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Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 3 April 2012

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How do I stay informed and get involved?

We want to hear from you! Community participation is important to good parks design. Please take some time to explore our website, where you can learn more about how parks design is done, the RiverFirst vision and opportunities to provide input.

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From MR|DI to RiverFirst

What is the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board\’s plan for Upper Riverfront parks and public space?
In March 2012, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board passed a resolution that formally adopts the RiverFirst vision for Upper Riverfront parks-based development. In addition, the resolution formally identifies the project as \”RiverFirst” and authorizes a series of next steps:

  • Seeking a regional park boundary adjustment for the Scherer site;
  • Using RiverFirst as a basis for coordinating with the City of Minneapolis to update the Above the Falls Master Plan;
  • Seeking a scope of work and fee proposal from TLS/KVA for the next stage of design; and,
  • Working with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation to establish a collaboration agreement with RiverFirst implementation partners, which would include the Foundation, the City of Minneapolis and multiple agency and community contributors.

What is \”RiverFirst” now – a development plan or an organization?
RiverFirst is both a parks-based urban design vision and an identity around which multiple agencies and the public can coalesce to see it through to completion; it is not an entity unto itself.

Multiple agencies – including the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Parks Foundation – will sign on to the RiverFirst agreement for the clear purpose of implementing the RiverFirst vision and to oversee the shared functions necessary for successful implementation. The Minneapolis Park Board will manage the implementation process, the City of Minneapolis will guide future redevelopment in the Above the Falls area, and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation will facilitate the partnership and cultivate public-private advocacy and support for RiverFirst.

While agreeing to principles and responsibilities to be outlined in the forthcoming RiverFirst agreement, each partner organization will retain its full independence with responsibility for fulfilling its own obligations to its constituencies. For example, the Minneapolis Park Board will implement community engagement plans for its RiverFirst projects.

What is the strategy for accomplishing RiverFirst?
RiverFirst has both local impact and national, even international, significance. Therefore, it\’s vital that the Minneapolis Park Board and our RiverFirst partners build broad and deep constituencies, beginning with residents and businesses immediately adjacent to the RiverFirst area. This process was started with the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition, which captured the imagination of the Twin Cities and garnered attention worldwide. With its successor, the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative, the Park Board focused on engaging the communities most affected by the prospect of a renewed and transformed Upper Riverfront. With RiverFirst, the Park Board and our partners will seek to maintain and enhance that relationship with local communities, while broadening the relevance of the vision and the initiative to constituencies region-wide and outstate.

What are the five priority projects put forward in RiverFirst?
The RiverFirst vision suggests that the Park Board partner with the City of Minneapolis and other government and non-profit partners to develop five new green and public spaces by 2016 (see map).

  • Riverfront Trail System with Farview Park phase one greenways – which integrate with existing city and regional parks and trails to create a cohesive, user-friendly network of commuter and recreational connections, most notably across the Interstate 94 trench cutting off Northsiders and the West Metro from the Mississippi.
  • BioHaven® Islands – offering water quality rehabilitation while providing scenic views and habitat for native plants and animals, including migrating birds.
  • Scherer Park – an existing Minneapolis Parks property along the Northeast side of the riverfront, and located in a burgeoning neighborhood and adjacent to compatible properties, including existing parks and bridges.
  • Northside Wetlands Park – which transforms significant acreage from the existing Port of Minneapolis from asphalt to amenity, without adding industry, and becomes a destination point for Farview Park and other envisioned Northside greenways;
  • Downtown Gateway– the restoration of a historic park at the front door of downtown.

Are RiverFirst projects limited to these five?
RiverFirst is a vision, as well as a set of guiding principles for parks-based urban development. As such, there is potential in the short- and long-term for additional projects to fit under the RiverFirst standard. Such projects would likely have to meet a number of criteria, including being within, or a critical connection to, the RiverFirst geographic area; creating public space with multiple purposes or uses, such as being an attraction, or providing transportation or economic development opportunities; and integrate with the area ecologically, culturally and with the built environment. The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is partnering with the Park Board on a project that fits this category – conceptual development planning and feasibility for the Water Works area on the Central Riverfront.

What RiverFirst projects are being considered for development beginning in 2012?
With the adoption of RiverFirst, the Minneapolis Park Board will move ahead simultaneously on multiple projects at varying stages of development:

  • Three projects will be in a schematic design phase for construction to begin in 2013: Scherer Park, a series of loop trails between Plymouth Avenue and Camden bridges and \”greening” of 26th Avenue North from Farview Park to the river.
  • Feasibility studies will be completed for floating islands (also called \”BioHavens®”) and the Northside Wetlands.
  • Development guidelines will be created for Scherer Park.

What is the anticipated timeline?
The Park Board expects that schematic design, feasibility and development guidelines for its 2012 RiverFirst projects will be complete by fourth quarter of this year. The Above the Falls Master Plan revision will be complete in the first quarter of 2013. Community engagement will occur throughout the process, following creation of the Stakeholder Engagement Plan in March 2012. The Park Board anticipates construction on Scherer Park will begin in 2013.

*How are these projects being funded?
The Minneapolis Park Board has allocated $3.6M to 2012 RiverFirst projects, and $19M for Upper Riverfront projects supportive of RiverFirst goals over the next five years. This funding is sourced from Metropolitan Council Regional Funds for Parks and Trails (Legacy Amendment) and state lottery proceeds, as well as allocated through the Park Board\’s Capital Improvement Program \”pay-as-you-go” fund. Details can be found in the MPRB\’s 2012 Annual Budget Report.

Over five years, the RiverFirst framework calls for completion of five priority projects at an estimated cost of $174M from a mix of public and private funding for both capital projects and operating costs. Some of the potential sources are outlined in the Implementation Guide, found in the RiverFirst proposal and executive summary.

How will the Park Board engage the community as RiverFirst takes shape?
The Minneapolis Park Board is committed to providing opportunity for all members of the public to provide meaningful input in all phases of our planning projects. In March 2012, the Park Board is developing a Community Engagement Plan for its 2012 RiverFirst projects, which can be found beginning in April 2012 on the Park Board\’s project pages at > Planning > Projects.

In addition to the Minneapolis Park Board\’s community engagement, RiverFirst partners will commit to building a strong and vocal constituency for the vision. Through a shared outreach and communications strategy, the RiverFirst partners will seek to create advocates for RiverFirst and cultivate broad support in the public and private sectors.

How does RiverFirst fit in with the Park Board\’s plans to revise the Above the Falls Master Plan?
Now written over a decade ago, the Above the Falls Master Plan is both a regional park plan and a policy document; it is also in need of updating to conform to current Metropolitan Council standards for master plans. The Park Board will work with the City of Minneapolis on revising Above the Falls, a process through which RiverFirst will become the basis for what\’s been known as the Above the Falls Regional Park.

Upper Riverfront Opportunity & Benefits

Why is the Mississippi Riverfront important to our region?
Minneapolis is known as the \”City of Lakes,” but we are the river first. The Mississippi River is the \”source,” the geographic and cultural center around which generations of communities, and eventually industry and infrastructure, grew. Over time and across a changing milieu, Minneapolis turned its back to the river and its banks were largely abandoned to heavy industry or left derelict.

Today, there is renewed recognition of the tremendous power the river has in our region and beyond:

  • The Mississippi is a global icon, mesmerizing natural asset and proven economic engine.
  • It\’s one of the three great rivers of the world: There\’s the Amazon, the Nile and the Mississippi.
  • It\’s America\’s \”fourth coast,” a waterway that shaped a continent and a nation.

RiverFirst builds on our region\’s rich river heritage and passion for parks, nature and wildlife, to create places along the Upper Riverfront where neighborhoods and businesses can grow and community members from near and far can enjoy like-no-other recreational and cultural activities.

Why the Upper Riverfront?
In the 1980s, the Minneapolis Park Board and a number of agency partners envisioned a revitalized Central Riverfront and invested $289M in parks and public space, engendering $1.382B in private investment and creating a high-amenity cultural core and job center right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

This is an opportune time to leverage parks as the engine for economic and cultural revival along the Upper Riverfront:

  • Parks development has historically emphasized Minneapolis\’ lower Mississippi gorge, the Central Riverfront, Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Park, Lake Nokomis and the Grand Rounds Parkway system; this project has the potential to complete the Grand Rounds.
  • North and Northeast Minneapolis have fewer parks and less access to natural water features abundant in other parts of the city.
  • These same neighborhoods as a whole have lower property values and have been hardest hit by the housing crisis of the last decade.

In addition, there is considerable vision and leadership throughout the community to realize the full potential of the river:

  • Park Board\’s Above the Falls Master Plan (2000) and Comprehensive Plan (2007-2020);
  • Citizen involvement in neighborhood revitalization, river renewal and heritage preservation;
  • Business interest in vital neighborhoods with desirable housing and amenities and adequate infrastructure;
  • Breakthrough global landscape and urban design projects that integrate recreational, environmental, housing, transportation, cultural, and business development uses, and emphasize sustainability.

Minneapolis Riverfront Design Initiatives 2010-2011

What was the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative?
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board\’s Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MR|DI) was a design-based strategy to leverage parks as the engine for sustainable recreational, cultural, and economic development along the riverfront, reclaim the Mississippi – one of the three great rivers of the world and America\’s \”fourth coast” – as the source of our regional identity, and establish our region as a leading river community for the 21st century.

What was the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition?
In September 2010, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation announced an international design competition to address the Upper Riverfront. Four award-winning landscape and urban design teams were selected as finalists in November, from a pool of 55 submittals from 14 countries on five continents. In December, the four teams – Ken Smith Workshop|New York City, Stoss Landscape Urbanism|Boston, TLS/KVA|Berkeley, and Turenscape|Beijing – made a four-day research visit to Minneapolis. Also in December, the MR|DC sponsors hosted a Community Meeting, implemented a community \”Designer Ask” survey, and began a youth designer curriculum. The competing design teams, which include firms from all across the country including Minnesota, submitted their design proposals in January and made a public presentation of their work at the Walker Art Center on January 27. The winning team was announced on February 10 in Minneapolis. More information can be found at