RIVERFRONT vitality project

Since the 1970s, the once-neglected Central Riverfront has become a vibrant urban neighborhood of waterfront condos and cultural assets such as the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum. Today, the Upper River above St. Anthony Falls is poised for a similar transformation.

The Mississippi River has the power to connect us; the Riverfront Vitality Report connects the current state of the river’s three distinct areas – Upper River, Central Riverfront, and Lower Gorge – to the long-term vision of a thriving riverfront that unites our City.

  • Nearly half of Minneapolis area residents are less than 15 minutes from the Mississippi.
  • The Riverfront vitality report does three things: It brings together key indicators of the riverfront growth, provides critical data to public and private decision makers leading riverfront revitalization and energizes the conversation around revitalization.
  • Economic development, parks, cultural resources and environmental stewardship all come together to build a vibrant riverfront. The Riverfront vitality report shares this emerging and evolving picture.

The analysis below captures the current state of indicators in four areas:

RIVERFRONT ACCESS
ECONOMIC HEALTH
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
NATURAL RESOURCES

Click on the title of any of the indicators for more information.

RIVERFRONT ACCESS

Communities connect with the Riverfront most principally through the parks lining their edge.  Minneapolis’ Lower Gorge, near the Lake Street Bridge, has been lined with continuous parks for over a century. In the Central Riverfront, parks exist, but have only coalesced in the last generation. Things are improving along the Upper River, but it has a long way to go to match the rest of the corridor.

Portion of Upper River adjacent to parks
flat
58%

1 year

10 years

 

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Along with the rest of the City, more and more people choose to walk, bike, or roll in the riverfront area. There remains one area of obvious concern, however: well over half of the Upper River still lacks any riverfront trails.

Walking in the river corridor
6%

14%

1 year

5 years

 

Biking in the river corridor
1%

19%

1 year

5 years

 

Portion of Upper Riverfront adjacent to trails
flat
62%

1 year

10 years

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Part of what makes a neighborhood attractive for investment of any kind is the quality of its infrastructure. An analysis of 2014 city data shows that the Upper River is lagging the rest of the riverfront, and indeed the rest of the city in the quality of its local roadways.

Percent of city street length in fair to excellent condition, 2014

Percent-Of-City-Street-Length-in-Fair-to-Excellent-Condition2

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ECONOMIC HEALTH

Ultimately, much of the change sought along the riverfront comes about through physical investments in the riverfront landscape. That can me new housing or commercial development. That also includes public investments in amenities like new parks and trails that help draw people to the river.  Building from those public investments are private investments in new and expanded businesses, and new housing.

In the Upper River, between 2004 and 2014:

$49M total public investment
leveraged 
$171M total private investment 

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Over the last generation, the Central Riverfront has been transformed from its historic industrial roots to a dynamic place to live, work, and play. Its trajectory provides a roadmap for the transformations we seek in the Upper River over the next generation. First, historic preservation, park, and trail investments set the stage. In response, the Central Riverfront has seen an increasing amount of investment in new development – particularly housing – investment that values and contributes to the riverfront location.

$253M total public investment
leveraged 
$1.426B total private investment 

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In the Central Riverfront, previous investment in parks and preservation are paying off in the housing market. Between 2004 and 2014, 6,370 units of housing were added in the Central Riverfront.

In the Upper River, full-scale redevelopment has just gotten underway in the last decade. Even so, several new projects were built, but the total number of units was less than a tenth of those built in the Central Riverfront. Over time, as investment in the riverfront pays off, we hope those numbers will accelerate.

Housing unit starts by building type, 2004-2014
433
6,370

units in the Upper River

units in the Central Riverfront

 

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The Central Riverfront, which is at the edge of the city’s central business district, has built a substantial amount of new ofice space, as well as a considerable amount of general commercial space – generally retail storefronts and the like. By comparison, the Upper River has a fairly even mix of investment in industrial, light industrial and office space.

Square feet of commercial construction, 2004-2014
1.3M
3.7M

square feet in the Upper River

square feet in the Central Riverfront

 

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Property tax revenue is an important indicator of the economic vitality of an area. We continue to see revenue from the Central Riverfront increase faster than in the rest of the City. By comparison, the Upper River accounts for a decreasing portion of citywide property tax revenue.

Portion of citywide property tax collected from the overall riverfront
1%

8%

1 year

10 years

 

Portion of citywide property tax collected from the Upper River
1%

20%

1 year

10 years

 

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In recent years, the Central Riverfront has driven job growth overall in the river corridor. But the Upper River also continues to steadily increase its total jobs by about one percent per year.

Total jobs in the river corridor
5%

13%

2012-2013

2003-2013

 

Total jobs in the Upper River
1%

9%

2012-2013

2003-2013

 

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Community Engagement

Over the last decade, Minneapolis has been making a continual commitment to the evolution of its riverfront parks. And one of the key effects of that commitment is a dramatic growth in the use of those parks.

Total riverfront regional park visits
7%

76%

1 year

10 years

 

Central riverfront regional park visits
13%

270%

1 year

10 years

 

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2014-15 saw a significant wave of historic designations in the riverfront corridor. Four designations were made – two for properties in the Upper River, one for a property in the Central Riverfront, and one for an entire district near the Central Riverfront.

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Comparing 2014 to the ten year average, crime is down substantially on the Upper River. Crime is up somewhat in the Central Riverfront and Lower Gorge compared to the the ten year average, but both these areas have seen a substantial population increase over the last ten years, explaining the increase in the number of crimes.

Upper River Part I Crimes
16%

last year versus 10 year average

 

Central Riverfront Part I Crimes
9%

last year versus 10 year average

 

Lower Gorge Part I Crimes
1%

last year versus 10 year average

 

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Natural resources

Total suspended solids (TSS) is one measure of the flow of contaminants in the river stream. TSS has been trending downward over the last ten years. However other pollutants, such as nitrate, has been trending upward. And the river still remains impaired for E. Coli bacteria, and impaired for mercury pollution in fish populations.

Total suspended solids at Ford Dam
17%

over last decade

 

Nitrate at Ford Dam
19%

over last decade

 

E. Coli bacteria
impaired

 

Contaminants in fish
impaired

 

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Riverfront revitalization frequently runs up against past pollution that lingers in the ground. This is true in the areas that have been more industrialized, including both the Central Riverfront and the Upper River.

sites along the riverfront have active pollution cleanup
136

 

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The data underscores that parkland with natural habitat is three times more prevalent in the Lower Gorge than the Upper River (see below). This has implications for the ability of wildlife to move and thrive in the corridor, of course. It also has implications for humans: ready access to trees and natural beauty has positive impacts on our own health and well-being.

Parkland with natural habitat is
three times
 more prevalent in the Lower Gorge than the Upper River

 

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This data is available in PDF form, which can be downloaded at this link.

Creative Commons BY NC SA license

The entirety of the Riverfront Vitality Project – which includes all work that falls within this URL directory – is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 4.0 international license
Geo-stuff provided by Texas A&M University GeoServices ; GIS users should check them out!
Parkland and Public Control background image courtesy the Metropolitan Design Center Image Bank; (c) Regents of the University of Minnesota; all rights reserved; used with permission; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Walking and Biking background image courtesy Flickr user punktoad under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/jh9j6b4; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Infrastructure background image courtesy Vail Martson under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/grb4m8d; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Upper River Investment background image credit Robert Spaulding for the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Central Riverfront Investment background image courtesy Brian Jastram of the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Housing investment background image credit Robert Spaulding for the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Commercial investment background image credit Tony Webster under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/hmbjea8; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Property tax revenue background image courtesy Ed Kohler under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/nsk3veq; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Employment background image courtesy Graco, Inc.; used with permission; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Parks Usage background image credit Robert Spaulding for the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Preserving our history background image courtesy James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Hennepin County Library; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Safety background image courtesy Tony Webster under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/h4kujtu; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Water quality background image courtesy United States Army Corps of Engineers; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Soil & air background image courtesy Sam Kelly of UK under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/j564k4r; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space. Natural habitat background image courtesy Eric Kilby under CC BY 2.0 license via http://tinyurl.com/h6r669u; gradient introduced and image reduced in resolution and size to fit space.