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St. Anthony Falls Needs YOU

April 12, 2012Patrick NunnallyUncategorizedComments Off on St. Anthony Falls Needs YOU

Well, maybe the Falls themselves don’t need you–water seems to flow over them ok, per gravity and basic hydrology.  But the elements of Minneapolis around the Falls Do need your help.

The Central Minneapolis Riverfront is poised to be the engine driving the city into the 21st Century because the City, its citizens, the Minneapolis Park Board and a host of other individuals and organizations have concentrated on the district for the past 40 years.  Today, as a result of that effort, $400 million of public investment has created $1.3 billion in private contributions to a place that is arguably a World Heritage-caliber site.

Following the vision and the success of 2009’s landmark study Power of the Falls, the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development Department has invited public comment on a new set of design guidelines for the Central Riverfront.  To read the document and make your comments, go here.

Now why should you do this?  For one thing, because you can.  Design guidelines have the force of policy once they’ve been adopted by the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission.  They establish the “rules of the game” for new development or redevelopment in this nationally significant historic district.

For another thing, these guidelines are orders of magnitude better than the guidelines currently in place, which were adopted in 1980.  Then, historic preservation planning was largely concerned with saving the physical fabric of important buildings and read as a list of “Thou Shalt Not” statements.  These guidelines, on the other hand, are not only friendlier to use, but they actually address issues of the historic landscape, the river corridor, archaeological sites, and a host of other factors that make this site arguably the most complex urban fabric in Minnesota.  Imagine–historic district guidelines that actually act as if the space between buildings is important and worthy of attention!

You only have a week to participate in this guideline review process:  the comment period closes on April 18.  After city staff have assessed the comments from the public, the revised document will go to the State Historic Preservation Office, which has statutory (read “legal”) authority and responsibility to review the document.  Then it goes back to the local Heritage Preservation Commission for final review and adoption.

Take a look and offer your views; it’s not every day you get a chance to participate in the planning and protection for the most important district in a thriving major city.  And if this kind of stuff really is interesting to you, let me know at and I can connect you up to a number of organizations, people, and opportunities to stay involved in heritage preservation.

Because after all, the Mississippi River is central to the heritage of the city, region, and country, and that heritage isn’t just a matter of the water.  Creating space to retain what’s most significant and important about the past, while also preserving ecosystem and hydrological function and allowing for continued urban vitality may just be the most difficult balancing act in modern city planning.

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