New parks and trails on the Upper Riverfront are moving ahead. The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board-led RiverFirst Initiative (RiverFirst.com) is making progress toward four new parks and miles of riverfront trails.
RiverFirst is a joint effort of the Minneapolis Park Board (MPRB) with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the City of Minneapolis. It is also the name of the Upper Riverfront design project that started in 2010 as the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition. In 2011-12, extensive community input on the winning design was completed, including community meetings, a survey and “River Is, River Could Be,” a collection of community ideas.
In August 2012, MPRB Commissioners approved a resolution that set into motion several RiverFirst Priority Projects, a new park and restored Hall’s Island on the former Scherer Bros. site and upgrading 26th Avenue North to a greenway, along with riverfront trail loops for walkers and bikers.
New Project Emerges: 26th Avenue Overlook and Pier
Since then, the MPRB has overseen what’s called “schematic design” for five RiverFirst projects. Schematic design is a planning and development phase between design ideas and construction documents. It’s an important process for testing whether a project can move forward and at what cost.
Schematic design may also uncover new project opportunities, like the 26th Avenue Overlook and Pier, which emerged as a near-term Northside amenity that ties in with the future greenway for which it’s named.
The 26th Avenue North Overlook and Pier is one of several RiverFirst projects likely to move forward, along with the 26th Avenue North Greenway and riverfront trails. Two new parks are also on to the next phase – the Scherer site on the east bank at Plymouth Avenue Bridge and Water Works on the Central Riverfront.
Water Works schematic design will be complete in early 2014. The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is collaborating with the Park Board to lead this effort and, unlike other RiverFirst projects, Water Works schematic design is the first to be funded by private charitable donations.
Project funding is a key issue that RiverFirst Managing Partners have addressed from the beginning. The MPRB will continue to invest in the Upper Riverfront, but can only account for a fraction of the overall costs. State and Federal funding are expected to fill the gap, as well as a significant amount from private donations.
This month, the RiverFirst Initiative produced a detailed funding strategy report, addressing the complex mix of public-private funding needed to realize RiverFirst and each project within it. The MPRB and other managing partners are using the funding strategy to understand what resources are available, a significant factor in determining the scope and timeframe of each project.
Northsiders familiar with RiverFirst may be wondering about the status of Northside Wetlands park.
The proposed park site, sometimes called Upper Harbor Terminal, is largely owned by the City of Minneapolis. It is currently designated the Port of Minneapolis, but the City has said publicly that they will decommission the port when the current lease agreement expires in 2014. This decision opens the door for the property to become parkland.
The transition from port to Northside Wetlands could begin in the next three to five years. During that time, East Bank Trail, the Scherer site and Water Works are likely to go into construction, depending on funding availability.
The 26th Avenue Greenway and Overlook and Pier also remain a priority. It’s estimated that construction could begin on these Northside projects in 2015, as part of the City’s project to renovate 26th Avenue North with a bike trail and added green space.
The community is invited to continue to participate. Find more info at RiverFirst.com, where you can join the conversation on the blog, sign up for the e-newsletter and download important materials. You may also download the schematic design summary from MinneapolisParks.org/ RiverFirst, where current info is always available. You can also get copies of materials by mail by calling the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board at 612-230-6400.