Community notebook :: Riverfront visions

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July 19, 2010 // UPDATED 9:25 am - July 18, 2013
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

U of M undergrads present innovative visions for riverfront

In the City of Lakes, sometimes the river gets a little snubbed. Or at least that was the feeling that Daniel Carlson, a design student who just graduated from the University of Minnesota last spring, had when he first moved here for school.

“I grew up on a lake in rural Minnesota,” said Carlson. “When I came to Minneapolis, I was interested in why people weren’t using this huge river that ran through the city, why it wasn’t utilized as fully as it could be. Because the Chain of Lakes here, I think, is pretty successful. And they’re doing what could be done on the river.”

Carlson was the lead instigator in an exhibition currently up in the Mill City Museum. Entitled “Imagining the Mississippi: 30 Ways to Transform the Riverfront,” the show presents a slew of ideas for transforming the Downtown riverfront into an innovative recreational area. Why not restore the natural drop of the St. Anthony Falls? Then you could convert the lock and dam into a community swimming pool. You could run a glass-ceiling walkway beneath the waterfall. Maybe even add a beach below the 10th Avenue Bridge. Or a thermal spa that makes use of the nearby steam plants. A design book, compiled by Carlson and five other research assistants — Andy Cleven, Julia Hill, Kevin Lang, Michael Nickerson and David Ward — presents these ideas and others as the exhibition’s centerpiece.

Carlson said he got the idea for the exhibition during a two-month stint in Europe in 2008. He had won a travel fellowship to study recreational waterfronts in 10 cities in Northern and Central Europe.

Once back on campus, Carlson recruited some fellow students to perform a similar study of the waterfront here in Minneapolis. The group won a grant from the university’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which provides funding for students to work on a creative project with a faculty member of their choice. Carlson’s gang approached architecture professor Leslie Van Duzer and Mississippi River expert Patrick Nunnally.

Nunnally, who is the coordinator of the River Life Program at the university’s Institute on the Environment, loved the idea, which touched on a subject near his own heart.

“I’ve been talking louder than most around here about our relationship with the Mississippi,” he said. Like Carlson, he acknowledges that the Downtown riverfront is cradled in an exceptional urban setting, boasting an unusual mix of historic landmarks, cultural institutions and new residential development.

“There’s a potential here for shop development and infrastructure that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the Mississippi,” said Nunnally. “And it’s by no means sufficiently tapped. The Minneapolis Downtown riverfront should be a destination on par with the French Quarter in New Orleans.”

Investing public money in the riverfront’s development, Nunnally argues, has a proven track record of success.

“The city has statistics [showing] that the roughly $400 million of public sector investment — buying park land, the Stone Arch Bridge renovation, that sort of thing — has leveraged $1.2 billion in private [money]. All that condo development. All the moving of the Guthrie down there. All that private sector investment has come after the public primed the pump,” he said. “But it’s not finished. I think we still need to think about getting more people down there and making the Mississippi riverfront a true destination for the city and for the state. I mean, this is the Mississippi. It’s one of the big ones.”

Nunnally applauded the St. Anthony Heritage Board’s push for an interpretive plan about enhancing the riverfront.

“There are remnants of industry,” said Carlson, “You can see that with the steam plants. Then you see the coming tides of new condo developments. These new interventions like the Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum itself. But then it’s also an ecological system. So it’s important to realize that all of these things are going on here.”

The 30 ideas in the design book often link these diversities into a single proposal, Carlson said.

“It’s about getting people to creatively think about urban design and public space in the city,” he added. “We’d really like people to start critically analyzing their surroundings. How could this be better?”

“Imagining the Mississippi” runs through Aug. 8 at the Mill City Museum.

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New hyperbaric chamber for HCMC

Hennepin County Medical Center may be just a few years away from a brand new hyperbaric chamber. The hospital’s current hyperbaric facility, which was originally built in 1963, is the oldest piece of medical equipment at HCMC, occupying a nearby building that predates the current hospital campus.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners has approved $4.45 million in county bonding for the project, which comes on the heels of $5 million in state bonding and $400,000 in federal funding. The total cost for the new facility will be $9.85 million.

HCMC’s hyperbaric chamber creates a pressurized environment similar to a deep-sea dive in which patients breath pure oxygen. Carbon monoxide poisoning, radiation injuries and decompression sickness are some of the conditions the facility often treats. The Downtown facility is the only chamber in the state to offer 24/7 emergency services, and patients routinely come from all over the Upper Midwest to use it. Up to 3,100 treatments occur in the chamber every year.  

An Australian engineering firm will build the new chamber, which will be housed in a new structure attached to the medical center’s first floor at Park Avenue and 7th Street South.

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Hennepin County Library now offering eBooks

Beginning July 19, visitors to the Hennepin County Library’s website will have the option to check out some titles as electronic files, as opposed to physical books.

The library will have 700 eBooks available for downloading, according to a press release issued in early July.

A registered library patron can log into the system and “check out” up to 15 eBooks, audio books, videos or music recordings. Each eBook is a digital file that can be viewed with a laptop, computer or specialized portable readers like the Sony Reader and Barnes 7 nobles’ Nook. The Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad will not be able to display the library’s eBooks, which are protected by Adobe Digital Rights Management.

Each eBook has an expiration date, as opposed to a due date, beyond which the file cannot be read. No fines will be issued over their checkout.

Hennepin County Library joins the Rochester library, which began offering eBooks in October, as well as a host of other library branches around the nation.

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Loring Park plan could win LEED certification

A team of consultants has been chosen to put together a master neighborhood plan for Loring Park that could result in a rare environmental certification for the Downtown neighborhood.

According to John Van Heel of the Citizens for Loring Park Community, the neighborhood group is pushing for a LEED-ND credential for its new master plan, which will begin to be formulated this spring. This year, LEED, the national sustainability program for green buildings, has expanded to include community development plans. LEED-ND, as the new credential is called, has so far been awarded to very few places in the nation.

“As far as being a neighborhood-wide LEED application, that’s where we would be one of the first in the country,” Van Heel said.

With the help of a grant from the University of Minnesota, the neighborhood has hired a graduate student from the School of Design to help conduct a LEED-ND Sustainability Survey. The survey, which relies heavily on input from area business and property owners, will help assess what issues the plan needs to address in order
to win the certification.

According to Van Heel, the survey includes, “a block-by-block, building-by-building assessment of physical features such as trees, parking, window area, etc., plus other things such as affordable housing units, number of employees, transit, etc.”

Van Heel is supervising the project, and Lauren Huynh from the Minneapolis Planning Commission — who is also a project manager at sustainable design firm the Weidt Group — is providing technical assistance.

Planning work will begin in September.

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Target to again sponsor Aquatennial fireworks

The Aquatennial’s grand finale fireworks show, one of the highlights of the summer, has been scheduled for Saturday, July 24, from 10–10:30 p.m. The pyrotechnics will erupt from the west side of the Mississippi River near the Stone Arch Bridge along West River Parkway.