The green space known as The Commons is taking shape in a two-block area of downtown Minneapolis near the US Bank stadium.Backers have high hopes for the hybrid park and outdoor event center, which is part of the sweeping makeover of the east downtown area.
“The Commons in every way can be the kitchen table for our city,” Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis City Council Member who represents the neighborhood, told KARE.
“You’ve got green space. You’ve got overhead trees. You can kick a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee and sweat until the Mississippi river runs down your back. This is a place where you can make out on a park bench, pick dandelions or jump in a pile of leaves. You can do it all in The Commons!”
The Minneapolis Parks Board balked at the idea of taking on the expense of maintaining and managing a park that would be controlled by the Minnesota Vikings for portions of the year. Eventually the nonprofit conservancy known as Green Minneapolis stepped in to manage the park and began to raise private money for the 4.2 acre site.
The Ryan Companies, which built the new Wells Fargo campus nearby, is also developing The Commons, which is on track to open by late summer. The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District will operate the park on an interim basis through the end of 2016.
“We recognized it probably should not be the City, nor the Park Board, that should be operating or managing that space,” Frey explained. “We want somebody with expertise that’s going to be doing 24-7, to make sure that space is fully publicly accessible, activated and exciting.”
The concept of a large urban green space operated by a nonprofit is new to Minnesota, and the idea still has its share of skeptics. But Frey believes The Commons will help the Minneapolis move away from the traditional notion of rolling up the sidewalks at the end of the day, as office workers commute back to the suburbs.
“I don’t just want a bunch of doctors and lawyers that come into work at 9 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m. with dead space and dead time before and after. I want a dynamic space.”
Ryan Companies on Friday announced plans to build a 17-story office tower in a thin parcel of land along 4th Street, in between the new Wells Fargo complex and US Bank stadium, essentially filling in yet another empty spot in the eastern side of downtown.
Frey noted that both the Blue Line and Green Line light rail trains run through the area, which should help with recruitment of talented millennials.
“And what are millennials looking for? They want activity. They want to live amongst a whole lot of people, from different socioeconomic backgrounds. They want a real city.”
On Friday Mortenson Construction executives turned over the symbolic stadium key to the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, marking the end of major construction on the $1.1 billion project six weeks ahead of schedule.
The stadium stands on the site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which didn’t spark much collateral private development during its 32-year lifetime.
“The entire downtown east used to be an ocean of surface parking lots, and now it’s been rejuvenated,” Frey remarked. “Residential development, office space, retail. It’s an entirely new world over there.”