River flats Park final design still unknown

by Nathan Whalen

Although Riverbend Commons — the massive $87 million construction project behind Coffman Union — is well underway, planners have yet to nail down a final layout for Riverflats Park.
To work toward a final decision, community representatives and University officials will present design recommendations to the Minneapolis Park Board on Tuesday. The board controls the park land.
Main questions remain whether to redesign the park, and if the area will be aesthetically compatible with Riverbend Commons under construction on the opposite side of East River Road.
Some want to see the park maintain aspects of its traditional uses, such as a recreation area for picnics, Frisbee and football games.
One committee member, John Haley, wants to keep a large field where people can relax and have fun.
“They rolled up their mental sleeves and are giving this a lot of serious thought,” said Rachel Ramadayani, a landscape architect for the Minneapolis Park Board, regarding the last meeting in mid-November.
Among other concerns is the steepness of East River Road leading cars past the park entrance. Some worry it encourages drivers to speed down the hill.
To make the decline more gradual, some have suggested raising the elevation of the park entrance by 6 feet.
Planners hope to solve the speeding problem early, before pedestrian traffic increases after the completion of Riverbend Commons. Members of the committee have tossed around ideas such as narrowing the road or putting an island in the middle of the road to slow down traffic.
The University has stripped the grass from the park and now uses it as a staging area for Riverbend Commons construction work. The University has temporarily leased the land from the city.
Under terms of the lease, the University has agreed to restore the park after construction of the commons ends.
Riverbend Commons is a multimillion dollar, multi-phase project. The first phase includes the construction of a residence hall, parking garage and a plaza that will span from Coffman Union down to the park. The first phase of this project is scheduled to be completed by fall 2001, the same time Coffman Union is planned to reopen.
The committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Luxton Park near Stadium Village.

Nathan Whalen covers construction and facilities. He welcomes comments at [email protected]