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Minneapolis is Reimagining the Civic Commons

In the weeks since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day, Minneapolis has been revealed as both a city of deeply rooted racism, as well as a community of compassionate individuals determined to change.

As this truth was being laid bare, a coalition of cities working together toward more just and united communities announced nationally on May 25 an expansion: Minneapolis, along with four other cities across the nation, joined Reimagining the Civic Commons.

Begun in 2016, Reimagining the Civic Commons is a collaborative effort of national foundations — including The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and William Penn Foundation — and local partners working to transform public spaces in ways that advance engagement, equity, environmental sustainability, and economic development. The original five cities – Akron, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Philadelphia – are already demonstrating the wide-ranging, beneficial impacts of intentional public space investments, design, and operations.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is honored to be the convener of Reimagining the Civic Commons in Minneapolis, working collaboratively with Pillsbury United Communities, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and the Environmental Justice Coordinating Council, while keeping community at the center of this work.

Our work as part of Reimagining the Civic Commons will address long-standing and persistent racial inequities and disparities present in our city park system and the public realm, a condition made plain with the murder of George Floyd and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the key tenants of Reimagining is that coming together in public space builds trust across differences. Today, it is even more clear how vital it is for us to cultivate community through parks and other public spaces. As Minneapolis transforms, it’s imperative for our mental, physical, and social health that we emphasize racial, economic, and environmental justice.

In North Minneapolis, new park developments along the Mississippi River have been framed within a broad vision referred to as RiverFirst that includes Great Northern Greenway Overlook and River Link, Hall’s Island and Graco Park, the future park at the Upper Harbor Terminal, and interconnecting riverfront trails.

The projects may be focused on the river, but the social, cultural, and economic impacts must transcend those boundaries and reach deep into Northside neighborhoods. Community-centered processes and strategies will help ensure the emerging vision is equitable and shaped by adjacent communities.

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