FREE SPEECH ZONE | Save Peavey Plaza

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In a recent phone call with M. Paul Friedberg, the Original Architect of Peavey Plaza, the first thing he said was, “What kind of a city are you living in?”  I replied, “The kind of city that has no accountability for the academia of its elected officials.”

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The President of the Minneapolis City Council is a nurse (granted a registered nurse, but a nurse).  The Council Vice-President has no evidence of higher education whatsoever.  I can find no advanced educational background for the Chair of Public Works – she was a girl scout.  These are the people who are being elected to manage Our City and spend Our Money.

“What kind of people are these?” Architect Friedberg asked me.  They are people who have no understanding of or respect for the history and heritage of our city.

For those of you who don’t know (and most of you do not know due to the secretive City process involved – they wanted to keep you in the dark), The City of Minneapolis plans to destroy Minnesota’s Cultural Landscape, Peavey Plaza.  What are Cultural Landscapes?  According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, “Cultural Landscapes provide a sense of place and identity; they map our relationship with the land over time; and they are part of our national heritage and each of our lives”.  Peavey Plaza is a narrative of Minnesota culture and an expression of regional identity.

“Minneapolis” is Sioux and Greek for “City of Water”.  The magnificent waterfall is the most important feature with its specific and unique design.  (I see more tourists standing in front of this for their photo than anywhere else in the downtown area.)  Having traveled extensively internationally and in the U. S., I have never seen a space as unique as this.  The descent into the lower area is a remarkable escape into an oasis away from the city bustle.  There is performance space with terrific sight lines.  It is fine acoustically.  There is great charm in the street fair atmosphere of downtown’s only public festival space.  A tree-filled water park space, Peavey Plaa is an integral part of the Nicollet Mall streetscape; for many people, their favorite part of the mall.  It is a portion of what remains of the elegance of Downtown Minneapolis.  It is signature Minnesota.

Peavey Plaza/Fountain is a nationally recognized award-winning landscape.  However, it has not been around long enough – about 13 years short of the 50 year threshold, for historic designation that is outlined in National Register of Historic Places guidelines.  It was designed and built to last through the ages.  Sadly, The City of Minneapolis neglected this perfect gem of a space that it was entrusted to care for.  Now, they plan to cover this mistake by getting rid of the people’s plaza altogether. 

The partner in this scandal (for that is what this truly is) is Orchestra Hall which plans to expand its interior lobby space into what is now The People’s Plaza, Peavey Plaza.  Another plaza-like space has been designed to accompany the expansion of Orchestra Hall.  Some critics have already labeled this new space as a really watered down version of Chicago’s Millennium Park.  Nothing special, no longer award-winning and no longer nationally recognized as signature Minnesota.  Two million dollars in State bonding funds was given to the City Of Minneapolis for “Peavey Plaza”.  But the City will not be using that funding for Peavey Plaza.  They will use it to destroy Peavey Plaza, expand Orchestra Hall, and make a new and lesser thing that they will call “Peavey Plaza”.  (Newer isn’t better if it’s worse.)  So now your state dollar is going toward this fiasco.

In a letter to an associate, Architect Friedberg asks, “why is it necessary to destroy or diminish something of value in order to create something of value?”  “When did we become so Myopic, mono-focused and egocentric that the needs and desires of an individual or group trumps the needs of all others?”  This is something The City of Minneapolis should have considered before deciding to destroy Peavey Plaza.  What I hear more than anything is that people want Peavey Plaza to stay just the way it is.