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$1M grant puts RiverFirst project near goal

The Water Works, a plan to expand and add amenities at Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis, is within $600,000 of the needed capital fundraising after a $1 million grant by Bank of America to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. (Submitted image: Minneapolis Parks Foundation)
The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is close to its goal to fund two high-profile projects on the Mississippi riverfront.

The foundation has raised $15.9 million of a $17.9 million goal for its RiverFirst Capital Campaign. That puts the foundation within striking distance of breaking ground thanks in part to a $1 million grant announced Wednesday by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

RiverFirst is a long-term plan to redevelop 11 miles of riverfront in Minneapolis spearheaded by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The foundation’s capital campaign is focused on two portions.

One is the Water Works, a plan to add a restaurant and outdoor amenity space in Mill Ruins Park from the Crown Roller building near Fifth Avenue South to the Third Street Bridge. The other is the Great Northern Greenway River Link, a trail connection at the eastern end of the 26th Avenue North bike and pedestrian trails.

“There’s a trigger for these [projects]. For Water Works, we’re within $600,000 of having in hand what the park board needed to commit to construction,” said Tom Evers, executive director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, in an interview.

With that goal in sight, Evers said the foundation hopes to be ready to start work on both projects early in 2019, with the goal of meeting the $17.9 million goal by the end of that year.

The foundation has been fundraising since October 2015, in what started out as a $15 million capital campaign but grew as the design for Water Works expanded. Past donors include General Mills, which donated $3 million in 2016.

“For every dollar invested in this central riverfront, $5 of private economic investment follows,” Bank of America market president Katie Simpson said at an announcement event Wednesday. “Just as importantly, a more vital riverfront will bring joy and improved quality of life.”

The capital campaign does not touch on the Upper Harbor site being redeveloped by United Properties or other locations along the Mississippi’s banks, but Evers said future phases of RiverFirst are in early planning phases and more fundraising will likely follow for additional projects as they are identified.