New riverfront overlook creates connection to Mississippi River in North Minneapolis
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Minneapolis Parks Foundation are proud to announce the completion of the new 26th Avenue North Overlook!
The oval-shaped Overlook platform centers around a 35-foot-tall riverfront beacon that leans toward the water, creating a new river experience and trail connection on the North Minneapolis riverfront. The beacon light can display a variety of colors but will stay dark during spring and fall migratory periods to protect birds in the Mississippi Flyway.
“It’s incredible to see the transformation of this space, from a run-down dead end with a tall fence to a beautiful destination for people to experience the Mississippi River,” says Al Bangoura, MPRB Superintendent. “I’m proud of the work that went into this project, designed by Black professionals with contributions from Black youth artists in North Minneapolis. It’s a product of our philosophy of integrating the community in the design of park projects and providing the community a stake in what is built in their neighborhoods.”
Play netting offers additional seating in middle of the Overlook, allowing people to suspend themselves over the riverbank below. Steel grates and sustainable Black Locust wood planks were used to build the overlook decking, and Juxtaposition Arts, a teen-staffed art and design center located nearby, designed artwork featured on the railing.
The Overlook is located at the east end of the recently completed off-street bike and pedestrian trails built along 26th Avenue North. The new trail connection spans North Minneapolis, connecting the river and Theodore Wirth Regional Park, and traveling past Farview Park and Nellie Stone Johnson Community School.
“When the park system was imagined 140 years ago, the upper riverfront was already occupied by industry. This is one steppingstone toward reversing past decisions that separated North Minneapolis, and specifically African American communities, from the Mississippi River,” says Tom Evers, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “We’re grateful for the visionary donors who joined us in this effort and to the RiverFirst Capital Campaign Committee, with Paul Reyelts at the helm, for their dedication and generous support. And we’re grateful to the Minneapolis Park Board for their leadership and partnership. Together, we remain deeply committed to fulfilling the RiverFirst vision so that every generation grows up feeling a real connection to the Mississippi River.”
The Overlook marks the first phase of a broader project known as the Great Northern Greenway River Link. The broader vision for the River Link includes connections to downtown Minneapolis and West River Road walking and biking trails, together with new parks stretching north and south from the Overlook along the riverfront. Once complete, the full River Link will unite downtown to North Minneapolis along the river, open up a new 40-mile trail loop in Minneapolis, and eventually reach to Northeast across the river to nearly complete Great Northern Greenway trails in Northeast Minneapolis.
The Parks Foundation provided most of the funding for this project through its RiverFirst Capital Campaign, which raised nearly $20 million from philanthropic contributions for riverfront park projects. RiverFirst is a generational vision for transforming 11 miles of once-industrial Mississippi Riverfront into a welcoming place for all people through improved habitat and miles of new interconnected parks and trails.
Other RiverFirst projects include Hall’s Island, a habitat-rich island and gravel beach restored in 2018 after it was destroyed by 1960s industrial expansion, and Water Works, a new park space and pavilion opening this month in Mill Ruins Park next to the Stone Arch Bridge.
“We appreciate having such a strong, diverse network of partners contributing their talent and resources toward a shared goal of equitable waterfront access on the northern riverfront,” says Jono Cowgill, MPRB President. “Thanks to the Parks Foundation for its steadfast commitment toward RiverFirst, the state legislature for supporting our vision of a connected riverfront in North Minneapolis, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization for its dedication to improving the water quality in our parks system and entire region, and most importantly, to the community members who engaged in the planning, design and creation of this project.”
An interdisciplinary team led by 4RM+ULA and TenxTen Studio developed the Overlook design, Environmental Design Studio apprentices at Juxtaposition Arts helped with community engagement, contributed design ideas and created artwork featured onsite, and Sheehy Construction supervised onsite construction.
With funding from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), the shoreline surrounding the Overlook has been stabilized and rehabilitated with new native vegetation planted as a living alternative to an armored shoreline for long-term erosion control. The MWMO has contributed to every RiverFirst project, funding a stormwater reuse system at Water Works and providing a large grant to complete the Hall’s Island restoration.
“The Overlook is a landmark attraction for the Northside,” said Kale Severson, who represents North Minneapolis as District 2 Park Commissioner. “I look forward to it becoming an iconic link in a series of parks and trails that allow everyone in Minneapolis truly equitable opportunities to enjoy our waterfront.”
The opening of the Overlook marks the completion of the first major North Minneapolis riverfront project since Ole Olson Park was developed in 2007, 200 yards south along the river. The MPRB received a $3 million grant in the 2020 state bonding bill to help build a trail connection between the Overlook and Ole Olson Park and has begun exploring options to make that connection underneath the railroad bridge between the two riverfront destinations.
About the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is an independent, semi-autonomous body responsible for the Minneapolis park system. It provides places and recreation opportunities for all people to gather and engage in activities that promote health, well-being, community and the environment. Its Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, neighborhood parks, recreation centers and diverse programming have made the park system an important component of what makes Minneapolis a great place to live, play and work.
About the Minneapolis Parks Foundation
Since 2003, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has raised more than $25 million for transformative parks and programming in Minneapolis Parks by aligning philanthropic investment and community vision. Today, the Parks Foundation champions equitable investment in Minneapolis parks through the RiverFirst Initiative and Reimagining the Civic Commons and is responsible for private fundraising and implementation of the Water Works and Great Northern Greenway River Link projects. The Parks Foundation also supports community-based parks projects with the People for Parks Fund, and explores the intersection of parks and today’s most pressing issues by presenting the Next Generation of Parks™ Event Series. Learn more at MplsParksFoundation.org.
Pictured in Featured Image:
Front Row (L to R): James Garrett Jr., 4RM+ULA; Satoko Muratake, TENxTEN; Jeremiah Ellison, Minneapolis City Council Member; Sarah Duniway, Minneapolis Parks Foundation Board Vice Chair
Back Row (L to R): Roger Cummings, Juxtaposition Arts; Al Bangoura, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent; Tom Evers, Minneapolis Parks Foundation Executive Director