Have a say on river ideas


It’s like a jujitsu move, Sheila Kennedy said, “use the enemy’s weight against it.” There she goes, painting pictures again. The consultants handling the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MR|DI), Tom Leader Studio/Kennedy Violich Architecture (TLS/ KVA), Kennedy in particular, sustain the visual and intellectual “wow factor” that got them the job.

By September, 2011 they’re to have recommended a manageable first step in what they call RiverFIRST; the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the Minneapolis City Council will be asked to vote on the priority. With some MPRB (the initiative’s sponsor) money to seed it, though the amount is not determined yet or not released, officials will begin fundraising and assembling other resources and actions that support that first step in working with the Upper Mississippi River.

The meeting May 25 that I attended was the third of three public meetings amidst a flurry of committee meetings and meetings with other specific groups, packed into the consultants’ monthly in-town visit. The next meeting coming up is June 22, 6-8 p.m. at the park board headquarters, 2117 West River Road.

If you like theater as much as you love the river and what it represents, you’ll want to attend one of these sessions. It’s anything but boring, and the audience questions and comments are plentiful and intelligent…no guarantees, of course. For those not convinced that a meeting’s worth your time, there will also be an online survey available starting June 22, and opportunities to weigh in throughout the summer, yet to be scheduled.

The jujitsu comparison dealt with taking the highway (I-94) and the railroads, the most immovable objects obstructing river access from neighborhoods, and in this case, bridging them from Farview Park on Minneapolis’ North Side, to the river with the new environment holding community gardens and farmers’ markets, and filtering water runoff as well.

Northeaster readers might assume that Scherer Park, re-purposing the former Scherer Brothers land as a public swimming beach with a clean-water pool, among other amenities, would be the first step. Not necessarily. The consultants also talked about adding “knot” bridges (for pedestrians and bicycles, tied below or to the side of existing bridges) and enhancing trails needed to connect Northeast and North Minneapolis at the Plymouth Bridge, the Broadway Bridge and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe bridge to the north of them.

But then what about plans for the land port? The Port of Minneapolis near Dowling Ave. N., city-owned and reportedly with relatively short leases for its tenants, could have its current functions consolidated, be reconfigured, attract “green” businesses, and still have about half the land left over to create wetlands that help clean the water coming from the North Minneapolis watershed. More jujitsu.

Criteria that will be considered in picking a site or sites include: Community benefits, municipal needs, timing and land ownership, and “demonstration capacity,” (how well does a portion of RiverFIRST demonstrate these four concepts).

Kennedy also introduced ideas that “should be almost like $50 and a bucket of paint,” small things, by comparison, that can be done without moving or building much. For example, rooftop farming to capture storm water and space using tray systems, or painted bike trails, like striping but painting the entire lane.

And ideas were offered for breaking down the larger pieces. The bridge over I-94 might be too expensive but perhaps something can be done with city-owned rights of way at 27th and 28th avenues North.

Many of the audience questions were along lines of “this all sounds nice, but where’s the money going to come from?” Mary Maguire, of Marshall Street NE, said “it would be good to get a line in the sand, drawn on the map, so people can say yes in 20 years this’ll be a park. I’d love to know it’ll get done without constant battles.”Dowling Ave. N.

Park Commissioner Scott Vreeland likened it to needing the dynamite for the logjam—the right thing to do for all the right reasons, the piece of the larger plan that has to happen.

The “$100 million pond,” a magazine ad from another state, was presented as a way of looking at the finances. Rather than representing the cost of building a pond, this example added up the worth that an existing lake provides. It prevents asthma, for example, by washing out pollutants from the air. Kennedy encouraged us to see our Mississippi river and its opportunities in similar fashion. They’ll be reaching out to organizations and other governments that may be able to actually see the Upper Mississippi park challenges that way.