RiverFirst is a generational vision for transforming 11 miles of once-industrial Mississippi Riverfront as it flows through the heart of Minneapolis.
Through RiverFirst, our community will redefine our region’s relationship to the river and transform the Upper Mississippi Riverfront into a regional economic engine and world-class cultural and recreational destination.
The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is the primary philanthropic partner of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board in RiverFirst, an initiative adopted by the Park Board in 2012 to develop riverfront parks and trails on both sides of the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis to the northern city limits.
RiverFirst is a model public/private partnership for next-generation parks rooted in values that embody the Foundation’s and Park Board’s independent but complementary missions. This bold initiative truly addresses two Parks Foundation priorities – innovation and equitable access to welcoming world-class parks and green space.
Individual elements of RiverFirst will provide opportunities for recreation, walking, biking, historical interpretation, artistic performance, and civic engagement, connecting them along the city’s centerpiece, the Mississippi River.
2018-2023 Anticipated Key Dates & Milestones
- 2018 – Design development – Water Works Mezzanine Phase and Great Northern Greenway River Link; Upper Harbor Terminal concept development; Hall’s Island completion
- 2019 – Water Works Mezzanine Phase ground breaking; Great Northern Greenway River Link construction and grand opening
- 2020 – Water Works Mezzanine Phase grand opening
- 2021 – Water Works Riverside Phase and Upper Harbor Terminal ground breakings
- 2022 – Scherer site/Hall’s Island grand opening
- 2023 – Water Works Riverside Phase and Upper Harbor Terminal grand openings
RiverFirst Vision, 2012
Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan (MPRB)
Above the Falls Master Plan Update (City of Minneapolis)
St. Anthony Falls Interpretive Plan (St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board)
The Road to RiverFirst (2010-2012)
RiverFirst began as a visionary entry in the renowned Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition, a 2010-2011 international landscape design and urban planning competition co-presented by the Minneapolis Parks Foundation with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Design Team Tom Leader StudioandKennedy & Violich Architecture won the MR|DC on the strength of their RiverFIRST concept, which addressed 21st century challenges including ecological heritage (water), green economy (economic opportunity), food and mobility.
In April 2011, the Minneapolis Park Board established the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative (MR|DI) as a special project to carry through the promise of connecting people from near and far with new multifunctional Upper Riverfront parks along “America’s fourth coast.” The MR|DI was charged with transforming RiverFirst from a visionary concept to a workable plan for short- and long-term parks-based development. More than 60 agency and community partners, along with a broad spectrum of community members, were directly involved in the MR|DI. The RiverFirst Design Team included New York-based economic development consultants HR&A Advisors, which created the RiverFirst implementation plan, and Groundwork City Building, which managed the project.