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Former County Commissioner, Mark Andrew, Joins Initiative to Transform Lock and Dam into World-Class Visitors and Interpretative Center

Mark Andrew, former Hennepin County Commissioner and chair of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, has been named president of Friends of the Lock & Dam (FL&D). The nonprofit’s mission is to create a destination visitor and interpretive center at the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock, called The Falls Initiative, at the heart of the Central Riverfront in downtown Minneapolis.

Pictured (left to right): Paul Reyelts, co-founder and board chair Friends of the Lock & Dam (FL&D), Mark Andrew, president of FL&D and Kjersti Monson, director of The Falls Initiative. Photo credit: Friends of the Lock & Dam

In this newly created position, Andrew will forge a coalition of support for the riverfront revitalization among key decision makers in government, business and the private sector.

To advance project development, Andrew will draw on his 20 years of leadership experience as a Hennepin County Commissioner. He has played an integral role in bringing several signature riverfront projects to completion, including the Stone Arch Bridge and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, and led the effort to create the Midtown Greenway. Previously, Andrew led GreenMark Enterprises, an environmentally-focused marketing and public affairs consultancy.

“The Falls Initiative is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize an exceptional and defining city project that will have international significance,” said Andrew. “We want to reconnect this storied river with all the people who come to live, learn and visit by its banks.”

Kjersti Monson, director of The Falls Initiative, will continue to manage project planning, design and implementation as she works with key partners, authorities and stakeholders to shape the vision. Monson is a former director of planning for the City of Minneapolis and an expert in real estate, urban design, and policy and planning.

“Securing Mark’s leadership is a milestone for this project and for FL&D,” said Monson. “He understands what it takes to drive transformational change and knows how to bring stakeholders along on the journey.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which operates the lock and dam for the federal government, closed the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock to commercial use in 2015, when Congress suspended navigation. The congressional act reflected growing concerns about declining barge traffic and invasive species.

The Army Corps is now proceeding with a disposition study to assess options for lock and dam ownership, operation and maintenance. Friends of the Lock & Dam, together with the City of Minneapolis and key organizational stakeholders, envision repurposing the lock and dam as a unique destination on the Central Riverfront.

“Friends of the Lock and Dam has developed a compelling vision to transform an obsolete structure into a landmark destination where Minneapolis residents and visitors can access and experience our city’s greatest natural asset. Their ability to recruit a leader of Mark Andrew’s caliber to the project is evidence of the strength of the concept and adds even more momentum to the FL&D’s vision,” said Steve Fletcher, Minneapolis city council member, Ward 3.

The Falls Initiative will include a visitor center, staffed in cooperation with the National Park Service, Meet Minneapolis and others. Other proposed components include restaurant and special event space, educational exhibits and programming in partnership with cultural, historical and environmentally-focused institutions. In collaboration with Wilderness Inquiry, planned recreational activities include water access for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

Paul Reyelts, FL&D co-founder and board chair, emphasized the significance of hiring a proven leader like Andrew to lead The Falls Initiative forward as it gains momentum toward development.

“We are expanding the organization now so that when the disposition study is complete in 2020, we will be ready to activate the next phase,” said Reyelts. “The initiative reflects the vision and values of connecting, activating, interpreting and promoting the relationship between the river and the city, and between diverse neighborhoods and people. It’s really a way to build community.”

About Friends of the Lock & Dam

The nonprofit Friends of the Lock and Dam was co-founded in 2016 by community leaders Paul Reyelts and Mark Wilson. Its mission: to repurpose the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock to a world- class destination, consistent with the Central Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan and fully integrated with the Water Works/RiverFirst Initiative. Since its inception, the organization has raised over $5 million for preliminary design work, built a coalition of more than 24 riverfront community-minded organizations and worked closely with the City of Minneapolis to advance the concept.

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