The planning process for Above the Falls in Minneapolis may seem like it’s been going on for a long time, and has ventured off (and returned from) on a few tangents, but the culmination of all this creative thinking, visioning and planning is finally starting to come together into what will eventually be an updated plan and implementation timetable.
This week, planners from the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) will present their first draft of key elements of the plan revision, which include proposed changes to park character, expansion of the regional park boundary, and recommended land-use changes for areas adjacent to parks. Scroll down for a quick summary of proposed changes, and links to more information.
Why update the plan
The City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board formally adopted the current Above the Falls Plan (ATFP) in 2000. The plan put forth a bold vision for continuous parks and trails along both sides of the river spanning from Plymouth Avenue North to the northern city limits. It also called for land-use transitions from heavy industrial to new residential neighborhoods, mixed-use areas dominated by new commercial development and a few light industrial areas.
Although heralded by local residents, neighborhood organizations and the professional urban planning community, the award-winning plan proved especially difficult to implement. Progress was slowed by economic downturns and tax policy changes that made it more challenging for cities to use public funding and financing to accomplish the plan’s laudable goals. With only a handful of new parks and redevelopment projects being realized in the 12 years since the plan’s adoption, momentum significantly slowed.
In 2010, the City of Minneapolis began a policy review and implementation study to take another look at the feasibility of major land-use changes within the ATFP. Concurrent to that process, the MPRB held a design competition to reinvigorate the river park vision from the Stone Arch Bridge to the northern city limits. The renewed attention to the riverfront helped refresh the energy and enthusiasm for moving the ATFP forward, but it also created some confusion and many questions from the community. Initially, the two processes were worlds apart — one trying to ground-truth the ATFP’s proposed land uses in today’s realities, while the other conjured an alternative, and rather grand, new vision for riverfront parks.
Fast forward to 2012 (past too many public meetings to count) and the Above the Falls Plan revision process is "officially" in play. At the end of this nine-month revision process, the Minneapolis City Council and MPRB Commissioners will make a formal decision about proposed changes to the 2000 plan. The newly revised plan will be the policy document that guides new parks and development for the next 20 years.
Short version: This is where the rubber hits the road people (really, it is).
What’s being proposed and how you can weigh in
This information is hot off the press (as of early October) and planners need time to hear from community members before the staff proposal is finalized, but a brief summary of proposed changes is below. Many changes incorporate the vision of RiverFirst, the proposal that won the MPRB design competition.
Proposed changes to the Above the Falls Plan include:
Expanding park boundaries at:
Changing park character to:
- the city-owned Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT),
- on the west side of the river south of the Lowry Bridge Bridge,
- and at the newly acquired Scherer site at 8th Avenue and Marshall Street Northeast
Changing land-use guidelines (and eventually city zoning)
- incorporate RiverFirst’s vision for Northside Wetlands at the Upper Harbor Terminal,
- replace the ATFP "promenade" with an integrated vision of riverfront trails, connections to northside neighborhoods and renovated industrial uses that support jobs,
- incorporate RiverFirst’s vision for Scherer beach and restored Hall’s Island,
- incorporate RiverFirst’s vision for passive recreational programming, more trails and connections, and more natural elements and ecological functions within the park.
Proposed land-use changes are less bold than those in the original ATFP and take into account city staff’s feasibility research. In general, many areas originally slated for residential development will instead become "Business Parks", with the goal being to attract corporate campuses to locate adjacent to the riverfront park. In a few places, the current industrial land use is proposed to continue.
- West side between the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge and Lowry: retain industrial land use along the river, instead of changing to mixed-uses,
- Upper Harbor Terminal (Lowry to north of Dowling): change southern portion to business park and northern portion to mixed-use, instead of changing to residential uses,
- East side along St. Anthony Parkway (north of Xcel): retain industrial land use, instead of changing to residential uses,
- East side adjacent to Scherer Park (Plymouth to Broadway): change from light industrial to business park.
The best way to get up to speed on these issues is to pore through the information gathered in the past three years, much of which is available online. MPRB will hold one more public meeting in early December to present the draft plan update, and then there will be a 90-day comment period followed by public hearings and formal adoption in spring 2013.
You can also stay in touch with FMR as we will be sharing our comments and perspectives online. If you have additional questions, please contact Irene Jones or Bob Spaulding at 651-222-2193 or via the FMR contact form. Read more…