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Development News

Getting creative: in 2011 developments demonstrated new ways to reach people

This year, a lot of local development projects got creative.

They innovated in community engagement, replacing the typical “request for proposals” with contests. Social media tools helped to keep the conversation going beyond the traditional town hall meeting. Artists and art-making were brought into the development process in fresh ways. And technology contributed to community-building via smartphones and QR codes.

For example, early in the year, the Mississippi Riverfront Design Competition attracted 55 proposals from around the globe.

In re-imagining a portion of the riverfront in Minneapolis, the idea was to emphasize parks as an “engine for sustainable recreational, cultural, and economic development along the riverfront,” according to project materials.

Today, the effort has evolved into the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MRDI).

On Dec. 15, MRDI held a well-attended public meeting at the Mill City Museum to discuss the possibilities for a nearby ‘Water Works’ park along the river. In the past it was the site of the city’s first water supply and fire-fighting pumping stations.

Partners in Preservation

Partners in Preservation (PIP) from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation had a contest to award $1 million to 13 local preservation projects. The public got to help determine where the money went by voting on Facebook for their favorite projects.

Chris Morris from the National Trust for Historic Preservation said that the contest raised the profile of a number of local preservation projects. He celebrated “the impact it can have on sites that are meaningful to people in their neighborhoods.” Additionally, through creative open-house events, people “tried to involve the community and do good work.”

The Weisman Art Museum held a contest that for the redesign of the bike and pedestrian plaza outside its door, hosting public meetings with interdisciplinary design teams and exhibiting preliminary sketches and models.

Similarly, Architecture Minnesota magazine, which the American Institute of Architects Minnesota publishes, is undergoing its second annual round of Videotect, a video competition that asks participants to contemplate the built environment. The theme this time is sustainable transportation and its enhancement through design. It’ll wrap up with a screening of the videos, giving the audience a chance to weigh in.


Also on the transportation theme, Irrigate is a three-year place-making initiative that aims to connect artists to community development that will accompany the coming Central Corridor light rail transit line.  Springboard for the Arts, TC LISC and the city of St. Paul received $750,000 from the national funding group ArtPlace, to set it in motion.  

Laura Zabel, who heads Springboard, said, “We really see the Central Corridor and construction as an opportunity to engage artists in a really deep way."
Similarly, technology tools are helping to create a sense of community. Some recently released smartphone tours feature audio segments about local landmarks, like Ranger on Call, which touches on various aspects of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Others, such as Saint Paul: Code Green put people on a kind of scavenger hunt in which they scan strategically placed QR codes to learn more or advance in the “game.”

Experience Southwest’s "shop local" marketing campaign in Southwest Minneapolis also takes advantage of QR codes to direct community members to area retailers.  
Going forward, I expect to see more experimentation of this kind in other areas--look for it in connection with locally trending topics like bicycling, solar power and urban farming.

Anna Pratt, Development Editor
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