Business community presents plan for Downtown park

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February 14, 2011 // UPDATED 4:20 pm - February 17, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
A representative from a group of Downtown businesses presented a plan to the Minneapolis Park Board Wednesday night to develop a park in the center of Downtown that would bring a green stretch of land all the way to the Mississippi River near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

David Wilson, Accenture's managing director in Minneapolis, presented on behalf of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” made up of executives from big businesses including Target, Piper Jaffray, Accenture and many others. He was also joined by a representative from The Trust for Public Land, a national organization that helps secure land for the public good.

“Unfortunately, when you look at the Downtown core, except for along the riverbanks of the Mississippi, there really is a shortage of parkland in the Downtown Core that is now home to almost 33,000 residents as well as hundreds of thousands of workers who come to work Downtown every day.”

That committee has developed a four-phase plan for acquiring and developing several parcels of land that are owned both privately and publicly.

The ultimate goal is for the park to start near the light rail stop at the corner of Fifth Street and Marquette Avenue, and narrowly work its way toward the area just north of the Minneapolis Central Library, where it would widen into two lots on either side of Nicollet Mall. The park would then follow along the east side of Hennepin Avenue to the river.

“It could be thought of as a green corridor that stretches from the central business district core all the way down to the Mississippi riverfront,” Wilson said.

Acquiring the properties alone could cost $25 million, Wilson said. He proposed a public-private partnership for funding the park, but did not offer specific contributions. One developed, he suggested a public-private conservancy charged with maintaining the park.

The first phase is to acquire and develop two lots on both sides of Nicollet Avenue between Third Street and Washington Avenue. The lot on the west side is owned by Metro Transit for a bus turnaround and is also a surface parking lot.

The other lot is the Cancer Survivor Park, owned by Marquette Plaza and leased by the city.

Wilson said acquiring those two properties and developing them would cost $8 to $10 million.

The second phase is to acquire and develop the property near the light rail station.

The third phase includes acquiring a number of properties leading down to the river, including a piece of land from the U.S. Post Office in order to tear down a parking garage that blocks Downtown from the river.

“We think this is a multi-year project that could take 5 to 10 years to ultimately complete all the way down to the Mississippi Riverfront,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the group is forming a steering committee of stakeholders and is in discussions with the city and Metro Transit about the first two parcels of land.