By William Morris for Finance & Commerce | October 19, 2019

It’s been four years since the last barge passed through Minneapolis’ Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock, and a group hoping to convert the site into the focal point of the downtown riverfront says it’s still years away from happening.

Nonprofit coalition Friends of the Lock and Dam has been working for years on The Falls, a proposal to create a visitors center and waterfront amenity at the lock, a concrete canyon built in the 1960s that runs under the historic Stone Arch Bridge. The group’s latest move, announced last week, is to name a new president in former Hennepin County Board Chair Mark Andrew.

Bringing in Andrew, who worked on several major county bridge and waterfront projects along the Mississippi, may raise The Falls’ profile, but it won’t do much to speed up the process. That’s because the Army Corps of Engineers, which ran the lock, is still considering what to do with the mothballed facility, and the first battle for Friends of the Lock and Dam is to speed up that process.

“We are in vital need of expediting the disposition study, which will facilitate the Army Corps disposing of a portion of the lock and dam that they do not need for safety or flood control or delivery of municipal water,” Andrew said in an interview. “We are hoping [the Corps will be] conveying that property to the city of Minneapolis, and then the Friends of the Lock and Dam will negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the city of Minneapolis.”

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