City of Minneapolis looking for public input on new Upper Harbor Terminal proposal

Brandi Powell
Updated: December 17, 2020 06:26 PM
Created: December 17, 2020 05:16 PM

There's now a new draft plan for the Upper Harbor Terminal project on which the city of Minneapolis is looking for people's perspectives

The Upper Harbor Terminal site is located in Minneapolis between Interstate 94 and the Mississippi River, along a mile of riverfront, generally between Dowling Ave and 33rd Avenue N just north of Lowry Ave. The Draft Coordinated Plan is now open for public comment through Jan. 15.

The Upper Harbor Terminal is a 48-acre site in north Minneapolis that used to operate as a barge shipping terminal. The city said the barge terminal operations ceased at the end of 2014 ahead of the closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock in 2015. The current operation on site is outdoor storage of commodities that are trucked to and from the site.

The city said the current redevelopment planning process for Upper Harbor Terminal began in 2015. The current estimated development cost is $300 million, which does not include city infrastructure and park costs. 

Minneapolis City Council committee passes Upper Harbor Terminal concept plan

Developers could turn it into a multi-use site including a 19-acre park, a community performing arts center, a health and wellness hub and housing.

"We're building development for people that currently live in the north side," Erik Hansen, Director of Economic Policy and Development, in the city of Minneapolis' Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, said.

Markella Smith co-chairs the city's Collaborative Planning Committee (CPC).

"I've lived in north [Minneapolis] my whole entire life. I raised my family here... we as a committee have fought really hard to make sure that this development is affordable to north side residents, the ones that actually live here now," Smith said.

The CPC was created to give feedback about the controversial project

"This plan has a lot of moving components... there are actual funds coming from this development going back into the community," Smith added.

Smith said this would include money from ground lease payments and the outdoor amphitheater's ticket fees. Also, Smith stated 65% of the new housing that'll go up on the site will be affordable.

"Especially in communities that have been historically marginalized, and in many ways not even just historically, still currently are being marginalized, you can't rush this kind of thing, you've got to really sit down and listen," Brandon Champeau, Senior Vice President and Market Leader for United Properties, said.

Minneapolis community gives input on proposed riverfront development of the Upper Harbor Terminal

But some longtime north-siders, like design activist Paul Bauknight, said they still don't feel heard. Their concerns include displacement and gentrification.

"Beyond affordable housing, or beyond being able to use the retail or commercial, what's the real benefit and change north-siders feel collectively and individually. I think is the real challenge," Bauknight said.

The process is far from over. The city council still needs to approve an updated plan. Then in January, an environmental review process will begin. Ultimately, whatever is decided upon, construction could begin in late 2022. 

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