Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What and where is the “Upper Harbor Terminal”?

The Upper Harbor Terminal (or “UHT”) is a 48+-acre site owned by the City of Minneapolis. It’s located in North Minneapolis along the Mississippi River between 33rd and about 40th avenues and also extends at one point inland to I-94. It’s been operated for decades as a barge shipping terminal. With the closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock to barging last year, the site is now being used for storage on an interim basis until redevelopment starts.

What guidance do City and Park Board plans provide for the site?

There has been extensive community engagement and planning for the area along the Mississippi River upriver from Plymouth Avenue (the “Above the Falls” area), including the UHT site. Most recently, there was an extensive community engagement process to update the Above the Falls Master Plan and Above the Falls Regional Park Plan, including the RiverFirst park visioning process.

These plans agree that the terminal operation on the UHT site should end and the site redeveloped for a mixture of parkland along the River and private development inland. This park will be a “regional park,” rather than a “neighborhood park” and eventually will be connected up and down river into the city’s famous Grand Rounds system. Because it will be some time before these connections can be made, planners feel that the addition of a destination where Dowling Avenue meets the Mississippi River is a key first step to bring people to the site and start providing a riverfront amenity.

A previous study also found that the structures on the site are eligible for historic designation because of their connection with the history of the long-standing rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul over which town should be the head of navigation on the Mississippi River, which led to the construction of the two locks at St. Anthony Falls and the development of the UHT site as a shipping terminal.

What still remains to be decided?

The following are still open questions:

  • How much of the site will be used for parkland, what features the park will have and how it will be designed.
  • The type of destination(s) that would be feasible and work best.
  • Whether there are any appropriate new uses for the existing structures.
  • What types of private development will be built on the non-park portions of the site and how that development will be designed.
  • What roads and other public improvements are needed to both serve the redevelopment on the site and provide good access from the adjacent community to the site. The existing plan calls for mixed use and business park redevelopment. Other possibilities may be considered, IF there is a feasible market for other uses and if they meet the basci criteria outlined in the plan.
  • How the site redevelopment can benefit the community with as little negative impact (e.g., gentrification) as possible.

What process is being used to pursue redevelopment?

The City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are working together on a “request for qualifications” (RFQ) process to find a qualified private developer for at least the first phase of redevelopment. The RFQ was issued in August 2016, and one developer submission (for the entire site) was received in October 2016. The City and Park Board are reviewing that submission, and the goal is to decide by early 2017 whether to select that development team. If so, the three parties will work together, with community input, to formulate a coordinated redevelopment plan, likely using some or all of the developer’s proposed initial development program as the starting point.

How soon might redevelopment occur?

This coordinated planning process and the search for funding to implement the plan may take a few years, with the hope that implementation could begin in 2019 or 2020. In the meantime, the City, Park Board and developer may pursue some interim ways to add positive activity to the site.

What happened to all the community input received during the RiverFirst and Above the Falls processes? When will the community have input mving forward, what type of input is needed and how will it be used? What is being done to include community voices who often have been left out of the process?

The community input received during the RiverFirst and Above the Falls processes informed those earlier plans and also provided a starting point for discussions relative to the UHT site.

Starting in the fall of 2015 and continuing through summer 2016, the City and Park Board used a variety of approaches to seek input that would inform the RFQ and explore what types of destinations would be of most interest. In order to reach out to a variety of under-represented communities, staff held not only public meetings at a variety of times and locations to gather initial general input, but also sought input at events and meetings which various under-represented sectors of the community typically attend. The end result of this input was a “Characteristics of Success” summary that was included in the RFQ, a list of information that the community wanted included in RFQ submissions and evaluation criteria that were informed by community values and concerns.

In order to gather community input about the developer submission that was received, the City and Park Board are holding a public open house and also seeking input via an online survey. The resulting community input will be shared with a committee of City and Park Board elected officials and senior management. This committee will be making a recommendation to the full City Council and Park Board as to whether the development team should be selected as the “master developer” and offered a three-party exclusive rights agreement that will guide the coordinated planning process.

This fall and early winter, the City and Park Board also will be working with the community to explore what can be done to assure that both the community engagement process and the resulting development project are equitable.

If the master developer is selected in early 2017, full-scale community engagement in the coordinated planning process then will begin. This is when the types and basic design of park, private development, destination(s) and public improvements will be decided.

What is possible? What is not possible? What factors will impact the actual redevelopment?

There are a number of factors in addition to community input that will influence what can actually happen on the site. These include:

  • The regulatory framework in which the City, Park Board and developer must work.
  • For the park and public improvements on the site: how much funding is available (and the various requirements that come with that funding).
  • For the private development: the real estate market, the financial feasibility of various types of development, the amount of debt and equity funding available and the requirements that come with that funding.
  • For any special project improvements and/or programs (e.g., the suggested amphitheater or an incubator program): whether one or more nonprofits are willing and able to take on construction, operation and funding of those programs.

How can I stay informed and involved?

At upperharbormpls.com, you can learn more about the site, the various plans and studies to date and the developer selection process and also read summaries of the community engagement meetings and efforts. You also can sign up for email updates, participate in any online surveys and see announcements of any upcoming meetings.