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Location: The Lowry Connector south to Hall’s Island


Cliff Swenson

Project Description

RiverFirst is a 20-year vision for Mississippi riverfront parks where neighborhoods and businesses can grow and people can experience one of the four great rivers of the world through world-class recreational and cultural activities.


View the RiverFirst Scherer Park and Hall's Island 3D Fly Through Animation located on the Mississippi River at 8th Ave NE/Plymouth Avenue Bridge.


What's New

Currently working on agency permits for the re-creation of Hall’s Island at the former Scherer Bros. lumber site

Schematic Design for several priority projects was completed in May 2013. View presentations and project summaries below:


East Bank Trail
This off-road bicycle and pedestrian trail would connect Marshall St NE at the BNSF railroad bridge with Boom Island Park, passing through existing Sheridan Memorial Park and the proposed park on the Scherer Bros. site. The RiverFirst schematic design includes signage, plantings, overlooks and other trail amenities.

Scherer Bros. Site - New Park and Restored Hall’s Island
The new park and recreated Hall’s Island would provide access to the river for paddlers and other users within a context of habitat and restored ecological function for this site. The vision includes a habitat-rich island of nearly 4.4 acres, a pebble beach, boat rental and storage for paddlers, a park-supportive cafe pavilion, and terraced gathering spaces to be programmed throughout the seasons.

26th Avenue North River Overlook Pier
This street-level overlook would provide visual access to the river, bringing activity to an area on the west bank that currently is abandoned, overgrown and unsafe. The new pier would extend over the river’s edge, with furnishings and lighting to facilitate fishing and informal gatherings. Stormwater could be filtered in planted strips along the roadway and new bike path. This project could be pursued following the City’s renovation of 26th Ave North.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge Enhancements
The RiverFirst design would retro-fit pedestrian spaces and amenities including overlook decks, furnishings, improved lighting and connections to the new park on the Scherer site. The City’s bridge-renovation project is scheduled to be complete by late 2013; the proposed RiverFirst enhancements could be installed as a later phase. The RiverFirst vision includes “knot bridges” or pedestrian/bicycle bridges attached to existing bridge structures. In collaboration with staff from the County and the City, the design consultant explored the feasibility of knot bridges at the Broadway and Plymouth bridges. Structurally, the Broadway bridge is unable to accommodate a knot bridge. A new free-standing bike/ped bridge at Broadway is not feasible for regulatory and budget reasons. At the Plymouth bridge, the City’s renovation project presented opportunities to explore bridge enhancement as an alternative to the knot bridge.

Trails and Loops: Wayfinding Elements
Using signage and temporary installations, this design would identify pedestrian and bicycle “trail” loops between Lowry Ave N and Plymouth Ave N/8th Ave NE for immediate implementation. While the MPRB vision for this area includes parkland acquisition and construction of off-road trails, such improvements are extremely long-term pursuits. These proposed near-term improvements would be guided by the RiverFirst principle of linking both riverfronts with the surrounding communities, transforming the river from a barrier to a connector. A “pilot project” at Gluek Park could include signage, pavement marking and a RiverFirst kiosk. The intent would be to highlight river connections and to interpret river ecologies for park visitors. Pilot project cost would depend on scope and extent.

22nd Avenue Northeast Greenway
The intent of this RiverFirst design is to enhance the existing City of Minneapolis Bicycle Boulevard. Due to a narrow existing roadway, parking needs and existing elements such at street trees, opportunities are limited for RiverFirst enhancements. The project would not reconstruct the roadway but would add signage and pavement markings to indicate river connections. The RiverFirst project scope on 22nd Ave NE is between Marshall St NE and 2nd St NE at Bottineau Park. There is potential to participate in a demonstration project at Edison High School, where site improvements are planned for construction in summer 2013.

Lowry Connector
The intent of this RiverFirst design is to improve pedestrian and bicycle connections between the west bank and the Lowry Bridge. The project would construct a new ramp and steps entirely on existing Hennepin County-owned property between Pacific Street North and a railroad corridor. Proposed new site lighting, furnishings and plantings would create a park-like condition. The county's existing stormwater-management basin would be reconstructed to enhance habit and aesthetic value. The design of the Connector accommodates the potential future extension of West River Parkway at the Lowry Bridge. Fill soils for the ramp could use excavated material from the new beach on the Scherer site, depending on project timing.

Scherer Site Parcel D - Development Guidelines
The goal of this RiverFirst work is to establish design guidelines and performance criteria for possible park supportive development on Parcel D of the Scherer Bros. site. Parcel D is outside Above the Falls Regional Park, but immediately adjacent to the future park and beach. If MPRB issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development on Parcel D, design and performance guidelines would be incorporated along with land-lease and financial terms, and standards for site operations and maintenance. These ambitious benchmarks would ensure that any development proposed for this desirable site would be held to a high standard as a long-term good neighbor for the park.

Floating Wetlands Feasibility Study
The goal of this RiverFirst feasibility study is to assess the regulatory and logistical challenges - as well as the costs/benefits - of placing and maintaining artificial floating islands in the Mississippi River, as described in the RiverFirst vision document. The intent of such a project would be to enhance habitat value. Potential water-quality improvements would be negligible and would not be a primary project goal. Floating islands (or “floating wetlands”) would provide habitat and refuges for small animals, particularly “specialists,” protecting them from mainland predation.

West River Parkway Extension - Conceptual Alignment
The goal of this RiverFirst design work is to identify a feasible alignment for future West River Parkway between North Mississippi Regional Park and West River Road North at Ole Olson Park. The RiverFirst design consultant collaborated with MPRB staff and a design consultant working on the Above the Falls Regional Park plan. The resulting preliminary parkway alignment informed the ATF Regional Park plan and the City’s land-use guidance in the larger ATF Master Plan. The map at right shows the segment from Lowry Ave N to Ole Olson Park.

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Project Milestones

  • Currently working on agency permits for the re-creation of Hall’s Island at the former Scherer Bros. lumber site

Project History

May 2013

May 1-2, 2013

May 2, 2013

March 26, 2013

January 15-16, 2013

November 30, 2012

November 29, 2014

    • Design team visit #3 and working meetings

October 11, 2012

    • Design team visit #2 and working meetings

August 28, 2012

    • Design team visit #1 and working meetings

August 1, 2012

March 29, 2012

March 14, 2012

September 21, 2011

August 3, 2011

April 6, 2011

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Get Involved

Read the Community Engagement Plan for work related to RiverFirst projects currently in Schematic Design phase.

Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MR|DI)
In the spring of 2011, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board established the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MRDI) as a special project to transform the winning proposal from the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition to a visionary plan and implementation strategy for development of parks and open space along the Minneapolis upper riverfront. The RiverFirst design team refined the vision through extensive community engagement, gathering input from the public and three stakeholder committees: Steering, Technical and Advisory.

Additional MRDI/RiverFirst engagement in 2011 included the following:

  • Six large, scheduled public meetings were held;
  • The design team and MRDI representatives met with over 100 individuals and half as many organizations in key communities and areas of relevant expertise;
  • A community input survey taken by more than 600 people;
  • Promotion and participation occurred in more than 30 community events throughout Minneapolis;
  • Three additional public meetings held in association with the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership;
  • More than 40 presentations and meetings were held with neighborhood associations, community-based non-profit organizations, agencies and other stakeholder groups;
  • Seven paid, part-time and full-time “youth ambassador” interns represented the MRDI at more than 35 community event; and
  • The debut of "River Is," a figurative gathering of people's thoughts about the Mississippi today and for the future.

MR|DI Community Engagement

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In August 2012, the Board contracted with the RiverFirst consultant design team to develop Schematic Design documents for several projects within the RiverFirst vision. This Community Engagement Plan is being presented to the Board at this time because staff has sought certainty about a broader engagement strategy through focused engagement with key regulatory agencies whose authority significantly influences the design. Throughout the team’s work, staff has regularly engaged with advisory committees as described below by informing them of the team’s progress and of the issues and the challenges faced.

While the RiverFirst team’s Schematic Design work is strongly rooted in the extensive Community Engagement conducted by MRDI throughout 2010-2011 (see below), much of the RiverFirst vision is far outside the typical permitting experience of key State and Federal regulatory agencies. So, the team’s efforts have been focused on developing design documents that will address the many permitting and technical challenges presented by the vision, such that key regulatory agencies indicate generalconsent to further development of the designs. Once that is achieved, broader outreach with the general public will be conducted to engage with stakeholders around the team’s work while it is still in progress.
RiverFirst is a 20‐year vision for Mississippi-riverfront parks that builds on our community’s rich river heritage and passion for parks, nature and wildlife to create places on “America’s fourth coast” where neighborhoods and businesses can grow and people from near and far can experience one of the four great rivers of the world through world-class recreational and cultural activities.

The RiverFirst vision emerged from the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MRDI), a visionary planning effort for the Minneapolis Upper Mississippi River corridor based on extensive research and analysis, design inquiry, community outreach, and consensus building. The Initiative was a collaboration among its sponsor, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB); two design firms Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA), Boston and Tom Leader Studio (TLS) Berkeley; HR&A Advisors, a real estate and economic development planning firm from New York City; and Groundwork City Building, a Minneapolis‐based planning firm which is responsible for guiding the process, with public relations firm Tableau.

This began in 2010 with an international design competition which awarded the commission to KVA/TLS out of 55 entries from around the world. It culminated with this comprehensive vision and implementation framework for 5.5 miles of the Minneapolis Upper Mississippi River corridor.
RiverFirst emerged from an international design competition hosted by MPRB, with the goal of reinvigorating community energy and imagination around the upper riverfront.

At the Park Board’s meeting on March 14, 2012, following stakeholder engagement process and a standard 45-day comment period, the Board approved the RiverFirst vision and authorized staff to pursue next steps including contracting with the TLS/KVA design team for schematic design work on select RiverFirst projects.

More information about RiverFirst can be found at these websites:

RiverFirst Initiative
Minneapolis Riverfront Design Initiative website

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