The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ study of what to do with the lock and dam property near the Stone Arch Bridge is expected to wrap up in late spring.

By Eric Roper for Star Tribune | October 11, 2019 (photo by Glenn Stubb)

Early funding is falling into place for an ambitious plan to remake the lock and dam beside the Stone Arch Bridge into a public riverfront attraction celebrating Minneapolis’ birthplace.

A nonprofit group, Friends of the Lock & Dam, says it is on the verge of securing more than $5 million in private and public money for its Falls Initiative. It would remake the area that includes the decommissioned Mississippi River lock into a visitor center with boat access, riverfront dining, underground parking and event space.

About half of the Friends’ initial fundraising total — which is just a portion of what will ultimately be needed for the project — would come from a special environmental fund, subject to the Legislature’s approval.

The plan still has to clear a number of hurdles, but it will have a high-profile advocate moving forward. Friends of the Lock & Dam announced this week that former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew would be its new president. Andrew served on the County Board for 16 years in the 1980s and ’90s and ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2013.

The future of the lock and dam has been in limbo since Congress closed the lock to navigation in 2014 to stop invasive carp from reaching farther upstream. It is still used occasionally to minimize flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying what to do with the property.

Andrew said the project would drive a lot of visitors to the riverfront and spur economic development.

“We have this enormous asset — one of the three greatest rivers in the world,” Andrew said. “[The project] will activate a tremendous amount of visitor involvement and people who live in our community to get down to the river, to enjoy it, to appreciate it.”

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