Downtown visioning session looks to 2025

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August 30, 2010
By: Jake Weyer
Jake Weyer
// Whether to add a park north of Central Library will be part of the discussion, meant to produce a 15-year plan for Downtown //

It’s been nearly 15 years since Downtown business leaders got together with city staff and elected officials to hash out a long-term plan for the area.

Back in 1996, those stakeholders came up with Downtown 2010, a vision that included such grandiose plans as a new ballpark for the Minnesota Twins, a light rail line along Hiawatha Avenue, a new Central Library, completion of the Target Center and the development of the Downtown Improvement District — all realities today.

 “We’re standing now, planless,” said Sam Grabarski, president of the Downtown Council. “And a lot of good ideas are emerging.”  

Developing 15-year plans for Downtown has been standard practice for the city and the business community since 1959, Grabarski said, and now it’s time to start again. There’s no specific timeline yet, but the next plan will be called Downtown 2025 and will focus on what the area should become during the next decade-and-a-half. More than a land-use plan, the vision will include specific goals and steps for achieving them.  

The Downtown Council has already formed four committees to start the process. They will focus on transportation, sports, marketing and green infrastructure. Other themes are expected to follow, Grabarski said.

“But those four areas in particular show important promise and require immediate considerations over the next six months,” the Downtown Council said in an e-mail recently sent to the mayor’s office.  

The Downtown Council will lead the visioning effort, but will work closely with the Downtown Improvement District, city and county staff and leaders, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Metro Transit, Downtown residents and others.

Mayor R.T. Rybak mentioned the process Aug. 2 in his 2011 budget address and floated the idea of a park in what is now a parking lot to the north of Central Library. The visioning group will look at whether a park there could help grow property values on surrounding blocks, as the park and plaza on either side of the Government Center have done since the early 1990s.  

“We think it could be the anchoring park for the north end of Downtown,” said Grabarski, who envisions a “green circle of pearls,” or series of Downtown parks.  

Downtown Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb (District 4) said the idea of a park near Central Library isn’t new, but it’s one she could get behind. She said the city could use a year-round central gathering spot, the type of place to hoist a big Christmas tree or host a citywide New Year’s bash.

Tabb said she also hopes riverfront enhancements and connections are discussed during the development of Downtown 2025. Improving riverfront access was a goal of Downtown 2010, along with encouraging the creation of new parks and plazas.

City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) said she hadn’t been informed about the visioning process, but looking forward, she wants to focus more on maintaining what the city already has.

“It’s always fun to envision the really big things and that’s why no one pays attention to maintaining what we have and so I’m really committed to maintaining what we have,” Goodman said.

Top on her to-do list is repairing and renovating the gradually deteriorating Peavey Plaza property. She also wants to figure out how to make Gold Medal Park permanent. The lease for that land is up in seven years.

Redoing Nicollet Mall because of failing pavers, right-of-way questions and other uses is also something Goodman said she would like to see. That, along with repairing Berger Fountain at Loring Park, preserving and reusing Wesley United Methodist Church (101 E. Grant St.) and developing long-stagnant sites such as the former Jaguar dealership at Washington and Hennepin avenues and the vacant Reserve condominium property in the North Loop.

“I think it’s critically important to do the less glamorous work of making sure the things we have are in good shape,” Goodman said.  

Some 15-year plans have taken as long as a year to develop, Grabarski said, and there’s plenty to talk about this time around. One big item he wants discussed is the possibility of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. He said the visioning group will also need to flesh out contradictory ideas about where residential and retail growth should occur.

“And ideas have changed drastically about what makes a city livable,” he said.