Winner announced in Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition

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January 31, 2011 // UPDATED 1:06 pm - February 10, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
NICOLLET ISLAND — TLS/KVA, a design coalition led by California-based Tom Leader Studio and Massachusettes-based Kennedy & Violich Architecture, has beat out 54 teams from around the globe to win the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition. Their prize? A commission for an ambitious park project, covering 5.5 miles of Minneapolis riverfront, expected to be the crown jewel of the Minneapolis park system and an economic driver for neighborhoods bordering the Mississippi, especially in North and Northeast Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board made the announcement this morning at Nicollet Island Pavilion.

TVS/KVA, along with three other design team finalists, presented its vision for the Minneapolis riverfront two weeks ago to a capacity crowd at Walker Art Center. Principal Tom Leader described plans for wetlands and an aquatic garden just south of the Lowry Avenue Bridge and a great urban beach near the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. The team also proposed covering Interstate 94 with a land bridge, part of a “great plane of green” that would link North Minneapolis’ Farview Park to the Riverfront.

But organizers stressed that the actual project has yet to be defined.

“No particular location, project or feature has been selected,” said Cecily Hines, president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, a co-sponsor of the competition.

Hines described a four-month “transition phase,” starting tomorrow, during which the Park Board and the Parks Foundation will meet with the design team to determine an implementation strategy. A steering committee, yet to be created, will help guide the process. In mid-June, Hines said, the Parks Foundation “will present a recommendation on how we’ll move forward.”

But the biggest question is how to pay for such a project. TVS/KLA’s grandiose visions for the Mississippi Riverfront will have to be tempered by fiscal realism. The Park Board, still reeling from the first layoffs in its history, faces a limited budget in coming years.

Asked if he had any specific funding ideas for a riverfront park project, Mayor R. T. Ryback said, “No, not yet. The first priority is to lay out the vision.”

But he added that the project’s big ideas must include financing, not just design.

“How we’re going to get this done is going to be tough,” he said.