Riverfront development holds much promise

The closing of the Washburn “A” Mill in Minneapolis, known for its neon Pillsbury sign, certainly signals the end of an era. Developers plan to construct four new residential buildings on the property, each 27 floors high. At the same time, they plan to preserve some of the more historic mills and integrate them into the new aesthetic design of the East Bank.

Critics are already lambasting the proposal for the new buildings. Their height is a particular objection – some claim they will cast a shadow on the Stone Arch Bridge and change the skyline. However, these positions do not consider the overall economic and social benefits to the neighborhood.

The area surrounding the Stone Arch Bridge is a summer hotspot. People can be seen biking, rollerblading or running along the river. For visitors to the area, the Stone Arch Bridge and brand-new Mill City Museum are memorable attractions. But residents in the area have long suffered from a lack of essential amenities.

There are no full-service grocery stores within walking distance, nor is there a hardware store, laundromat or salon. Residential development increased the downtown population and created a more promising market for business owners. Now the area has ushered in two gyms, a tailor, a bakery-cafe and a gift shop.

Close amenities and a diverse retail environment improve the quality of life along the riverfront, because they draw more people to the area and create a sense of community. Residential development increases the population of the area, creating a more promising market for business owners. By further developing both sides of the river the area will develop a self-sufficient commercial community conducive to pedestrian traffic.

Carefully considered and environmentally-conscious investments in this part of Minneapolis are long overdue. We welcome a more vital, residential metropolitan community because it is critical to the long-term health of Minnesota’s environment, economy and culture while acceptably preserving the Mill City’s historic tradition.