Planning, public input underway for new Northeast Park building

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There will be a new recreation building at Northeast Park, and here’s how the public is weighing in on how it will look and how it will be used.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board held an open house at Northeast Library Dec. 11. Park Board Project managers Dana Murdoch and Kate Lamers and members of Perkins+Will Architects were on hand to guide visitors through a series of info boards illustrating the aspects of the recreation building, at a site in the northeast corner of the Northeast Athletic Field park, on Johnson Street near 16th Avenue NE.

On display were time line charts (showing a possible start of construction in mid-2015), results of a MPRB online survey which asked for uses for the facility, preliminary site plans, and a number of photos of existing community buildings around the country. Visitors were given sticky notes to make comments on the design photos, and vote for preferred roof treatments, landscapes, facades, and other architectural solutions. The building itself has a basic floor plan, but not a formal design, yet.

Doron Clark, Chair of the twelve-member Community Advisory Committee for this project, said that his committee will consider a design for recommendation at their January 12 public meeting at Logan Park (6-8:30 p.m.). Community Advisory Committees (CAC) are appointed by elected officials such as Park Board Commissioners, School Board members, City Council members and the mayor for specific large projects; the members’ terms can be six months or longer. If the CAC makes a recommendation, a public hearing on the final design will then be held at a scheduled MPRB meeting at their headquarters at 2117 West River Road North, probably in February.

The Minneapolis office of Perkins+Will was selected by the MPRB Selection Committee in September from a list of 13 responders to the Park Board’s Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project. Project Manager Dave Sheppard, project architect Susie Nelson, designer Kathryn Watson and landscape architect Ana Nelson will be creating plans. Sheppard said that, as an architect, his job is “always advocating for the client, in this case the Park and Recreation board, but by extension the people of the city itself.”

Susie Nelson said that construction impact on adjoining areas will be minimal; off-street parking is already in place, and underground utilities are close to the site, reducing or eliminating the need for street excavations.

The online survey of desired uses of the recreation building was completed in 45 days. Survey responders could list their top five choices. Fitness programs came in first, with almost 55%; then a walking track (46%), community activities (43%), meetings (27%), and basketball (23%).

Hilary Olson, a board member of the Northeast Park Neighborhood Association, noted that her board had some concern about the scope of the building and what they felt was a modest budget for the project. The building will be 15,000 to 17,000 square feet, with a preliminary construction budget of $3.2 million, not including surveys, soil testing and administrative costs.

Project manager Lamers said that $4 million had been budgeted for the recreation building and adjoining site improvements. Although the building is part of the NE Athletic Field Park, that sum was allocated for the building alone, and was not part of the larger park improvements. Money not spent on the building from that amount will be directed toward other improvements to the park itself.