How high buildings can rise along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities metropolitan area is one of the questions at issue as a state law, called the Critical Areas Act, gets an overhaul this year.
Since 1973, the law has required each city along the 72-mile urban and suburban riverfront to establish plans for protecting its stretch of the river. Those plans are supposed to tell developers about restrictions such as height, setback, and density.
But just as the river itself sometimes turns stagnant and cloudy, the Mississippi River Critical Area Act had by many accounts turned into a confusing and spottily enforced provision in recent years. That inspired the state legislature to order first a review and then a reform of rule making under the law. By the end of 2010, the National Park Service will have drafted new rules for districts within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
Some buildings, such as the Carlyle and Riverwest in Minneapolis, found a way around height restrictions. Reform will help in cities like Minneapolis that have riverfront rules in place, says Irene
Jones, program director at Friends of the Mississippi River
, a local
nonprofit advocacy organization, by making state law "generally easier
for the city to enforce, less arbitrary."
In St. Paul, the 740 River Drive tower, which predates the law by a decade, offers a vision of development without state restrictions. To see how the law protects the river gorge, Jones points to the relatively undisturbed view downriver from the Marshall Avenue/Lake Street bridge.
Source: Irene Jones, Friends of the Mississippi River
Writer: Chris Steller