Urban Exploration: Minneapolis - Day 2

April 21, 2018 Written by

The Downtown Alliance can learn from the successes of other neighborhoods and downtowns throughout the country. The Urban Exploration program brings public and private sector leaders together to learn about the best practices of other cities. This is the fifth in a series of annual trips sponsored by the Downtown Alliance to build relationships and learn from the success of other communities.

The Urban Exploration program is a working trip focused on building relationships and inspiring innovation in downtown Salt Lake City. This year's urban exploration participants will learn about downtown Minneapolis' recently completed developments, homeless services, public arts, parks and more. 

This is the fifth in a series of annual trips sponsored by the Downtown Alliance to build relationships and learn from the success of other communities: we visited New York in 2014, Chicago in 2015, San Francisco in 2016 and Boston in 2017.

Minneapolis 2025 Panel:
The Downtown 2025 Plan was launched in 2011 as a 15-year plan aimed at completing 10 goals by the year 2025. Today, the 2025 Plan is comprised of roughly 300 volunteers working on six different committees. The 2025 Plan has 10 core initiatives that focus on downtown development, greening and public realm, downtown experience, transportation, ending street homelessness and launching a festival of ideas. These initiatives work hand-in-hand to create a flourishing downtown environment for those who live, work, play and explore here. 

Our group was joined by Steve Cramer (President & CEO, Minneapolis Downtown Council) and Joseph Desenclos (Livability Team Operations Supervisor, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District) The panel discussed the successes, shortcomings and outcomes of the 2025 plan. With a new world-class airport coming online in the next few years, a burgeoning tech scene and several large-scale developments, the Minneapolis 2025 plan offered valuable insights for our public and private sector attendees. 

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Green Minneapolis & The Commons Discussion: 
The Commons is a world-class urban green space that hosts a range of use for downtown residents, workers and visitors just North of the new U.S. Bank Stadium. The park exemplifies public-private partnerships and Minneapolis' commitment to urban green space throughout the city. Both public and private contributions funded the design, construction and initial operations of The Commons. The Commons' annual operating budget is funded with a combination of public and private contributions that includes The City of Minneapolis, revenue from program sponsorships, concession revenue (restaurants, food, event venue fees), and philanthropic support. The City of Minneapolis has contracted with Green Minneapolis to operate, manage and program the park. The park operator is responsible for the coordination of standard maintenance activities such as irrigation, mowing, trash removal, snow and ice control, etc.

We were joined by Beth Shogren (Executive Director) from Green Minneapolis, a 501 (c)3 conservancy for a presentation on the Commons park that included the lessons learned from the history, ongoing public-private partnerships and management of the space.

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Lunch at The Guthrie with Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Representatives:
The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board permanently preserve, protect, maintain, improve and enhance its natural resources, parkland and recreation opportunities for current and future generations. Today, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is an independently elected, semi-autonomous body responsible for governing, maintaining and developing the Minneapolis Park System. The 6,800 -acre system consists of local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries, lakes and a 55-mile parkway system.

Jennifer Ringold (Deputy Superintendent, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board) presented at a lunch panel about the history of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the opportunities the board provides for residents and visitors across the city. 

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Optional Afternoon Activities:
Our Minneapolis Park presentation was followed by several optional activities that were strategically selected projects and initiatives that correlate to emerging initiatives and trends in downtown Salt Lake City – with a little bit of fun mixed in for good measure!

Guthrie Theater Tour:
The Guthrie Theater engages exceptional theater artists in the exploration of both classic and contemporary plays connecting the community we serve to one another and to the world. Through its extraordinary artists, staff and facility, the Guthrie is committed to the people of Minnesota, and from its place, rooted deeply in the Twin Cities, influences the field as a leading 21st-century arts organization. The Guthrie Theater was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 and is dedicated to producing the great works of dramatic literature, developing the work of contemporary playwrights and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. Under the artistic leadership of Joseph Haj, the Guthrie produces a mix of classic and contemporary plays on three stages and continues to set a national standard for excellence in theatrical production and performance. 

Walker Art Center & Urban Sculpture Garden Tour:
The Walker Art Center is a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences. Focusing on the visual, performing, and media arts of our time, the Walker takes a global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach to the creation, presentation, interpretation, collection, and preservation of art. Walker programs examine the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities. The Walker sits at the edge of downtown Minneapolis, nestled between a vibrant urban core and historic residential neighborhoods, its campus connected to the city's renowned system of parks and lakes. The expanded facility nearly doubled the size of the Walker and features new galleries and education areas, a new 385-seat theater, street-level and roof-top terraces, plazas, gardens, and lounges; and increased services and amenities for visitors. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a project of the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, is adjacent to the museum. More than 6.5 million people have toured the 11-acre site, which is filled with some 40 works of contemporary art.

Tour leads included Kristian Anderson (Executive Director, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art) and Walker Art Center representatives. 

Mill City Museum Tour:
Originally designed by Austrian engineer William de la Barre and declared the world's largest flour mill after its completion in 1880, the structure housing Mill City Museum is a National Historic Landmark. Known as the Washburn A Mill, it was nearly destroyed by fire in 1991. After the City of Minneapolis, working through the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, cleaned up the rubble and fortified the mill's charred walls, the Minnesota Historical Society announced plans to construct a milling museum and education center within the ruins. Faced with the challenge of preserving the ruins of this historically significant site while building a modern museum, the Society turned to Thomas Meyer, principal of Minneapolis architectural firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. Meyer developed a concept that melded the historic integrity of the mill structures with modern components. Construction on the museum began in March 2001.

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Mall of America Tour:
Since opening its doors in 1992, Mall of America has revolutionized the shopping experience and become a leader in retail, entertainment and attractions. Mall of America is one of the top tourist destinations in the country as well as one of the most recognizable brands.

Closing Reception: 
The 2018 Urban Exploration trip formally concluded at the world-famous Walker Art Center's Cityview room. The Cityview Room offers floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor terrace with Minneapolis skyline views.