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Minneapolis Parks Foundation > Common Ground > News > News Release: Water Works Park Pavilion Opened July 19

News Release: Water Works Park Pavilion Opened July 19

Indoor pavilion and Owamni restaurant will be open daily

The Water Works Park Pavilion and the restaurant within it, Owamni by The Sioux Chef, opened today, Monday, July 19! The two-story visitor center is located at 425 West River Parkway. Building hours are 4-9 pm today through Wednesday, July 21, then 11 am-9 pm daily July 22 through Aug. 31.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Minneapolis Parks Foundation partnered on the 7,800 square foot. mill-remnant embedded pavilion as part of the surrounding Water Works at Mill Ruins Park, which opened to the public on May 20, 2021. Water Works was made possible through generous Twin Cities individual and institutional supporters to the Parks Foundation’s $18.1 million RiverFirst Capital Campaign.

“The Water Works Pavilion drastically improves an area of our park system visited by millions of people each year by offering a range of accessible resources while honoring Indigenous history at this sacred riverfront site,” says Al Bangoura, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “I’m excited for people to experience the building and enjoy everything The Sioux Chef has to offer. It’s a great place to rest, refresh, hydrate, celebrate, eat and learn.”

The first floor of the new park building features the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Atrium with a welcome desk staffed by the MPRB, accessible bathrooms, a water fountain and water bottle filling station, and the Lenzmeier Family Foundation Classroom, which will be available to rent for events or meetings in the future.

The second floor of the building hosts Owamni by The Sioux Chef, a new all-season restaurant from partners Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson offering dine-in and take-out Indigenous cuisine. Online reservations are available at www.owamni.com. The Sioux Chef also plans to create events and educational opportunities to elevate Indigenous voices as part of its larger mission to promote Native American cultures, honor plants and natural resources, and foster a vibrant Indigenous food movement. To learn more, please visit The Sioux Chef website.

“With the opening of the Water Works Park Pavilion and Owamni, Minneapolis once again has a place to gather on the banks of the Mississippi within the Minneapolis parks system,” notes Tom Evers, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “This moment is the culmination of years of work and dedication and an extraordinary fundraising effort. As public life in Minneapolis returns after the past year, we will have an extraordinary new place to gather.”

The building offers supportive features like a wudu foot washing station and an adult-sized changing table to support use by seniors and people with disabilities. The pavilion and site meet B3 sustainability guidelines for energy efficiency, emissions and air quality, bird detectable glass, landscape treatment, and material sourcing.

“It’s great to open the building after seeing so many folks out enjoying the outdoor spaces, trail connections and the Nature Play Lab at Water Works this summer,” says Jono Cowgill, President of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “I’m thrilled to see The Sioux Chef open Owamni and am proud we’re partnering with them at this important and historic site.”

The three-acre grounds of Water Works at Mill Ruins Park overlooks St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge. It’s designed to reveal layers of untold stories, in acknowledgement of the location as both a spiritual place that has shaped cultural and economic connections for Indigenous people and immigrants, and as the birthplace of Minneapolis’ milling history.

Pavilion visitors will enter via West River Parkway through an arched glass doorway into the two-story atrium. A public elevator and stairway in the lower river level of the pavilion will help accessibility between the upper and lower levels. The staircase was built with reclaimed Douglas Fir beams salvaged from the Fuji Ya restaurant that operated at the site from 1968 to 1990. Minneapolis-based HGA Architects & Engineers was the lead architect on the pavilion.

Building and Site History

People have gathered at Owámniiyomni (St. Anthony Falls) for thousands of years. It was a prime place for encampments by the Dakhóta, Ho-Chunk, and Ojibwe due to the proximity to a place of spiritual power, traditional routes, and locations for harvesting foods such as maple sugar and cranberries. After the Euro-American settlement of the cities of St. Anthony and Minneapolis, Native peoples continued to stay at the Falls through the 1860s, when they were forcibly relocated to reservations. Today, this area is still a sacred destination for Native people across the country. 

Minneapolis grew around industrial development on the Mississippi River. Loggers gathered for work at the city’s saw mills, then some of the world’s largest flour mills were built, harnessing the power of the river as the city continued to grow.

The pavilion showcases carefully excavated mill remnants from the Bassett Sawmill, which was built in 1870 and burned in 1897, and Columbia Flour Mill, which was built in 1882 and collapsed in 1941. The decline of riverfront industry in the mid-20th century was followed by a central riverfront revitalization, led by the Fuji Ya restaurant.

When it opened in 1968, Fuji Ya was the first new building in an abandoned industrial area of Minneapolis, spurring the beginning of a riverfront redevelopment period that continues to this day. Fuji Ya moved in 1990 and the MPRB bought the site in an era of riverfront park development that saw the Stone Arch Bridge transition from railroad to pedestrian and bike use, an expansion of trails on West River Parkway and the development of Boom Island Park. Wooden beams salvaged from the Fuji Ya building were reused to build the stairway between the two floors.

Water Works is part of the RiverFirst Initiative, a effort supported by the MPRB and Minneapolis Parks Foundation to transform the once-industrial Mississippi Riverfront as it flows through the heart of Minneapolis into a welcoming place for all people through improved habitat and miles of new interconnected parks and trails. Opened in May 2021 and part of the RiverFirst Capital Campaign, the 26th Avenue North Overlook is the first new riverfront park in North Minneapolis in nearly a generation. Another RiverFirst project includes Hall’s Island, an island and gravel beach that was restored in 2018 after it was destroyed by lumberyard expansion in the 1960s.

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