Image courtesy Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Image courtesy Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Park Board gives final approval for first Water Works phase design

Park commissioners recently voted to approve a plan for a new destination park site with little fanfare, but the move is years in the making.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved a revised design for the first phase of Water Works, a vision that features the city’s first year-round park restaurant. The move to overhaul the riverfront site along West River Parkway just east of the Third Avenue Bridge is a result of more than seven years of planning and fundraising from the board and its philanthropic partner, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

The first phase of the roughly $30-million project focuses on demolishing much of the former restaurant building and building a glassy one-story restaurant pavilion in its place. The building, which would be embedded in historic ruins buried beneath the Fuji-Ya building, would house bathrooms, meeting space and an elevator.

The work will run the board nearly $20 million, and a second phase to build further riverfront connections would cost about $10.2 million. As of June, the foundation has raised about $12.5 million in committed donations and gifts. The board is also responsible for bringing in part of the project’s funding.

Plans for Water Works have already moved to the city approval process. The Heritage Preservation Commission saw the proposal at a July 11 meeting.

Demolition of the Fuji-Ya building is slated to begin this September and construction will begin early next year. The board plans to open the first phase in 2019.

Water Works is just one element of the Park Board’s RiverFirst vision, a series of proposed riverfront improvements, trail connections and new destination parks that it has been developing since a 2010 design competition. The rebuilding of Hall’s Island at the Scherer site in Northeast Minneapolis and the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal, a nearly 50-acre barge shipping site in North Minneapolis, are also RiverFirst projects.