The Bigger Vision

The Central & Upper Riverfront

Friends of the Lock & Dam has convened a coalition to bring stakeholders together in a spirit of coordination and shared visioning for the Lock and its broader context, which includes the Central and Upper Riverfront (between the Upper Lock and the Upper Harbor Terminal). Detailed information about coalition meetings and outcomes, including visioning maps and principles for the Lock and the Riverfront, can be found in November 2 Coalition Meeting outcomes, on the Milestone Meetings page of this website.

But the significance of the project extends even beyond its immediate context in Minneapolis. The Falls is one of many transformative riverfront projects and initiatives within the Twin Cities and across the state. Each project is valuable alone, but taken together they represent a much larger gesture that will place the Mississippi River firmly at the center of the Minnesota experience.


The Port of Minneapolis, A Jewel on the Great River Road

The Falls will be a destination feature of the 10-state Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway. It will draw visitors to discover our city, state, and region at an iconic downtown waterfront location with both cultural and scenic richness. The facility will be a gateway to the Mississippi National River Recreation Area, our river National Park, at one of its most iconic features: St. Anthony Falls. Here, the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River thunders down a 49-foot drop on a concrete spillway at the toe of the iconic Stone Arch Bridge, right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

A Return to the River Statewide

Reinvestment in the Mississippi River is occurring statewide. In cities across the state, including St. Cloud, Brainerd, St. Paul, Red Wing, and Minneapolis, projects are underway to improve and enhance the river. Taken together they will inspire substantial economic development as new “ports of call” emerge and private investment grows up around them. A key component of The Falls visioning is the broader interest and investment occurring on the riverfront, both up and down river from the site. Upriver, city redevelopment projects are underway at Upper Harbor Terminal and the Grain Belt district, and the Park Foundation’s signature RiverFirst projects are underway at 26th Avenue North, Halls Island, and Water Works Park. Meanwhile, MNDOT is undertaking crucial work to care for the Stone Arch Bridge, which lands at The Falls and continues on as a walking and biking path through Water Works Park. The emergence in the last couple years of a new water taxi service, and the National Park Service' Paddle Share kayak rental (now available at numerous sites between Coon Rapids Dam in the north to Boom Island at the Central Riverfront) sparks the imagination about the future vibrancy of water trails and public docks on the Upper River. In short, a significant economic and recreational development opportunity awaits.

Though we have generous riverfront parkland, there are still very few moments where the river and the city come together in a way that transcends simple adjacency and achieves a sense of connectivity and destination including both built fabric and recreational or water programming. The Falls will be one of those moments. It will contribute to civic & state identity, and will lead to economic & community development outcomes for the entire riverfront. It will bring a world-class visitor and interpretive experience to life, enhanced by a park, riverside dining, access to the water, and events. The Falls will create an iconic landmark and will be our community’s gathering place on the Great River.