Belt Magazine asks: Will Minneapolis’s Upper Harbor Terminal project be good for its neighbors?

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman

Community members explore UHT by bike during a 2019 event at the now off-limits riverfront site.

In a new article for Belt Magazine, journalist Eamon Whalen explores the debate about who will ultimately benefit from the large-scale Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT) redevelopment project in North Minneapolis.

At the heart of this thoughtful piece lies this question: Will the current redevelopment plan benefit Northsiders first and foremost, or is the CIty of Minneapolis poised to reinforce its nationally noted pattern of inequality?

Board member Paul Bauknight and I, FMR River Corridor Director Colleen O'Connor Toberman, were interviewed about who stands to benefit currently from the redevelopment of this 1-mile riverfront stretch, and what would make the UHT project better. 

History repeating itself?

The article provides an in-depth examination of the history of North Minneapolis's industrialized riverfront and its connection to the city's stark racial disparities.

Whalen (who has written for The Nation and The Reformer) lays out the city's struggle to improve outcomes for Black residents and other residents of color who face threats ranging from police violence to housing displacement — threats have been intertwined throughout our history.

Bauknight, an urban designer and architect who lives in North Minneapolis, says, “Throughout my career, I would hear that these projects were going to bring these big social and economic impacts. Then you look at North Minneapolis, and we continue to have these disparities. These projects don’t change that. We live in a city that everyone wants to believe is really progressive. No one in local government would say that North Minneapolis hasn’t been intentionally disinvested from. But in order to change that, you have to operate differently, or you’re not going to get different results.”

Is there a better option for UHT?

We believe that more just, inclusive, equitable development is possible, both at UHT and beyond. We'd like city leaders to commit to a new planning process that places the decision-making power in residents' hands from the very start.

The article closes with a powerful quote from Paul: "Community development has historically been about building buildings, rather than building people. We have systems in place that are designed to deliver buildings, and really are not good at building people. Everyone loves a groundbreaking and ribbon cutting. But the human dimension of this can be so much greater.”

Join our advocacy

Become a River Guardian to hear from us about more opportunities to act when city and state leaders are making important Upper Harbor Terminal and river-related decisions.

For more about Upper Harbor Terminal, follow our UHT Twitter account, check out our blog, or contact Colleen O'Connor Toberman, River Corridor Program Director, at or 651-222-2193 x29.


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