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Minneapolis Parks Foundation > Common Ground > News > From the Executive Director > Building a Timeless Park, in an Extraordinary Time

Building a Timeless Park, in an Extraordinary Time

Well-designed parks, like enduring architecture, stand the test of time and help us understand the past.

This month, a signature architectural feature of Water Works was put into place and will become an iconic element of the Mississippi riverfront park for generations to come. The arched entrance of the Water Works Pavilion, installed as part of the restoration, will greet visitors who travel along the West River Parkway and those who enter the building from the General Mills Plaza. Just as the original Basset and Columbia mills walls have occupied this site for more than a century and witnessed the transition of our riverfront from horse drawn carriages to industrial rail to the automobile, so Water Works will stand as new evolutions unfold.

[Related Content: Water Works Construction – May Update]

This elegant entryway is just one of many aspects of this park site that will grace our riverfront and be enjoyed by all. I have very little doubt that we will be coming together in the not-too-distant future, and when that day arrives, the Water Works site will be there to greet people with fresh views of our river and city.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of hosting a Zoom tour of the site, walking through the grounds and into the pavilion with a group of onlookers watching on their screens. Together we saw the beginning of new walkways, areas where native plants will adorn the hillside, spaces to sit and enjoy the powerful St. Anthony Falls, and as of next spring, enjoy a meal provided by The Sioux Chef and a beverage from local breweries.

Beyond this fall’s grand opening celebration, will come a time when those meeting in the community classroom will be oblivious to the moment we are in today. They will enjoy the new pathways into the city without considering a time when we shared a communal effort to address the invisible threat that COVID poses. 

Today, few people associate the Foshay Tower with the historic stock market tumble that occurred the year it opened. I suspect a future generation will not truly understand the uncertain times in which Water Works opened, and will instead be amazed at the experience of the thunderous St. Anthony Falls, the mists that rise above it, and the experience of standing on parkland next to one of the world’s most historic rivers. Yet for those who learn its history, they will understand that it was constructed in a time when parks became integral to our community health and wellbeing, a time when our city struggled with how essential gathering together is to our civic life.

I cannot wait to experience this new park as it fills with people, safely enjoying it together and experiencing the power of parks and their timeless importance to our health, wellness, and community spirit.

We are only $450,000 away from our goal to fully fund Water Works and the Great Northern Greenway Overlook connecting North Minneapolis to the river. We are honored to have a challenge grant from the Edward R. Bazinet Charitable Foundation to match any contribution up to $100,000 this summer. If you wish to be included on the list of donors supporting this timeless new park, please reach out and let me know. I’d love to add you to the roster. 

In the coming weeks – if you have chance to walk or bike by the site, please send us your photos to show us aspects you are most excited to experience when it opens to all.

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