of 40th and 42nd Streets East, between the Midtown Greenway and Minnehaha Creek.

Features such as striped bike lanes on its eastern and western ends, and the bicycle boulevard lining the lengthiest part of the greenway, help make the bikeway safe and accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians, according to information from Bike Walk Twin Cities.

It's the first of a handful of bikeways that are planned for the area in conjunction with the federal pilot program, according to Reeves.

Biking is a small piece of the local transportation system but it can make a big difference when it comes to people's health and the environment. "The boulevard gets people thinking about how they're getting somewhere. It gives them options to try biking," she says.

Source: Hilary Reeves, Bike Walk Twin Cities
Writer: Anna Pratt

Mississippi riverfront design competition winner sharpens focus on redevelopment plan

TLS/KVA, a design team that's based partly in Boston and Berkeley, Calif., has begun an information-gathering phase to bring its RiverFirst concept to fruition.

In February, the team won the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition (MRDC) with the proposal, which involves "inter-related design initiatives focused on health, mobility, and green economy," and which, functioning on many different levels, aims to help raise awareness about how consumers impact the river system, according to a prepared statement about the proposal.

The competition asked for proposals that would reorient the area to the river, with a main idea being that parks can be a powerful engine for sustainable recreational, cultural, and economic development--something that is especially needed along the river, an area that historically has been underused, according to project materials.        

For its efforts, TLS/KVA has secured a commission, though the scope, location, and features are still up in the air, according to project information.

To figure out what specific aspects of its ambitious RiverFirst proposal will be doable, the team is researching other existing riverfront-related plans, while also getting feedback from various experts and community members and nailing down possible funding sources, according to project manager Mary deLaittre.  

On April 6, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved $267,000 in contracts for this phase of the project, which has a new heading: Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative.

Ultimately over the next six months, TLS/KVA will work to define an implementation plan for both a long-term framework and a more immediate project--so this is a transitional phase into development, she explains. 

In late April, TLS/KVA had its first steering, advisory, and technical committee meetings with the park board. It'll continue to meet in the coming months, and then unveil a firmer plan to committee members in September, she says.

The committees, which will be open to the public, offer "critical connections and opportunities for community engagement," says deLaittre.

With a project of this scale, "it's important to collaborate across institutions and the public and private sector," she says, adding, "We want to avoid a piecemeal approach."

What sets apart this community engagement process from others, she says, is that "we're trying to substantively engage people and turn to them for what they're best at."

Source: Mary deLaittre, project manager for the Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative 
Writer: Anna Pratt

Metropolitan Council asks public for catchy name for new transit system

The Metropolitan Council is asking the public for a "catchy and clever" name for the area's new regional transit system, which includes light rail and bus rapid transit routes, some of which are still in early development stages.

Although there are no specific rules for the name game, Arlene McCarthy, who is the director of Metropolitan Transportation Services, says it needs to allude to the "premium service here in the Twin Cities."

The system she's referencing includes the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit line, the planned Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line and bus rapid transit along I-35W South, Cedar Avenue and "other high-demand corridors in the future," according to a prepared statement.

These routes are set apart from other public transportation modes because they offer frequent, all-day service, predictable arrival times, special lanes, and enhanced vehicles and stations, she says.  

McCarthy says the council wants to hear about what kinds of ideas resonate with people, adding that the Minnesota Wild hockey team underwent a similar christening process some years ago.

One example of a transit-specific name is in San Francisco, where there's BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit. But another approach might be to look at the region more broadly, without using an acronym, she says.  

Additionally, because the branding is about the public, she says, "we want the public to identify with the system name," she says. "Who better to ask than those who use the system?"

The deadline for submissions is March 18 and the council is accepting them on its website, via email, regular mail, phone, and fax.

A group of marketing and communications specialists from various government offices, businesses, and chambers of commerce will sift through submissions in May and June, she says.
Source: Arlene McCarthy, director, Metropolitan Transportation Services
Writer: Anna Pratt

Nice Ride grows with $1.78 million in 'phase two' funding

The local nonprofit organization Nice Ride Minnesota recently announced that it's collected $1.78 million to deliver 50 new bike-sharing stations to Minneapolis and St. Paul as a part of its "phase two" plan.

The program got going last June with 700 bikes between 65 stations throughout Minneapolis, according to program information. Over 100,000 trips were taken in its first season.  

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which was a phase-one sponsor, has released $500,000 of the $1.5 million it promised on the condition that others match it, according to Nice Ride information.

Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), which funnels federal dollars to local walking and biking initiatives through the Bike Walk Twin Cities program, was also a phase-one sponsor. It gave $1 million this time around. 

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative contributed $250,000, while another $30,000 came from Macalester College's High Winds Fund.

Bike-sharing stations can currently be found in and around downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota campus, and Uptown, according to Nice Ride information.

North Minneapolis is already slated to get eight new stations, while others are planned for University Avenue in St. Paul, although exact sites are still being pinpointed, according to Nice Ride executive director Bill Dossett.  

The goal is to get 130 stations, Dossett says, adding, "This is a good start." 

In the placement of bike stations, Nice Ride is striving for regional equity, while also trying to make them convenient for workplaces and transit connections--paying close attention to where the public wants to have them.

This year the program will do a lot of low-income outreach. The idea is to "make it easy for a lot of people to use bikes," he says.

Many stations are scheduled to open around April 1, depending on the weather, he says.   

In Minneapolis, Denver and Washington, D.C., all of which have implemented similar bike-sharing programs, "The result has been immediate," he says. "All three have had very good success."

Source: Bill Dossett, executive director, Nice Ride Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

Mississippi Riverfront Design Contest winner to 'go with the flow'

When the TLS/KVA team of landscape architects and designers strolled a 5.5-mile stretch of the Mississippi River starting at the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis and heading north, they climbed over fences to get a better view of the landscape. It almost got them arrested for trespassing. 

TLS/KVA is a partnership between the Berkeley-based Tom Leader Studio and Kennedy & Violich Architecture from Boston.

Sheila Kennedy, one of the team members leading the charge, says too much of the river is off the beaten track. "We felt the river edge is where people should be," adding, "It's so difficult to get there now."   

TLS/KVA, which has a partnership with nine local firms, was announced as the winner of the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition on Feb. 10. The contest, jointly held by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Minneapolis Parks Foundation, Walker Art Center and University of Minnesota College of Design, solicited proposals from four finalist teams from across the globe.

TLS/KVA stood out for its proposal, titled RiverFIRST, which focuses on water, health, mobility and green economy.

The goals were to re-establish the parks as an economic engine for development and make the river—one of the three great rivers of the world—a connector, not a divider, and reorient the city around that focus, according to contest project manager Mary DeLaittre.    

Whether it's about rediscovering the Northside Wetlands or establishing floating "habitat islands" that happen to be formed from recycled water bottles, "RiverFIRST design initiatives function at multiple scales to link larger natural, social, civic, and economic ecologies and raise citizen awareness about the impacts of consumer choices on the Upper Mississippi River," a prepared statement reads.  

TLS/KVA will be awarded a riverfront parks commission, the details of which will be determined over the course of a four-month transitional phase.

Source: Sheila Kennedy, KVA, Mary DeLaittre, Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition  
Writer: Anna Pratt

Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition: Four finalists lay out inspiring visions

Coming up with inspiring visions for reconnecting the city of Minneapolis to the Mississippi River--one of three great rivers in the world--is no easy task, but that's just what the contestants in the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition set out to do.

The four finalist teams, which were chosen in November, are competing for a commission to redesign 220 acres of parkland along the Mississippi, starting near the Stone Arch Bridge and pushing the city's northern boundary.  

They presented their plans to an audience of over 400 people at the Walker Art Center last week, while another 200 viewers watched online. A winner will be announced Feb. 10.  

Mary deLaittre, the contest's project manager, who is also the founder and principal of Groundwork City Building, says each design was impressive.

For starters, the New York City-based Ken Smith Workshop's plan "clearly walked people along the river," she says, adding, "That was the strongest element. It gave a clear concept of the parks along the river." 

Boston's Stoss Landscape Urbanism had a clear understanding that "we need to reclaim and redefine the river quickly," while the firm also recognized the importance of marketing and branding the endeavor in unique ways.

Likewise, TLS/KVA out of Berkeley, Calif., "distinguished themselves with an innovative, comprehensive and integrated approach," that included a considerable amount of community engagement.

The group touched on topics such as health, mobility and green economy, educating people about consumer impacts on the river.

Last, Turenscape team members who come from Beijing, China, "really outdid themselves with a quality video that looks at the river over 50 years." 

Although each team was paid $30,000, deLaittre says, individually the teams put in another $250,000 in time, expertise and production--hard work that will have lasting value. 

Video footage of their presentations can be seen on the project website, where there's also a form for submitting feedback.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Minneapolis Parks Foundation cosponsored the contest along with creative partners, the Walker Art Center and University of Minnesota College of Design.

Source: Mary deLaittre, project manager, Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition and founder and principal for Groundwork City Building 
Writer: Anna Pratt

A $243 million project to make St. Paul Union Depot a multimodal transit hub  

Through a $243 million renovation that has long been in the works, the historic St. Paul Union Depot will become a multimodal transit hub, providing access to the region, Milwaukee, Chicago, and beyond.

The project broke ground on Jan. 18.

St. Paul policy director Nancy Homans says it'll be a center of transportation activity akin to transit hubs in New York City and Washington, D.C. "It's a strong element of the regional economy."     

Amtrak, metro area buses and express buses, the Central Corridor Light Rail line, and pedestrian and bicycle traffic will run through the depot. Greyhound and Jefferson bus lines might also come into play, according to city information.

It harks back to the 1881 depot's early days, when it was known as the transportation center of the Upper Midwest and the gateway to the Northwest, according to historical information from Ramsey County Regional Rail.

Financing for the renovation comes from a combination of county, state, and federal funds, including $50 million from the last federal transportation bill and $35 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to city information.

Ramsey County is studying what kind of activity should go on there to make it more than a pass-through. After all, Homans explains, "It's an economic center, in and of itself."     
As the region grows and develops over the next several decades, having more people taking advantage of public transit will lead to less congestion. "Businesses today say there's a congestion tax," with trucks sitting in traffic.

The project represents a shift away from highway building, which she characterized as a drag on the economy. "It frees up the resources that would be put into roads and highways and draws it to the center," she says. "It's much more efficient for the long term."

A more efficient system can "set a pattern of activity to save the planet and support the economic prosperity of the region."  

Trains last ran at the depot 40 years ago. It was mothballed and then part of it was used by the U.S. Postal Service. Eventually the county acquired it for the transit project.

"It's a very cool building," she says, adding that the renovation will make it a "wonderful asset."

The renovation project is planned to wrap up in 2012.

Source: Nancy Homans
Writer: Anna Pratt

Figuring out the future of century-old Indian Mounds Regional Park in Saint Paul

St. Paul city officials, community members, and other stakeholders are mulling over ideas to help preserve, restore, and improve Indian Mounds Regional Park. A 20-member task force will present plans at an open house this week. 

The century-old Indian Mounds Regional Park, in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood, is a segment of the Battle Creek Regional Park, according to city information.

Indian Mounds Park has a history as a sacred Indian burial ground going back 2,000 years, starting with the Hopewell culture. Later the area was sacred to the Dakota Indians. Only six of at least 37 original mounds still exist today.

The park hasn't been updated much since the 1970s, according to parks spokesperson Brad Meyer.  

Meyer says the planning process dovetails with a larger visioning effort that's underway, including the Great River Park Plan, which is about making the St. Paul riverfront more natural, more urban, and more connected, project materials state.  

The Great River plan will outline where the city's parks will be in 25 years, Meyer says. In the future,Indian Mounds Park could have volleyball and bocce ball courts, gateway features, and a garden, for instance.

Other ideas are for a dog park, tennis courts, exercise stations, and a revamped amphitheater, according to project materials. Some mounds may be relocated, while native plantings would help restore the prairie.  

The core idea is that Indian Mounds is a destination park, with a lot of potential for becoming a unique place, Meyer says, adding that it's "a significant step into the future of what could be another premium park."  
The plan will move to the City Council in February before heading to the Metropolitan Council.

Source: Brad Meyer, St. Paul parks public information officer
Writer: Anna Pratt

New $4.5 million 46th Street Transit Station is all about making speedy connections

A new $4.5 million transit station, which opened on Dec. 6, makes connections between freeway and locally-running buses faster.

In Minnesota, it's the beginning of freeway "bus rapid transit" (BRT), which aims to get people wherever they're going as quickly as possible. 

The split-level 46th Street Transit Station, which spans the 46th Street bridge across Interstate 35W in Southwest Minneapolis, enables buses to pick up and drop off passengers without ever getting off the freeway, explains Metro Transit spokesperson Bob Gibbons.

Riders can efficiently make connections between the upper and lower levels of the station, which rises out of the median of Interstate 35W.

From the station, which has LCD monitors with real-time information about bus arrival times, people can hop on express buses bound for downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, Best Buy corporate headquarters in Richfield, and Normandale Community College in Bloomington. During peak times, express buses run every 15 minutes.

From the freeway, buses benefit from the MnPass toll lanes, which "give us a consistent, fast trip," he says, explaining that the lane's traffic is kept moving at 50 miles per hour.  

Gibbons says that the 13 routes that converge here "have been adjusted to take advantage of the new station."

These changes were made following a lengthy public hearing process over the past couple years. The Metropolitan Council approved the route realignments in August. The project came together through a combination of federal, state, and regional funds.    

He says the setup is a precursor to an expanded bus rapid transit system set to be fully operational in 2012. The idea behind BRT is to have local buses running frequently enough for people to catch freeway buses that'll go both directions every 15 minutes all day.    

"When you have that frequency, you don't need a pocket schedule," he says. "You don't have to be a slave to the bus schedule and organize your life around it."  

Source: Bob Gibbons, spokesperson from Metro Transit
Writer: Anna Pratt

Four finalists compete to design futuristic riverfront park

No longer will parks simply be about 'turf and trees.'

A 21st-century park should be versatile enough to support various community activities that happen around the clock and throughout the year.

That's the challenge that's been laid out by the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition (MRDC), which deals with a 5.4-mile stretch of the river, or about 220 acres starting in and around the Stone Arch Bridge and historic mills and heading north, according to project manager Mary DeLaittre.

MRDC is a joint project of the Minneapolis parks and its foundation, along with its creative partners, the University of Minnesota College of Design and Walker Art Center.  

Recently the group's 13-member jury culled through 55 submissions that arrived from all over the globe in response to its request for qualifications. They settled on four finalists including the Ken Smith Workshop, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Tom Leader Studio, and Turenscape. The award-winning designers and planners hail from New York City, Boston, Berkeley, and Beijing.

Now, the finalists have a little more than a month to come up with plans.

It's a complicated and fascinating assignment, DeLaittre explains. For starters, the terrain goes from the picturesque to the industrial within overlapping local-to-federal jurisdictions. Additionally, Interstate-94 cuts off North Minneapolis from the river, which adds another wrinkle, says DeLaittre, who is also the founder and principal of local consultant Groundwork: The Foundation for City Building.
However, the teams won't be starting from scratch, she says. They'll be armed with a list of the area's resources to work with.

DeLaittre says she's looking forward to seeing the results, which will lead to a commissioned project to be announced in February 2011. 

She hopes that the competition inspires people to see the river as a connector and not a divider. "We want to orient the city around the river," she says, adding, "It's one of the three great rivers of the world."

Source: Mary DeLaittre, project manager for the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition, founder and principal of Groundwork: The Foundation for City Building
Writer: Anna Pratt

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