Upper River visions and plans

City plans focused on the Upper River

There’s a pile of plans and regulations that impact the Upper River. But there are three applicable city planning documents focused on the Upper River:


RiverFIRST vision
(Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, 2012)


Above the Falls Master Plan Update
(Minneapolis Department of Community Planning & Economic Development, 2013)

AboveTheFallsRegionalParkMPCoverAbove the Falls Regional Park Master Plan Update
(Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, 2013)

Together, these three documents outline the future of the Upper River area. This page provides an overview of the vision forwarded by these documents. The full documents are available by clicking on them above.

Land use changes

Here are the major land use changes expected:

  • The riverfront will be lined by continuous parks and trails. On the west side of the river, the first several hundred feet of land back from the river is envisioned as park. On the east side, from the Xcel Riverside Plant south to 16th Street, all land riverward of Marshall Street is envisioned as park.
  • On the west side of the river, redevelopment focuses on attracting more good jobs for nearby residents. Plans call for lighter industrial, commercial, and office uses. In the vicinity of Upper Harbor Terminal and Olson Park, residential development could also be appropriate; though market research indicates new housing at Upper Harbor Terminal would not be viable for many years.
  • Change will generally come through incremental land aquisition by willing sellers. Previous plans and efforts at riverfront redevelopment made substantial use of the City’s condemnation authority. Because of recent legal and political changes, these new plans envision “incremental property acquisition based on opportunity with willing sellers.”

Design guidelines & zoning changes

  • Plans include very general design guidelines for new buildings appropriate to each part of the riverfront, along with sample images. These are simply guidelines rather than strictly-enforcable zoning-based design controls.
  • City code will be updated to include a new zoning classification for business parks.
  • Changes to the zoning designation of individual parcels will generally be phased in over time, as opportunities arise and the implications of rezoning better understood.

Priority public sector-led projects envisioned for the Upper River

Map data updated November 2015. Data source and methodology: Base data source is Hennepin County Parcel Dataset (January 2015). Specifically for parcels adjacent to the riverfront, this county parcel ownership information has been supplemented with information from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, which in some cases provides more current data on land purchases than the County information is able to provide. Any land purchase which the Park Board has fully approved is reflected on the map, regardless of closing date. You may link to this data as an ArcGIS service at this link.

Click title to expand for more information. Site numbers correspond to the map.

  • Specific plans for redevelopment at the 48-acre Upper Harbor Terminal site have yet to be established, but the Park Board and City are working to finalize very soon a planning path forward.
  • This site is envisioned as having light industrial, office, commercial, and possibly residential uses, behind a riverfront park edge (see sample images above). The Above the Falls Plan envisions a node of office and commercial uses near Dowling. And where Dowling intersects the riverfront, the City and Park Board are now planning for a major public destination.

PROGRESS REPORT: The City and Park Board have been actively working on plans to convert these visions into reality. Early in 2016, the City and Park Board are expected to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about how to jointly proceed with planning for the site. The MOU would create a path to help resolve lingering differences in perspective about where to draw the division between park and private uses on the site.

As a first step, the City and Park Board will send out a Request for Information (RFI) to gather business and community ideas for use of the property. Building on the information gathered, the City and Park Board will shape and send out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to solicit proposals for redevelopment at Upper Harbor Terminal. The City and Park Board are beginning in-depth community engagement in 2016 and 2017.



  • The RiverFirst Plan envisions greening 26th and 28th Avenue between the Riverfront and Farview Park, and in the long term using 27th Avenue to treat stormwater. In 2015 and 2016, 26th Avenue is being upgraded as a greenway with improved off-road biking and walking options.
  • The RiverFirst Plan envisions the possibility of capping I-94 between 26th and 28th Avenue.
  • A new river pier/overlook (bottom photo above) is proposed where 26th Street meets the river. A trail connection under the BNSF railway will connect the pier south to Ole Olson Park.

PROGRESS REPORT: The City is constructing a new greenway trail link along 26th Avenue between the River and Wirth Park; construction began in 2015 and is expected to wrap up in 2016.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is leading fundraising for the creation of the 26th Avenue Pier, in combination with fundraising for their Water Works project downtown.

  • Hall’s Island Park (aka Scherer Park) will be located just north of Boom Island Park. Hall’s Island, which existed until the 1960s, will be re-created in the river. The island will be designed as habitat, and will be reachable by boardwalk.
  • Buildings toward the rear of the site will include park rentals, concessions, as well as private uses. Private uses will help pay for the cost of the park and upkeep.
  • A gravel beach will allow connection to the river for launching kayaks, or simply getting down to the water.

PROGRESS REPORT: The Park Board bought the site in 2010. After some bumps, the Park Board seems likely to get state regulatory approval. In 2016, the Park Board submitted a state bonding request for $12 million to complete the project, and if all goes according to plan, construction would wrap up in 2020.

  • Create a riverfront that is continuously accessible and in public ownership. The only notable exception outlined in plans is the Xcel Riverside Plant, which presents cost and security challenges.

PROGRESS REPORT: The Park Board owns more than half the Upper Riverfront, though not all of that land is park – yet. The Park Board has made many purchases in recent years that retain their former uses as homes or businesses, until funding is found for parks to be developed. See the map on the previous page for an inventory of what the Park Board already owns. At the end of 2016, 52% of the riverfront will be public parkland, up from 43% in 2013 when the Above the Falls plans were generally completed.

  • Create continuous bicycle and pedestrian trails along both sides of the length of the riverfront.
  • Create the opportunity for biking and walking “loops”. A riverfront walk or a bike ride is much more compelling when one can go in a loop, instead of having to double back on one’s route.
  • Create a trail connection across the BNSF Bridge between Broadway and Lowry, as part of a loop.

PROGRESS REPORT: On the west side of the river, trails extend from downtown up to Orvin “Ole” Olson Park. On the east side of the river, the East Bank Trail project will extend trails northward nearly a mile, from Boom Island Park to Marshall Street where the BNSF Railway crosses near 16th Street. Completion is expected by September 2016. Upon completion of the East Bank Trail, 48% of the riverfront will be served by contiguous bike-ped trails, up from 43% in 2013 when the Above the Falls plans were adopted.

           Map key
future park, MPRB owned
public ownership, non-park use
transportation (public or privately owned)
utility (publicly or privately owned)