Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition winner announced


On Thursday, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation announced that Tom Leader Studio of Berkley, California and Kennedy & Violich Architecture of Boston, Massachusetts are the winning design team for the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition.

The selection concludes the first phase of a significant redevelopment along the Mississippi River running the 5.5 miles from the Stone Bridge north to the city limits of Minneapolis. Selected from a pool of 55 applicants, four teams presented their visions to a packed audience at the Walker Art Center in late January. A 14-member jury then held a closed discussion evaluating each of the proposals and eventually selected TLS/KVA for having what they considered the best approach to riverfront redesign.

TLS/KVA also consulted and partnered with 12 additional firms, many from Minnesota, that helped compose the economics, engineering, and design elements of the plan.

Announcing the winners at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, outlined what to expect moving forward. The Board now begins forming a steering committee who will be charged with organizational development, planning, design and construction, resource identification and ongoing community engagement the details of which will be announced in mid-June.

The committee is also expected to identify and commission one element of redevelopment plan to be implemented in the next 4-5 years. Procuring funding for this is a particular challenge given current budget constraints, and no funds have been specifically identified to begin implementing this plan.

While spending money on park design might seem like a luxury during a recession, project manager Mary deLaittre insists it was well worth the investment. “Each of the four finalist contributed on average $250,000 per plan, in hours, travel, materials and experience. Minneapolis is getting over $1 million in long term visioning and experience for a $120,000 investment. People in Minneapolis are passionate about great design and city building. Locally people are really primed to begin dreaming about what the river could be next.”

Considering this to be a legacy project, Mayor Ryback observed, “How we are going to get this done is going to be tough but it’s really about saying that this community for generations has had big visions and we have not let one period of tough time slow us down from thinking big. When we do, we will no longer be the great Minneapolis we are.”

The four finalists certainly dreamed big, but TLS/KVA’s plan incorporated a number of pragmatic elements, likely tipping the decision in their favor. The plan’s four main areas of focus on water, health, mobility and green economy all seek to bring people to the river’s edge and allow them to interact with the Mississippi.

The specific elements of focus are identified thoroughly in TLS/KVA’s plan and presentation but are briefly summarized as follows:


  • A comprehensive remediation of the city’s storm water management system
  •  A conceptual transformation into a confluence of “tributaries” that are naturally cleansed by planted bio-filtration designs and returned to the River
  • The recovery of Northside wetlands, that will help the city and river better deal with future draughts and climate changes
  • The design of storm water remediation “ravines” on the Eastside to integrate park land with municipal eco-infrastructure
  • More public access to the River with range of recreation activities available


  • Expand opportunities for urban agriculture and community gardens
  • Raise public awareness of how everyday consumer practices can improve river health
  • Creation of a series of Riverfirst cleaning products such as soaps, road salts, fertilizers and more than help to brand a positive image of the park and generate revenue


  • A sustainable multi-model and interconnected public transportation system for commuting, recreation, and mobility in and around the city
  • Creation of “Knot Bridges,” which are bike/ski pedestrian walkways attached to existing. Linking to USGS real-time water monitoring, illumination of these bridges would change color in accordance with river health and data.
  • A Prairie loop eco-shuttle that would loop downtown and around the riverfront in 12minutes

Green Economy: 

  • Accelerate the transition from smokestack industry to a 21st century green economy
  • A Green Port connecting the existing infrastructure and uses with renewable energy generation
  • Increase existing port effiecinecy and density to increase jobs from 14 persons on 20 acres to 100 jobs per acre

Specific elements in the plan also call for

  • A large park project to expand Farview Park across I-94 and reconnect North Minneapolis to the river
  • A mixed use housing and work complex with the creation of Shearer Park
  • A restoration of Hall’s Island
  • Habitat and health improvements along the Northeast Bluffs
  • An educational phone application that allows user to learn aobut river health, history and biodiversity

While the future steering committee, design team and community members certainly have their work cut out for them as they turn this plan into reality, the importance of the project was best summed up by Mayor Ryback who noted the community importance to this project by saying, “Minneapolis/St. Paul has a Central Park, it’s called the Mississippi River and this brings us together.” For more information, or to get involved with this project, visit the Minneapolis Riverfront Design website.