Both Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson have been quoted in local media recently suggesting that it’s time to close the city-owned Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT), also known as the Port of Minneapolis. Prompted by the looming threat of Asian carp, the council will officially weigh in next month on a proposal to close the terminal before the end of 2012, a decision that by some river advocates believe is long overdue.
Ever since Minneapolis adopted the award-winning Above the Falls Master Plan in 2000, there has been discussion about if and when to close the terminal. The plan, which calls for continuous parks and trails in north and northeast Minneapolis, envisions a change over time in riverfront land use from heavy industrial to mixed-use, including residential, commercial and light industrial use as well as parks and open space. With 48 acres of city-owned land on the river, the closing of Upper Harbor Terminal offers a significant opportunity for the community to be in the driver’s seat to realize river revitalization in north Minneapolis.
In 2004, FMR partnered with the City of Minneapolis to complete the Upper Harbor Terminal Redevelopment Study. The study included a community workshop and design charrette, followed by extensive feasibility analysis of three design scenarios for the site. FMR strongly urged the city to move quickly to close and redevelop the port, but for a variety of reasons action has been delayed for several years.
In 2011, the terminal received renewed attention as part of the RiverFirst park visioning process. In RiverFirst, a system of restored wetlands was proposed for the Upper Harbor Terminal site. The proposal was met enthusiasm and has rejuvenated the effort to close the port and create a new public space to connect to the river.
Even though the city renewed its annual contact with the Upper Harbor Terminal operator in January, city officials are now looking to sever that agreement within 180 days as a means of reducing the number of lockages in Minneapolis. The city has been supportive of proposed federal legislation to address Asian carp, which could lead to closing the locks altogether in Minneapolis.
"We are pleased with Mayor Rybak’s leadership on preventing the spread of Asian carp," said FMR executive director, Whitney Clark. "And we look forward to working with the city and park board as this critical piece of the Above the Falls vision moves forward."
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