Park Board once again seeks developer for Northeast riverfront

The board is making progress on a number of high-profile riverfront projects.

Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

A high-profile piece of riverfront land is slated for development — again.

After a proposal to revitalize part of a former lumberyard in Northeast Minneapolis failed to pan out last year, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is once again looking for a new real estate developer for the site.

The Park Board is now seeking a real estate developer for the Scherer Bros. lumberyard site directly north of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge on the Mississippi River’s east bank. The board purchased the nearly 12-acre piece of land in 2010 for $7.7 million with a plan to one day rebuild the four-acre Hall’s Island and develop a new riverfront park.

About one-third of the site is slated for private development. Park commissioners voted last summer to deny giving Graco Minnesota Inc. exclusive development rights to nearly 3.6 acres on the site’s northwestern corner after negotiations fell through. The industrial abrasive manufacturer proposed two 50,000-square-foot office buildings and a surface parking lot to expand its riverfront headquarters, which is located adjacent to the site.

Right now the area features a newly opened expansion of the Mississippi East Bank Trail and a large plot of grassland that has hosted several outdoor concerts, including Festival Palomino and shows from the bands Wilco and Alabama Shakes. The nearly mile-long trail extension takes walkers and bikers along the riverfront between the Plymouth Avenue Bridge and the 1600 block of Marshall Street Northeast.

Through private development on the site, the Park Board hopes to activate an adjacent future park and connect local businesses to the riverfront, according to the request for qualifications.

The deadline for the board’s new request for qualifications is Dec. 15. The selected development team is expected to work with the board and a 15-member Community Advisory Committee to design a concept for the parcel.

The board expects to award exclusive development rights next February and to approve a concept plan the following June.

The Park Board is working on several high-profile projects for the riverfront between downtown and Northeast Minneapolis.

The board is still in the design stages with the restoration of Hall’s Island, which disappeared several decades ago when it was filled into the east bank of the river. Michael Schroeder, the board’s assistant superintendent for planning said, staff are 60 percent of the way through drafting biddable construction plans and expect to have a contractor engaged by the third quarter of 2017. Reconstruction work on the island could possibly begin before winter 2017, he added.

Last year, the board contracted out California-based landscape architecture firm Tom Leader Studios for design, engineering and construction administrative services for the project’s first phase, which would involve building, excavating and grading the new island. That firm was also hired a few years ago to create the first schematic designs of the future park and island on the site.

On the river’s other bank, the board is looking for another development team to overhaul the Upper Harbor Terminal site, a nearly 50-acre former shipping terminal in North Minneapolis. The only team vying to be a development partner for the city-owned site consists of Bloomington-based United Properties, Thor Construction of Minneapolis and First Avenue Productions. Their preliminary proposal, released earlier this fall, features 700-1,000 units of housing, 100,000-150,000 square feet of creative office space, 40,000-70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 180,000 square feet of space for advanced manufacturing. It would also bring an amphitheater for roughly 8,000-10,000 people, about 18 acres of parkland and a two-acre incubator development for a community or non-profit partner to the site.

Closer to downtown Minneapolis the board has been planning Water Works, another RiverFirst project, this time along the riverfront near Mill Ruins Park. The roughly $27-million project would add a new visitor center and café pavilion near the Third Avenue Bridge, improve access to the river for pedestrians and kayakers, and create outdoor gathering spaces, among other new features.

The board is currently refining concept plans on the project with the first construction phase of Water Works is expected to begin next year. Regarding the demolition of the Fuji Ya building, Schroeder said they are about 30 percent way through demolition planning and work could begin as early as next spring.

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