Upper Harbor

This site of abandoned silos along the Mississippi River in North Minneapolis may soon be transformed into a bustling area of residential, commercial and entertainment space. 

The City of Minneapolis’ Upper Harbor Terminal has closed.

From 1968 to 2014 this port loaded and transported grains, manufactured goods and other commodities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in 2015. This water navigational transportation artery will no longer allow for barge traffic to originate at this northernmost upriver loading facility, as it carried its cargo to points downriver for delivery to ports all over the world. The site subsequently became eligible for transformation from industrial into other, now being determined, uses.

The City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and a citizen advisory committee have held a number of meetings to create a set of goals and outcomes that they hope will yield a favorable result. Some of these ideas include a park that has trails and a strong relation to the river. Housing that serves various markets, is also a strong complement of this project. Jobs, in some of the existing companies or possibly newly created ones, are also being discussed. What will the transformation from an industrial use to a residential, commercial, and pastoral use look like? How will it be attended? What facilities will be available to accommodate all users? What will the housing mix be? Will it be a successful “destination?”

This process is being undertaken as you read this. Discussions are currently being held at Northpoint Center (formerly the Thor Building, originally the Regional Acceleration Center), at 1256 Penn Ave. N. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, (Sept. 18) from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Much has to be discussed and agreed upon. This is a 48-acre site can achieve a lot of goals and deliver an excellent project to the Northside.

The transformation of this site is an excellent example of the evolution of cities. This is virtually a “textbook case.”

This land was taken from the Dakota People by treaty in 1851. Due to its proximity to the Mississippi River, it was likely always an industrial use. Canoes, rafts, boats and barges were well-equipped to move people and goods along this waterway and did so for many years. But cities change … they evolve, they transform. So right in our very laps we are at a history-making event. An actual opportunity to plan our future. What will it be like? Will it be exciting? Will it be great? Will it be fantastic?

Or, will it sadly, become mediocre? Will it be no more than average? What human input will this effort need so as to not fall into an “almost” project? How much personal energy are you going to invest in your community to guarantee a highly successful project that you will be able to always “reach out and touch?”

Understand that in your lifetime you may never be presented with a situation such as this again. There are virtually no 48-acre parcels in any American city that can be reshaped into a shining examples of urban development that can serve the broadest spectrum of human reality. This is a rare opportunity. This writer suggests that this be an intense, highly creative and exciting new urbane project. Let’s design units that serve low-income, middle-income and upper-income markets. Put a mix of housing types, destination retail shops and stores, commercial and office uses, entertainment venues, recreational facilities, including river uses and land activities, all in this development. Envision this place being spectacular. Envision this place being better than anything that exists now. Be imaginative. Be creative. Get involved. Push the envelope.

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