RiverFIRST moving forward

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The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s big vision for a renewed Upper Riverfront is getting a fresh start. What was once called the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative — or MR|DI for short — will soon be known as RiverFIRST, as the process for bringing to life the ambitious plan moves forward.

On February 15, the Park Board Planning Services staff recommended to the Board’s Planning Committee that the RiverFIRST plan be formally adopted. The recommendation was made as part of a proposed resolution that will move RiverFIRST into a 2012 planning and design phase for projects to be built beginning in 2013.

Riverfirst plans transforming the city’s industry-heavy Upper Riverfront from inhospitable to inviting, thanks to destination parks and trails that reconnect residents and visitors with one of the three great rivers of the world and “America’s fourth coast, a plan for 5.5 miles of riverfront with the potential to create the largest expanse of new public and green space since the Minneapolis Parks system was first created over 100 years ago.

The RiverFIRST plan is the outcome of the MR|DI. The MR|DI design team of Tom Leader Studio and Kennedy & Violich Architecture (TLS/KVA) and finance consultants HR&A Advisors originally presented the draft RiverFIRST Proposal to Park Board Commissioners on September 21, 2011.

Planning Services’ two additional recommendations are formally adopting RiverFIRST as the project name and identity and authorizing a series of “next steps,” including seeking a regional park boundary adjustment for the Scherer site; using RiverFIRST as a basis for coordinating with the City of Minneapolis to update the Above the Falls Master Plan; seeking a scope of work and fee proposal from TLS/KVA for the next stage of design; and working with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation to establish a collaboration agreement with RiverFIRST implementation partners.

“With the adoption of these recommendations, the Minneapolis Park Board will take a significant first step toward making the compelling RiverFIRST vision a reality for Minneapolis residents and visitors,” says Bruce Chamberlain, Assistant Superintendent for Planning. “Throughout the city’s history, a lack of interconnected natural public and green space has impeded residents’ enjoyment of our magnificent river amenity. With the realization of RiverFIRST, the Minneapolis Park Board and our partners can literally and figuratively change the Upper Riverfront landscape in as little as three to five years.”

The RiverFIRST resolution and supporting documents are available at MinneapolisParks.org and MinneapolisRiverfrontDevelopmentInitiative.com.

Beginning in June 2011, MR|DI carried out a summer-long community engagement process that included: a community input survey taken by more than 600 people; Promotion and participation in more than 30 community events throughout Minneapolis; three additional public meetings held in association with the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership; more than 40 presentations and meetings with neighborhood associations, community-based non-profit organizations, agencies and other stakeholder groups; and the debut of “River Is,” a figurative gathering of people’s thoughts about the Mississippi today and for the future. Info: MinneapolisRiverfrontDevelopmentInitiative.com.

The Park Board Planning Committee accepted the resolution with several comments and questions, as well as an amendment stating that the Park Board will explore a land bridge over I94 to connect the Northside to the riverfront. Community members can view the rebroadcast of the meeting at http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID= 37&calid=868.

The next step for RiverFIRST is the official vote on adoption, expected to take place at the 5 p.m. Board Meeting on Wednesday, March 14, at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road.