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Wednesday
Jan262011

Thoughtful Responses to Minneapolis Riverfront Design Survey

The Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition conducted a survey of Minneapolis residents on their thoughts and hopes for the Minneapolis Riverfront.  It was a rather long survey (I participated) covering a wide range of topics.  The survey results have been posted, and what struck me while reading the report was the time people spent giving detailed, meaningful answers.  There is passion for the future of our river, and I hope the jury for the design competition takes the time to thoroughly review what the respondents had to say.  The people behind the scenes of this competition are doing a great job so far.

Here's a small sample of questions and answers:

What recreational activities do you think are missing or are too far away from you?

"As mentioned, the northside is isolated unless one gets in a car or on a bus from the rest of the city trails and parks. The river front design should not be just linear as it currently appears to be. It needs to be designed to draw people to the river, to offer all that connection, especially those neighborhoods that are only a couple of miles from the river."

"We need a better canoe and kayak system, either private or public or both. We need better trail connections, completing the Mississippi River trail through N and NE, and between Main Street and the University of MN."

What kind of cultural activities do you think are missing or are not well represented in your community?

"Minneapolis has good cultural opportunities including excellent art museums, theaters, and orchestras. It is one of the reasons that I decided to move here. The idea of a bandshell on the Mississippi with the Minnesota Symphony performing on a warm summer night (with no planes flying overhead like Lake Harriet) is very attractive to me."

"Minneapolis has great immigrant communities from east Africa and Latin America, and would love to see more celebrations involving their culture. Also celebrate the past immigrant cultures who are still present today."

What excites you about this portion of the Mississippi and its banks?

"The potential of the river, if properly developed, to have a positive influence on the surrounding neighborhoods. This includes the well-to-do residents in condos near downtown and the poorer people who live within a stone's throw of the river but hardly ever experience it."

"The beauty of the rushing water and of the green shady trees along the river's banks make me feel a deep inner happiness, a sense of peace and of faith. I grew up near creeks and trees, and spent countless afternoons alone in the dappled sunlight, watching the water ripple over the rocks and fallen branches. Now as an adult, when I look out of my condo window at the Mississippi River, framed by the cottonwoods on the banks, I feel at home in my heart and so grateful to be alive--here."

"It creates a space for reflection in the heart of the city, a place where people meet nature every day, and a place that is constantly changing. It provides a wide open view that showcases our downtown and our historic milling district. Some days it is mysteriously misty with vapor, and the next it is a jjigsaw puzzle with jagged ice chunks. It provides a natural, linear feature for people to exercise and watch nature, and to understand how central water and nature are to our health. It is a vivid connector, while it appears to divide our community."

What brings you to the river?

"Many things. The need to commute to work, the desire for exercise and fresh air, the opportunity to be in a crowd of people, the chance to take a nice walk to a play at the Guthrie or to the downtown library without getting on a bus or driving a car."

"My nose, I usually end up there when out on walks - its a lovely destination and my best option from my house - do I go south the busy street and White Castle? North to the railroad tracks and industrial buildins? west through endless residential? or east to the gorgeous always changing infamous Mississipp? Its a pretty easy call."

What is the greatest impediment to your getting to the river?

On the west bank near downtown, the development along the river has been done in such a way that it forms a Great Wall between the city and the river. In sequence there are Gold Medal Park, the Guthrie, the old mill area, the RiverWest condos, the US Post Office, and the Federal Reserve. Each of these buildings/developments is at least two city blocks in length. This dead ends many of the streets that would otherwise terminate at the river. Granted, because of the elevation change it would have been difficult for these streets to end right at the river and the train tracks (now removed) made access historically difficult, but some better planning (Gold Medal Park, the Guthrie, RiverWest and the Federal Reserve aren't that old) could have made the path from the city to the river much more obvious and inviting. The Post Office doesn't have to be there any more (at least not as an industrial site with heavy trucks coming and going) and the Federal Reserve is mostly empty space these days because we use credit cards instead of paper checks and money (Take a tour in the summer and check it out. They are going out of business.).

What would compel you to go there (river or parkland above St. Anthony Falls) more often?

"I personally would like to see a series of unique experiences at different locations consistent with the fact that the river is flowing through a developed area and not a meandering across the wide open spaces. I live in the city because I want activity and I welcome development at the river that will draw more people to this area."

"Continuous trails and paths along both sides of the river with a natural shoreline, wetlands and trees. Residential communities along the river would add to the draw because it would bring additional people and activities. There should be places to stop for coffee, snacks and meals. Canoe and kayak rentals similar to bike rentals would be a nice feature so everyone does not have to bring their own canoe if they want to go for a short paddle on the river. There should be wildlife areas along the river that provide habitat but also enhance the opportunity to see and enjoy the beauty of nature."

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