Recently, an architect pointed out to me that no building reaches its authentic potential unless its designer considers both the stories of the land that surrounds it and the people who have moved through it. This is true for parks, too, and a fitting expectation for one of the most complex sites in Minneapolis: Water Works.
I believe deeply that the vision we’ve helped shape for Water Works, located at the end of the Stone Arch Bridge overlooking St. Anthony Falls, exceeds that standard and will deliver a transformative park for everyone to enjoy. This week, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board of Commissioners confirmed that belief and approved the evolved design for the Water Works site. With their approval, bolstered by tremendous community support, the transition from ruins and remnants to a vibrant destination begins.
The final design reuses the remnant foundations of the Bassett and Columbia Mills beneath the old Fuji Ya restaurant to host a new public park pavilion and restaurant within. This building, designed by local, internationally renowned HGA architects Joan Soranno and John Cook, will provide the necessary destination and gathering space that our central riverfront revival requires. And critically acclaimed Damon Farber Landscape Architects have designed a signature park surrounding the revived structures that allows people to interpret their own experience within view of the falls.
In August, the Park Board will begin dismantling the old restaurant and revealing the 18th Century structures. Within this park, we’ll create new spaces for eating, resting, and for artists, performers and historic and natural interpreters to share their talents. We will be creating a destination to arrive and experience the power of the Mississippi River as it rolls over the falls. It will become an iconic place to experience Minneapolis in its full glory.
We still have work to accomplish and funds to raise. In the two years since we’ve launched our Capital Campaign to support both Water Works and the critical link from North Minneapolis to the River at 26th Avenue North, we have raised more than $12.5 million in contributions and commitments. With the final approval, we are seeing increased enthusiasm from new donors and companies coming to help us meet our $18 million goal.
You have helped shape the Parks Foundation to think big – to transform lives through parks. As donors, you’ve asked us to help our city complete the promise of returning the river to the public by reconnecting new and old parks and creating new trails. The Water Works design is the first, important step in making this vision from the past become a story told as truth.