A New Era of Land Use

Land use in the Upper River corridor has been in a state of flux for the past 125 years, with a succession of bulk-material-processing and transport industries responding to market forces and rapid changes in available resources and technologies. This change can be understood by tracking the history of specific parcels of land. For example, the area along the west bank of the Mississippi north of Plymouth Ave. was used for saw mills, lumberyards, and foundries during the first era of the city's settlement. When the supply of trees declined, the vacant land became a railroad yard stretching up past Broadway. After the rail yard became unnecessary with conversion from steam to diesel engines, the MCDA developed the current West River Road, with riverfront open space on one side, and the other lined with light industries such as printing plants and laboratories.

Current City policies encourage light-industrial and parks development on the Upper River, while also supporting old-line, bulk-material-handling industries with subsidies to the City-owned Upper Harbor Terminal. The Upper River Master Plan explores the potential benefits to completing a continuous riverfront park system on both banks of the Upper River, leading a transition away from barging and heavy industry to a new, more stable era of land use.

The Plan seeks the highest and best use of land adjacent to riverfront parks, including the development of new residential communities. Riverfront living is gaining in popularity in Minneapolis, and the Upper River affords some of the most enticing sites with excellent river views and quick access to downtown. Two major redevelopment areas are proposed on the west bank, including a mixed-use urban promenade district south of Lowry Avenue and a new residential neighborhood north of Lowry. The development of residential neighborhoods will produce many benefits including a higher value tax base, move-up housing for area residents, increased park security, and an enlarged constituency seeking continued improvements to the ecology of the river corridor and communities of north and northeast Minneapolis.

River and Recreation

The basis of all the benefits outlined in the Upper River Master Plan flow from a system of continuous public parks and open space along the Mississippi north of Plymouth Ave. Recreation trails along both banks of the river are paralleled by an extended West River Parkway and redesigned Marshall Street. A Riverway Street System, with common streetscape elements such as pedestrian lighting and signage, will connect north and northeast Minneapolis neighborhoods to new riverfront parks.

In addition to recreational amenities, the aesthetics and ecology of the river corridor will be restored through bank stabilization and revegetation. Wildlife habitat and improved bank conditions will attract more recreational boaters to the Upper River, as will new riverfront hospitality destinations. Overlooks, fishing piers, and boat rental concessions are planned to offer opportunities for visual and physical interaction with the river.

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Last updated Oct. 26, 2011