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Youth designers re-imagine the future of the Minneapolis Riverfront

December 6, 2016 by Janette Law

It’s no surprise that if you asked 10 people what they want in a new park, you would get as many unique responses. Of course, if you want to know what people think, it helps to ask them.

That’s what the Minneapolis Parks Foundation set out to do with our 2016 collaboration with the Juxtaposition Arts Environmental Design Studio (JXTA): Invite youth design apprentices to explore and share their vision for future parks on the Minneapolis Upper Riverfront, especially the Great Northern Greenway River Link, a RiverFirst signature project. (Check out the project announcement and progress post.)

As JXTA Instructor Coal Dorius points out, “North Minneapolis has the highest population of youth in Minneapolis, but they’re not always heard. They are often overridden with other agendas and different types of design elements.” Involving youth in the design process is an important part of giving them a sense of ownership, as well as an incredible educational experience about how planning and city-building is done.

The project kicked off with an 8-mile bike ride through North Minneapolis and 3-mile paddle down the Upper Mississippi river, from North Mississippi Regional Park to Ole Olson Park. The tour helped apprentices better understand the relationship and lack of connection between North Minneapolis neighborhoods and the city’s most dynamic natural resource – the Mississippi River.

Our partnership attracted the attention of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, which was running a concurrent engagement process for the Upper Harbor Terminal, also a RiverFirst signature project. The Park Board, together with the City of Minneapolis, was in the midst of selecting a developer for phase 1 redevelopment of the 47-acre UHT site. We joined forces to bring the Enviro apprentices’ design ideas, visioning and engagement to their process, as well.

Youth also took a lead in engaging community around the design process – for both the Great Northern Greenway Trail Link and Upper Harbor Terminal – by creating an innovative “zine” input survey and sharing project information at multiple community open houses, including FLOW Northside, Open Streets, and an Upper Harbor Terminal gathering.

The partnership culminated in November, when apprentices Tatiyana Gross and Qadiym Washington opened the Parks Foundation’s standing-room-only Next Generation of Parks™ event featuring Detroit City Planner, Maurice Cox. Tatiyana and Qadiym inspired the audience with their stories about the engagement process and their design ideas. More inspiration came in the form of the first of two videos, produced by Bully Creative. Check it out!

Minneapolis youth re-imagine the Upper Mississippi Riverfront from Minneapolis Parks Foundation on Vimeo.

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